Dr. Gitanjali Swamy: Helping Enterprises Realize Their Potential through the “Innovation of Things”

Women in Technology

Iotask provides visionary, innovative, actionable consulting and other advisory services for areas like Internet of Things, Mobile, Analytics.  IoTask’s services include a complete methodological guide at the policy or business-planning stage addressing all the key issues (strategic, technical, organizational) that are required by  the innovation of things ventures.  The company offers an integrated tool-set of advisory services for the design, the deployment and  the management of innovation business. The company provides visionary, innovative, actionable consulting, and other advisory services for areas like the Internet of Things, Mobile, Analytics. IoTask’s clients come from both the public and private sector and the team has initiated, directed many of the largest investments, implementations, and standards developments efforts in innovative technologies  including IoT.   

 

A Pragmatic Leader Building Successful Enterprises 

Dr. Gitanjali Swamy is Managing Partner at IoTask, an “Innovation of Things” (IoT) company, where she focuses on innovation for environmental, social, governance (ESG) and public-private projectsGitanjali has founded, built and served as the board director in successful innovation enterprises, led investment execution from seed stage to over US$1 billion, and held investment/strategy professional roles at global leaders Carlyle Group, Booz-Allen & Hamilton or operating-roles at MathWorks, Mentor Graphics. Her projects include the formation of MIT’s Opencourseware, the Auto-ID consortium, and the MIT Engine investment vehicle. She currently also serves as the representative to the EQUALS Coalition of the United Nations, where she chairs the Gender Equitable Investment Working Committee, Research Fellow, and Director at Harvard’s Private Capital Research Institute and the Co-founder of UC Berkeley’s Witi@UC Initiative. Gitanjali received her B. Tech. in EE from the IIT, Kanpur, her Ph.D. in EECS from U.C. Berkeley, her Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard University and is currently completing her JD in Law. She has nearly 25 publications and patents in data sciences, algorithms, technology, and policy. 

 

Growth through Continuous Learning 

Gitanjali believes that leadership is all about changing the world for the better; “If we can leave the world a better place through our efforts, however small, then we have achieved our purpose for existence. In order to achieve this, we must apply continuous learning and evolution.” 

Gitanjali  believes that continuous learning and evolving, whether it is at a university under a formal learning program or in a new project in an informal on-the-job learning, is what has shaped her journey as a woman leader. In all that learning she finds that the hardest part of that learning is learning about  oneself and one’s self-created limitations. Thus, she  concludes that one must approach each day and each initiative seeking to learn and keeping in their minds’ eye on how they will leave the world better through what they learn.  

 

Progressing Innovation with a Visionary Approach 

Innovation is about thinking outside the box and eschewing the conventional. Often innovation is not appealing or appreciated when it is first created. Gitanjali says that vision is critical to bridging this gap. She and her team create innovation not just for the world of today but for the world that will be tomorrow. Thus, Gitanjali deems that their visioning approach allows her team to arrive at the point in time in the future with the innovation that is the critical need of the day.  

She believes that there is no better way to understand this than to look back at past at different projects that she was instrumental in creating for clients such as the MIT Corporation, which included Opencourseware, Engine and Auto-ID. As an example, the Opencourseware project at MIT (the precursor to Edx and online learning) was started several decades ago. She says that at that time, no one thought the future of learning was online, and yet today in the middle of the pandemic of 2020, education that is not online is no longer relevant.  

 

Winning over Challenges  

Gitanjali recounts that the biggest challenge she has faced is societal pre-conceptions and restrictive social norms. She was one of the six  women out of a class of 300 at the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur. Thus, there was a preconception that as only of the few women, she was not suited for engineering and science and that’s why she had to work doubly hard to justify her existence. She faced the very same kind of preconceptions and social norms when she started to work in the private capital industry; and spent many years fighting an uphill battle to find jobs, projects, and any kind of acceptance. Gitanjali asserts that, “Human society as a whole loses an incredible amount of time, energy, and high potential people through these pointless social biases or preconceptions. Thus, it is critical today that we innovate for better leadership approaches to leverage diversity and amplify the power of human collective intelligence.  

 

Applying Disruptive Technology for the Humanity 

Gitanjali observes that disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence are creating a new and dangerous precedents today that could potentially create barriers and hinder choices for millions of people as these technologies embed restrictive unthinking barriers into the mainstream. She thinks that this vision requires one to do things differently, to take moral leadership to apply these technologies in a moral, participative and equitable way that is in the public good of all of humanity rather than merely focus on short-term self-interest of just a few.  

 

Looking Ahead to The Future  

The world and the industry is at a turning point. For years, we separated the business of technology innovation from the imperatives of public good.  Gitanjali believes  the key variables in human development have been ignored and that has ended up with a society where inequality, unrest, and disproportion abound. .She says that, “We are presented with so many contradictory ironies such as the fact that in the richest country in the world, a large majority of people cannot afford basic healthcare, or that we waste so much food, which if it was redistributed would eliminate worldwide starvation, or that our democratic process today has no place for idealism. It is these ironies that we must resolve through better innovation.” 

She hopes that the future should and will be about approaching the business of technology differently to achieve more holistic outcomes where innovation focuses on realizing all of the goals of economics, sustainability, and public good rather than merely producing a convenient tool for the right price.  

 

Valuable Teachings for the  Young Generation 

Gitanjali  advises young entrepreneurs to start by building a foundation of purpose, values, and vision. She says that once those three critical aspects of leadership are understood, young entrepreneurs will realize their true potential and be instrumental in creating the better world that we will leave to our children.