I direct the editorial effort (which is part of the marketing team) at Andreessen Horowitz a.k.a. a16z. Since early 2014, this includes everything from setting the content strategy to producing (and also co-hosting) the a16z Podcast; curating the a16z newsletter; managing our online presence (website + social media); and editing/co-writing op-eds, primers, Q&As, listicles, decks, and more. Many of these pieces are drawn from or inspired by the ideas and domain expertise of the general and other partners at a16z; I'm proud of what we've built together.
Before coming to a16z (which funnily started with an op-ed from one of the partners and the comms liaison on it, Kim, reaching out to me afterwards... I had thought they hated me until then since I was such a tough editor!), I was a Senior Editor at WIRED. There, I built up the opinion section, which had been struggling until then and soon became one of the consistently top performing sections on wired.com. Much of my job involved editing non-professional writers -- researchers, business leaders, academics, politicians, others across various domains -- who were rockstars in their fields with lots of expertise to share but limited experience doing so outside a captive audience. Together, we started or shaped conversations through big-ideas essays, themed series, adapted book excerpts, assigned/pitched/contributed (always edited) pieces, first-person/insider perspectives, and even some experimental formats (such as napkin sketches and narrative maps).
My favorite things were focusing on undiscovered, diverse voices -- and topics -- that were previously uncovered by mainstream media, as well as influencing actual policy change (a beat I included in my section and even ended up loving after Evan nudged me into it). I especially loved anything involving themes of the tension between open v. closed; infrastructure; evolutionary adapts; and niche/subculture (not hipster;) movements. When I first came to WIRED (a long process that funnily started with a tweet from Chris Anderson inviting me to consider it), I thought it was the toughest job I'd ever done -- and such a different environment as well. But I left feeling like I could do anything as a result of that experience. I'm grateful for everyone I learned from during this time as well as the dear friends I made there. That time will always be special.
Before going to WIRED, I directed content and community at PARC, a Xerox company (née Xerox PARC). PARC had become an independent subsidiary a few years before, so its challenge was doing business -- and therefore communicating -- with a broader world than when it had been a captive R&D center. This was why my first boss and early mentor there, Jen, hired me (she told me the reason she picked me, even though I knew nothing about tech at the time, was because during their interview testing of candidates she saw that "I knew my way around academic journal articles" and fashion writing.)
Working at PARC immersed me in the ABCs of high tech, in domains ranging from automation, bioinformatics, and cleantech to flexible electronics, natural language, networking, optoelectronics, ubiquitous computing, and many more. (Oh, and bitcoin too, in early 2011.) It also exposed me to the research agendas of various government agencies and innovation roadmaps of major Fortune 500/Global 2000 companies, since that was PARC's "open innovation" business model at the time -- doing business with entities outside Xerox in non-competing fields of use. But that involved unique challenges like portfolio management of near- and long-term innovation bets; co-development, which often meant encountering "NIH syndrome"; and long sales cycles with the need to convince internal stakeholders throughout. The entire experience taught me about the connection between content and business strategy, which seems like it would be obvious but isn't.
I worked on so many things at PARC, but some of my key projects there included leading an online web team and overhauling its websites and microsites (resulted in our being an Official Honoree in the 14th Annual Webby Awards); launching its email newsletter and associated experiments; fighting with Gladwell/ The New Yorker on the "the creation myth"; facilitating hosting the inaugural Make Hardware Innovation Workshop (then part of O'Reilly Media); and managing the PARC Forum expert speaker program. I also curated special invited speaker series featuring top leaders and thinkers on innovation (2012), The Entrepreneurial Spirit (2011), OPEN (2010), and Going Beyond Web 2.0 (2007-2008). Interestingly, this work had always seemed like a sidebar to my main job, but ended up seeding an "expert graph" for much of the above...
Before PARC, I worked as an ethnographer/ researcher/ writer as part of an NSF-funded study on professional development and organizational change. During this time I built and managed my first online community -- over an email listserv (!) and through an online resources hub -- of education stakeholders. It included teachers, administrators, teacher union representatives, textbook manufacturers, policymakers, and education researchers all interested in a specific Japanese teacher professional development practice that had surfaced through the TIMSS international education comparison study. The entire online and community aspect of this work felt like yet another "side project" to the primary research effort -- which involved field ethnography in physical classrooms (specifically, Paterson, NJ; Japanese School of Greenwich, CT; and NYC school District 2) -- but that was what was later acquired by Pearson. In fact, the writing and reporting I did during this time is what made me realize how much I loved those activities more than even the research itself.
I had been doing the above while working on my PhD in developmental/cognitive psychology in the school of education at Columbia University (for which I passed my quals but never started my dissertation, as decided to apply to journalism school in my final year of the program). I did some other neat research stuff earlier too, like briefly interning at Sesame Street; and designing, writing, and field-testing lots of learning activities for (another) NSF-funded study of early numeracy in preschoolers. The name brand I gave that research project, "Big Math for Little Kids", ended up becoming the brand name of the resulting toolkit published by Pearson Education (which retails for over $500, wtf?!).
A neat realization of late is that a lot of what I learned in developmental and cognitive psychology -- how children learn, conditioning, metacognition, perception, memory, etc. -- seems to be playing out in the AI world today with deep learning and more. In theory at least, since I know nothing about computer science!
For undergrad, I went to UCLA where I got my B.A. in English (this included lots of Shakespeare, an intense but thankfully brief spell in post-modern lit-crit, and African lit) + Psychology (which included lots of cognitive science including perception studies, and working in the field with autistic children as part of the Lovaas lab).
I was born in the U.S. to Indian immigrant parents whose focus was survival but whose hearts were those of poets. I love my family, but I've always been geographically split: home and mind in San Francisco Bay Area, heart in NYC, lived in LA, soul in India.
Reading is like breathing to me; per Scout: "One does not love breathing". Among my fave coming-of-age books: The Great Brain, Anastasia Krupnik, Anne of Green Gables, and the Harry Potter series; To Kill a Mockingbird; everything by Madeline L'Engle, and so many more. Am discerning but not highbrow: enjoy chick lit à la Emily Giffin and Gilmore Girls; think TV can be visual literature; and just love comicbook, sci-fi, and fantasy movies. I also love what's been happening in the past 5 years with YA literature and strong female characters.
I'm passionate about art, design, and fashion (to those citing superficiality, let me point you to Virginia Postrel's thesis in The Substance of Style). Fave artists and designers include The Lalannes, Laura Owens, Rebecca Rebouche, Rene Ricard, Mark Ryden, Youngna Park; Alexander McQueen, Dries Van Noten, Isabel Marant, Tsumori Chisato, Kate Sylvester, VPL, Rachel Comey, and many more.
[Yes: I do think our tastes, even vicarious ones, define us. And while any kind of differentiation let alone choice is a luxury beyond survival, just remember Frederick (and for that matter, Yorick, too)!]
I used to love magazines, especially Vanity Fair (was erstwhile "mysterious and fascinating character" slash "twitteur" known as Vanityfairer); Lucky (which I remember seeing on bus stop ads before they launched so was an early subscriber... and it was magical, until it wasn't); The Economist; The Atlantic; and Domino (the original). Magazines during grad school was like a discovery that scratched both a non-fiction and fiction itch; sadly, once I started working on behalf of or for them I lost my joy in them. But I still enjoy fashion magazines including W, Teen Vogue, Nylon, Harper's Bazaar, and a number of international ones.
Here's one of my fave lines from Midnight's Children: "I put it down to his being a bad poet, and as such, a born survivor."