“Hard work and resilience took me from a blank page 3 years ago to being CEO of an exciting startup today.”
You came to the Bay Area in 2018 after an accomplished international career in finance and investment banking. What made you move half a world away in your early fifties?
My family and I had been living in the Middle East since 2009 where I was working in investment banking for Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank in Dubai, then for HSBC in Saudi Arabia, and eventually for Gulf Bank in Kuwait. As they were finishing high school, our two…
“It feels like going a full circle, bringing back what I learned at HEC Paris and overseas to the Bay Area.”
You are Bay Area born and bred. You’ve worked at start-ups, in a food truck in a community garden, What drove you to apply for a master's at HEC, halfway across the globe?
I grew up in Oakland and went to school in San Francisco. When I was younger, I wanted to become a writer so I studied English Literature in undergrad. Unfortunately, it is very hard to make a living from writing so I started working as a cook…
“I want to use tech and processes to create impact at scale”
At 33, you already have an accomplished career in engineering. What led you to resume your studies in 2019 and get an executive master’s from HEC Paris?
My background is indeed engineering. I did my bachelor's in electronics engineering in my home country, India. I shifted to software engineering when I came to the USA for my master’s which I graduated from in 2010.
I started my career off as an individual contributor as a consultant in Boston. I moved to the SF Bay Area in 2012. Over my career…
“Develop flexibility toward roles and organizations that are not clearly defined and change constantly. This uncertainty is the new normal that comes with a data-driven, increasingly automated world.”
What is the story of your move to San Francisco?
My parents are American, from the East Coast, but I grew up in France.
During my last year at HEC, I went to Vancouver as an exchange student with the International Management Program. Over there, I tasted the West Coast vibe, vibrant with innovation and start-ups. I knew I would be back.
After graduation, I started my career as a market analyst and consultant…
Resilience is key. If you want something, keep fighting for it.
What is your academic background and how did HEC fit in?
Before HEC, I studied maths and computer science at Paris Dauphine University. I have always loved maths. If there is one thing I could see myself doing all my life, that’s maths! But I could not see what career my maths degree could lead to. It could have opened to roles in finance, but I was not attracted to this industry. Or research, but I could not afford not taking a path that would not provide a decent…
If you feel like changing your career path, don’t wait, do it sooner than later!
How did you end up settling down in San Francisco 10 years ago?
Quite by chance actually!
Back in 2010, my husband and I had been living in London for 3 years, we were growing tired of our jobs and felt it was time for a move, all the more since lots of our friends were moving back to France. We were not particularly drawn to going back to France, we felt we could go anywhere!
I was working at NexTag, an American price comparison service website…
“There aren’t many cities in the world that can offer incredible career opportunities and such quality of life.”
When and why did you move to San Francisco?
I am French and I used to live in Tel-Aviv with my Argentinian husband. I was interning at Costockage, a French tech startup. In Israel, the compulsory military service for citizens is a very important rite of passage during which young Israelis learn a lot of skills. It is a real springboard for their careers. We realized that, as foreigners who would not be enrolled, our career ambitions would be hindered. So we…
“The Bay Area is a very unique place for newcomers who have the same opportunities as anyone. Anyone can come and start from scratch. You are not judged on what you’ve done in the past, but on your ability to do things now.”
How did Mountain View become your home?
I started gravitating around California from a young age. I took my first trip here in 1970 as a teenager and exchange student, right after my baccalauréat (French high school diploma). I studied a year of high school in Thousand Oaks, close to Los Angeles. At the same time, I…
“Nothing beats the innovation culture and the ecosystem you find in the Bay Area. Here, innovation can come from anyone”
A mix of passion for useful technology, drive for entrepreneurship, and good timing!
My wow moment with tech was in 2015, during my exchange program in China. I was living in Shanghai. I discovered WeChat and was amazed by its payment capabilities. I could pay for everything with it, from my electricity bill to a snack at the corner store. We had nothing close to that in France. …
“Silicon Valley is a very unique place in the world known for equal opportunity and fairness.”
I hold an MBA from HEC Paris and a Masters in Engineering from the well-known engineering institutions IITs in India. Alphabet CEO and Incoming IBM CEO graduated from the same engineering institutions. IITs are comparable to École Polytechnique engineering school from France. In fact, we used to have French engineering students visiting us as part of student exchange programs. And, I had my first interaction with French culture during my engineering days.
Most of my engineering work was in the area of advanced robotics, especially…