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Richa Dubey

Under water adventure? Cooking experiment? Hard-hitting TV script? Richa has no fear. A lifetime of social justice work and communications has prepared her to roll up her sleeves and dig in.

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decorative image of sanaz surrounded by skis, a note book, a laptop, running shoes, a calendar, and a dutch oven

01/31/2023

Meet Sanaz—our ace of grace, in projects and life 

By Richa Dubey

decorative image of sanaz surrounded by skis, a note book, a laptop, running shoes, a calendar, and a dutch oven

Image by Brandon Conboy

When Sanaz is in a meeting, it’s quite simply brighter. Brimming with energy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to jump in and make mistakes, Sanaz, in her own words, is “not afraid to experiment” if it means she’ll learn or contribute to the process.

“Sanaz” means grace in Persian, which is fitting, because she rarely messes up. She’s a great consultant who fields tight deadlines and busy schedules, then delivers what clients need and want.

Sanaz regularly whips up fabulous Persian meals for her family and shepherds three teenagers through everything (including setting up their own nonprofit that was featured on the local news). Then she hits the gym. She’s a pro at juggling a busy life and multiple projects all at once.

Insert classic question that successful women professionals get asked: How do you do it all? “I am a bundle of energy, and any physical activity—cue skiing, walking the dog—helps.”

After a decade of teaching middle- and high-schoolers math and science she quit because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “I missed the human connection and couldn’t handle remote teaching.” 

Sanaz then took a leap of faith and switched to a project management role at a telecommunications consultancy. She ended up being so good at it that she went from being a project manager to VP in under a year. But this is Sanaz we’re talking about, and she wanted to learn more, “I was at the level of a VP, running the company alongside the president, but felt I could grow so much more. What I needed was to move on and be better so when I met a friend (at the gym, of course) who works at Microsoft, and she recommended I try technology marketing, I jumped at it.” 

The rest, as they say, is history—just like her brush with the Iranian morality police in her youth. 

The first time Sanaz had a run-in with the morality police, she was barely 15 and not wearing the “right kind” of hijab. Picked up from her neighborhood and dumped in the back of a van along with her friends and cousin, she was luckily able to attract the attention of her parents who were just outside and got off with a warning and having to write a promissory note. 

But we carry our history with us, and Sanaz remains an outspoken advocate for gender equity in Iran besides actively volunteering in her local community. No surprises there, because beyond being all brain, this former biomedical engineering PhD candidate is also full of heart, fun, bravery, empathy, and always… grace.  

image of a paper calendar. The 2022 page is being removed, showing just the 2023 page

01/26/2023

Three stand-out technology trends for 2023

By BB Bickel, Richa Dubey, Mai Sennaar

image of a paper calendar. The 2022 page is being removed, showing just the 2023 page

Image by Thad Allen

A new year always presages new trends and developments in the constantly fluctuating world of technology. Since technology is part of 2A’s DNA, it’s only natural that we’d pick out a few trends to highlight. Three notable movements stand out to us, which were backed up by their featured prominence at the latest AWS re:Invent conference. They are:

  • Innovation can be experimental and disruptive
  • Responsibility and bias mitigation in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
  • Sustainable and renewable technologies

Solutions arise from falling in love with the problem, not the product

Technology companies are making high-quality, high-velocity decisions. The outstanding ones remain stubborn on vision and flexible on details. Those that focus on building features customers will love, whether or not it’s the easiest feature to make, will succeed. Experimentation is the holy grail this year, with the goal of being bold and disruptive while innovating. True innovation is agreeing first on what the customer would love, and then developing a product to address that desire (or need), not the other way around.

Innovation also involves a bias for action, with blessings to move ahead with 70 percent of the data. This goes back to the roots of AWS. As Jeff Bezos said in his 2015 letter to shareholders, “…failure and invention are inseparable twins…Given a ten percent chance of a 100 times payoff, you should take that bet every time. But you’re still going to be wrong nine times out of ten…Big winners pay for so many experiments.”

Thus, if technology companies are going to win big, they’re going to fail big too. They will walk through the door and close it behind them. It’s all part of the process. They will constantly reinvent themselves by keeping the dynamism of Day 1 and consider a Day 2 mentality as stasis.

Responsibility in AI and ML

Diversity brings more perspectives to the table and is therefore critical to building responsible and inclusive AI and ML. Only with truly diverse teams can a company mitigate bias in their algorithms. People are at the center of these technologies and drive the decisions; machines only make recommendations.

People-centric design has become a different model for AI, as it considers others and seeks out not only explicit but implicit bias. Today, leadership places emphasis on helping engineers develop the right skills so that fairness, integrity, and dignity become part of AI’s DNA. In fact, in December, Amazon’s Machine Learning University launched a new course, “Responsible AI—Bias Mitigation & Fairness Criteria.” It is an entry-level course for technical individuals and explains where bias in AI systems comes from, how to measure it, and ultimately how to mitigate bias as much as possible. Since AI and machine learning touch so many aspects of peoples’ lives, it’s crucial to build trust and prevent disadvantages among subgroups of customers.

Sustainability

Sustainability could conceivably be the most important word in our world today. The statistics on climate change are horrific and only a focus on sustainability and renewable energy will make a dent. Thankfully, wind and solar energy technologies are growing at an unprecedented rate, and there is a greater interdependence between gas and electricity. According to Gartner, 80 percent of CEOs who plan to invest in new or improved products in the coming year cited environmental sustainability as the third largest driver, making it a competitive differentiator.

Among the cloud providers, AWS has done the lion’s share of work toward sustainability. The company’s mandate is to achieve net zero carbon by 2040, ten years ahead of the Paris Climate Accords, and it is working toward 80 percent renewable energy by 2024. Amazon buys more renewable energy than any other corporate buyer on the planet. In addition, Amazon has already invested $2 billion in clean technology.

As we kick off the third year of what has been the most unpredictable decade of the 21st century, here’s to making disruption work for us—and our planet.

Storytellers / storied tellers in the house

12/05/2022

Storytellers / storied tellers in the house

By Richa Dubey

Storytellers / storied tellers in the house

Image by Julianne Medenblik

“Leveraging best practices for synergistically delivering elasticity across the content value chain to ensure that the asset is delivered to the client as committed priorly”—a gem that popped up in the 2A storytellers chat—makes as much sense as this line from a classic Bollywood film song: “You see, the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the hemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity.”

And that, dear reader, is what we in the trade call a run-on sentence.

Our storyteller team chat is called the Storyteller Shuffle. Here, we dissect sentences, punctuation, usage, style guides, and grammar. We also like our wordplay, so the shuffle often turns into a rumba…

This is where we take a break, have fun, ask for, and receive, unstinting help from each other. Writing can be a solitary activity, which is why the wisdom, support, and camaraderie we find here is so important. The Shuffle is also where we collectively make your asset shine. If you’re wondering at the ‘collectively,’ try proofing an eBook you’ve written without going cross-eyed. You need a fresh pair of eyes.

Holding each other up, learning together, and having fun is at the core of our little group. Witness this (not entirely) imaginary chat: “I’m slammed for capacity. Can anyone help me with this case study?” Katy Nally, Director of Storytelling par excellence, jumps in, “Sure, I’ve only got a million things to do. But I can take this. And let me fix your calendar so that you’re not overloaded.”

Stuck for punctuation? Kimberly Mass generously weighs in on a hot debate about the merits of commas versus em dashes in a sentence.

Looking to sharpen your interview skills? Shadow Mai Sennar who, with her background in theater, exudes calm confidence while drawing out even the most reticent clients.  

Want to keep up with what’s happening with the cloud biggies? Jane Dornemann keeps us in the loop about all things cloud with her tongue-in-cheek newsy blog.

Wondering how to write about a completely new technology? Get a load of BB Bickel’s confident, successful approach.

Need to pin the client down to answer tough questions? See what happens when Editorial Lead, Forsyth Alexander, wields her trademark Southern charm to soften critiques as she reviews a section of Gandalf’s CV.

Description of the battle with the Balrog in Lord of The Rings, The Two Towers, Book III, Chapter 5, The White Rider: “I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountainside where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.”

Forsyth marks it up and inserts a comment in the Word document: “Your story is utterly gripping! I was wondering, though, can you explain this gap in your resumé?”

As you can see, it falls to us ask the hard questions. You can also count on us to coax answers out of interviewees, keep your head in the cloud (and feet on the ground), and match the perfect storyteller to your project.

We’ll dot your ‘i’s
And cross your ‘t’s
We’re better than fries
We’re the bees’ knees

Your content, we’ll align
And be sure to make it shine
We’re the bounce in basketball
So don’t you wait—just give us a call