Pioneering Transformation of “Quality of Life” in Asia

Ayesha Khanna, Founder — LionLabs, Director — Technology Quotient.

Ayesha Khanna is passionate about the potential of technology to transform the quality of life of Asia’s growing middle class. A graduate in Economics from the prestigious Harvard University and Masters in Operations Research from Columbia University she has led technology product development for years at major institutions, including over a decade New York on Wall Street. At Singapore, she is focussing on creating a software development agency LionLabs (http://lionlabs.co)

Ayesha has authored Straight Through Processing (2008) and was co-author of Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization (2012). She has been featured and quoted on technology, innovation and smart cities in The New York Times, BusinessWeek, TIME, Newsweek, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Strategy+Business, and Foreign Policy.

She is also engaged in providing skills for Singaporeans to prepare the workforce for a future in which every industry will have a digital aspect in it. As a Founder of coding school ’21C Girls’ and upskilling hub ‘The Keys Academy’, this education expert is helping spawn the next generation of tech-minded Millennials.

“The future belongs to those who embody both the qualities of homo sapiens, man who knows; and homo faber, man who makes. In my mind, that is the definition of a smart citizen in a smart nation” she says.

Here are some more interesting thoughts that she has shared with Team ABT.

Who is your greatest inspiration and why?
My greatest inspiration are the young girls who study coding at my non-profit 21C Girls (21st Century Girls – http://21cgirls.com). We have many programs ranging from Introduction to Coding to applied technology camps like Fintech Camps. We are also now planning a 6 month course for girls in which will learn technology and entrepreneurship. These young girls are so smart, energetic, and creative that it gives me great hopes for this country’s future and for the world my children are growing up in.

What has been the high point in your career?
I am extremely customer-centric in my approach to leading companies and projects, so helping clients achieve their goals, for example  to reach a wider audience with an incredible product powered by technology, is an exciting milestone for me. Being able to work with both startup entrepreneurs and large companies has given me rich experiences throughout my career. I was also honoured to be invited to be on the ASPIRE Steering Committee in Singapore by the government that made recommendations on how to make the education system more future ready and to arm our students and life-long learners with the skills to succeed in emerging industries.

What is that one milestone in your life that was a big turning point in your life?
My acceptance to Harvard University as an undergraduate was a big turning point in my life as I was taught by my peers and professors how to think and frame information, i.e. to move beyond acquiring facts to critically analyzing them and using them to refine and further my arguments and goals. It made me much more confident in taking on new types of roles and challenges and I have always been grateful for that empowering education.

How do you / did you believe in making dreams come true?
In order to achieve one’s dreams, one needs skills, focus and hard work. The combination of these three makes you productive and that is necessary in a world where innovation is happening at high speed across all sectors. In most cases, ambitious projects require the collaboration of many people so having a team with the same values and work ethic is essential. Finally, there are many bumps along the way and failures are natural consequences on the path to successes, and having emotional resilience through these times is also critical.

Do you feel there are more opportunities for women today to create a niche for themselves? Tell us more.
Absolutely. I am a strong advocate of women learning skills like technology as this is a fast growing field that is relevant to every industry and there is a huge talent gap in the market. Women are also becoming more important as consumers as they enter the workforce as economic players, and this presents an opportunity for women to create products and services that cater to other women. As Singapore tries to move to an economy where financial services are provided more seamlessly, efficiently and pervasively using technology (also known as fintech), many women can lead as entrepreneurs who educate and provide financial inclusion services to women.