An Interview with Sudha Jamthe

Brooke Lazar

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Sudha Jamthe's passion for technology inspires many. She shares her insights about this vast, ever-changing world.

Brooke Lazar: How did you become interested in technology?

Sudha Jamthe: A computer science engineering degree got me into tech, and I have worked in the technology industry on product and business roles for 25 years. Over the years, I learned to appreciate what technology can do for people, and new, exponential technologies excite me. Now, I am a technology futurist and CEO of IoT Disruptions.

As a technology futurist, I look at the latest, exponential technology and decide if it is going to be a trend or a hype. I bring my experience of the technology cycles of the past, and I look at the business drivers. I talk to entrepreneurs and corporate innovators to learn about their cutting-edge work. My work focuses on helping them shape the technology ecosystem to scale successful businesses and jobs. Looking back, I see that I was always able to predict the next wave.

When I talked about IoT in 2015, it was at the top of the Gartner hype cycle (a representation of the life cycle stages technology goes through), but I didn't know that at the time. I began studying IoT; I interviewed people, played with new IoT technology, built case studies, and wrote my first IoT book: IoT Disruptions. I realized IoT is powerful because of the data it brings leading to Cognitive IoT, the junction of IoT, and AI. In early 2016, I did a podcast about cognitive IoT and wrote my next book, IoT Disruptions 2020, about the junction of IoT and AI.

BL: Did you have to overcome any obstacles as a woman in STEM?

SJ: Yes, and I'm sure every woman in STEM has. I'm lucky compared to the stories heard today because I came into computer science so long ago. I was the first engineer in my family, so I did not have role models; I networked on my own. I have worked with many men who treat women colleagues as equals, which I am thankful for. By nature, I speak up in meetings and look out for myself. Once you go to a certain level in a tech company, you realize there aren't other people like you in the room.

Many women let go of technology and become project managers early on in their careers. I ended up moving to product management the same way. Eventually, I became a business solutions manager. I got an MBA from Boston University because I moved to the business side but didn't have the business skills. The MBA helped me because it gave me business experience and jobs, and I didn't have to compromise on my growth in the corporate setting.

When you're a woman in tech, some people have a bias that you're not good enough. When I went to the business side, I wanted to be a smart business-person. I did not want to feel discriminated against, so I downplayed my tech background. But by not being hands-on in tech, I slowly lost it as I moved up to more senior business roles. So, I came back to the tech side with developer platforms and social APIs in 2007. I am not a person who limits myself or worries much about what people think about me which has helped me make my career transitions, continue learning, and feel purposeful about my work.

BL: Can you share information about your recent livestream, "IoT Day IoT Women"?

SJ: I have a YouTube channel called "The IoT Show by Sudha Jamthe" where I interview people throughout the year, and then for IoT Day on April 9, I have many interviews with men and women. I'm a person who loves to learn, and I like to share that knowledge with those who do not have the access. Learning is my thing; it drives me.

This year, I came to realize I didn't have enough women presenters. I asked for referrals on Twitter. I added a co-host, Roxy Stimpson (CTO of IoT World Labs), because the event grew. We had 25 global women who spoke for 15 minutes each live on IoT day on April 9 from 9 am to 4 pm, and it was amazing.

BL: Who were the women interviewed, and what topics did you cover?

SJ: We set up the livestream so every hour we would cover a different topic. The first hour was about AI, and the next hour was about autonomous vehicles—which are my specialty. We also talked about industrial IoT—which is Roxy's specialty. In the following hours, we talked about smart cities and building blocks of IoT. We had many women who shared their passion for IoT for education and IoT for social equality. We even had a middle school team of girls who shared their business plan called "Docbot." Docbot is a telepresence surgical robot that people in remote villages can use to get access to doctors. The robot was built by students Janvi Prasad, Krisha Chokshi, Misha Bandi, and Dhrti Molukutla.

We kicked off the IoT Women livestream with Tejumade Afonja from Nigeria, Lagos. She had so much energy. She's an engineer, but she wants to contribute to the world of AI. She began a meetup called AI Saturdays, Lagos, where several people come together. They watch pre-recorded videos of the Stanford CS231n (Convolutional Neural Networks for Visual Recognition) course about AI—specifically, a technology called "deep learning." They have group discussions and help each other. Tejumade was so humble; she didn't realize she knew much more than anybody who was interviewed. It was mind-blowing.

Then, we had Anouschka Versleijen from TU-Delft University Amsterdam. She showed us robots her teams built. One example was a walking chair that could be summoned for seniors. Manon Den Dunnen, a digital transformer in the Dutch National Polite (law enforcement) from Amsterdam who also runs the Permanent Future Lab space spoke about Amsterdam's technology trust and privacy policies. Annie Reddaway of TU-Auto joined from London and shared her perspective on the global Autonomous Vehicles landscape while Liz Slocum, AV entrepreneur, shared the AV startup landscape. Ginger Goodin, a senior researcher at Texas A&M, talked about autonomous vehicles policy.

Roxy led the industrial IoT session as a panel with Deanna Shaw of IBM, Sravani Bhattacharjee from Boston, and Maria Varez from Chile, covered IoT security, Iot for oil and gas, smart cities, smart agriculture, and more. Natalia Olson-Urtecho, chief strategy officer of The Disruptive Factory, shared how she drew inspiration for her smart city work from her work at the Obama Administration. Alexandra D.S joined from London to share a vision called "IoT Mark Standards," which is an open, interoperable standard to make IoT pervasive. Theresa Sullivan of Building Context spoke about her work with smart buildings.

Jane Ren, CEO of Atomiton, talked about IoT Architecture. Aarti Srinivasan, product management director of Target, covered IoT and Blockchain. Karpagam Narayan, CEO of ekryp, spoke about Enterprise AI.

Rosina Haberi joined from El Salvador to share her passion for IoT and education. Nush Khan joined from Singapore and Nahel Gandhi joined from Connectry, IoT Hub of Chicago. They both shared their experiences with Industrial IoT implementations in logistics and manufacturing. Julia Kwan of China and Rajashree Rao of Singapore shared their work using video-on-demand covering smart cities.

We closed out seven hours of livestream in awe of the leadership of these global women. I noticed women have smaller networks and miss out on opportunities outside these networks. The IoT Women livestream is a step to bring these women together across multiple geographies and topic areas.

BL: What was it like creating the first IoT Business course at Stanford?

SJ: I teach at Stanford Continuing Studies, which is the extension school where my students are professional adults in the industry. I started creating the course in 2016. I had just published my Kindle book IoT Disruptions, and I was collecting case studies when I realized there was no business course about IoT. I noticed that entrepreneurs were building IoT boards with clunky wires and sensors. These people had amazing ideas, but they were nowhere near an IoT business. My work got me thinking about the concept of an IoT business. I have a phrase I'm quoted for often that says, "An IoT device is not an IoT product, and an IoT product is not an IoT business." A device becomes a product when designed to solve a particular customer problem. I developed the IoT Business Framework, which includes business definition, customer experience, channels, strategy, operations, and derived value from IoT data. I developed the IoT Business Course based on this framework and published Internet of Things Business Primer, which became the textbook for my course.

What made it easy for me to create the first IoT business course was naiveté. I didn't know I was the first one to create this.

Stanford has curriculum instructional designers. They helped me shape my course and design the title. They asked me the right questions about the audience. I used my LinkedIn to provide feedback, too. Stanford Continuing Studies gave me room to shape my course the way I envisioned. They gave me room to incorporate lectures, guest speakers, and projects.

I saw amazing business ideas come together in my class through the years. Some students had fundable ideas. I want my students to be successful. On the last day of class, they have the option to present to a panel of investors. There are now at least ten startups in various stages that have come from my class. Sometimes, I have the alumni talk to the previous students and help new students.

BL: How did you get started with the driverless world book and course?

SJ: In California, we have a lot of self-driving cars. I became curious about them as I drove back from my Stanford class at night. I have seen the Google self-driving cars driving around me, and they're oblivious to me as a driver sharing the road. It got me thinking about the driverless car technology and how it's not just another IoT technology connecting the car to the Internet; it's so much more. I wrote my next book, 2030 The Driverless World: Business Transformation from Autonomous Vehicles.

I spotted the wave, and I said the self-driving car needs to learn to coexist and share the road with human drivers. I created the business of self-driving cars course at Stanford Continuing Studies to understand that landscape and the ecosystem players, and I developed a framework to build a business in smart mobility space. This summer, I am offering this information at Stanford as "Autonomous Vehicles: An Intensive Boot Camp" as a two-day, weekend workshop.

BL: What is the Driverless World?

SJ: The Driverless World is more than driverless cars; it is a world where everything is connected. The city infrastructure is smart, and the driverless car can negotiate with traffic lights, smart roads, and smart parking spots and pay by Blockchain. The Driverless World is a world where the innovations spread to all industries, and we will have smart homes, precision medicine, and a world of abundance of social equality led by technology. I am offering online courses at DriverlessWorldSchool.com for professionals or groups inside companies who want to pivot their careers to IoT, AI, or Autonomous Vehicles. Companies can also use this course to figure out how to strategize for futuristic technologies for digital transformation of their businesses.

BL: What advice would you give to women interested in STEM?

SJ: As a woman in the technology industry, I follow my heart. It doesn't matter what people say about there not being enough women in STEM or the obstacles associated with it. Respect your time and be true to yourself. I wanted to be immersed in technology. I wanted to help people create the technology ecosystems. I talk to startups and big companies and advise them to get to the future, and they love it. That's my world. You can make that happen. Don't limit yourself. Nobody has any limitations. What limits you is only you.

Brooke Lazar is the multimedia strategist, digital editor, and content manager for WITI. She has a bachelor's degree in Professional and Technical Writing from Youngstown State University. To immerse herself in the writing world, she spends her free time reading and researching writing styles to edit individual manuscripts accordingly.

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