“Intel AI Coffee Break: Making Connections at Work”: Banu Nagasundaram with Intel AI (Video + Transcript)

April 17, 2020

In this session, Banu Nagasundaram will share how optimizing connections to win is like Candy Crush at work.


Transcript of Elevate 2020 Session

Angie Chang: We are back. In this Intel AI coffee Break, we will hear from Banu about optimizing connections to win at work. Take it away.

Banu Nagasundaram: Hey everybody, thank you for having me here and I’m very excited to be sharing what I have. Today, I just wanted to share with you a little bit of who I am, my background, and how do I use connections in order to provide value, and add value to those in my network. So, with that a little bit about me. So I started off in 2006 in STMicroelectronics, and moved through different semiconductor companies.

Banu Nagasundaram: So, I’ve always been a semiconductor girl moving through these different roles that I have had in manufacturing, in design, in engineering roles. And from within Intel, in the last four years, I transitioned from an engineering to a product marketing role, and I’ll go through a little bit more of that, as well. So currently I work in the Intel AI group, where we focus on multiple technologies across the company, be it like evangelizing our products, hardware, software, having the ecosystem work with us, and then also focus on the software products for AI, where we are putting our customer needs first, and building the industry standard open platforms.

Banu Nagasundaram: And then of course, the hardware where we have a focus on AI products from the edge, which is user touch devices, hardware for those, up to the data centers, either in the enterprise or in the cloud segment. So this is the landscape, within which I fit in. So, to give you some background about my role in this landscape, I work, like I mentioned, in a product marketing role, and the best way that I have realized to explain my role to people, is that I’m like a Netflix within the organization. On one side, where you have content generators, and content producers, and Netflix connects them to consumers. In the same way I connect with engineers, and product managers on one end, who are closer to the hardware and software products we build.

Banu Nagasundaram: I learn from them, I work with them in order to aggregate content. I create content myself and then evangelize it on the other end, to the customers across different segments, and different modes and channels to reach those customers, evangelize our products, our use case to our ecosystem of software developers. And then I also work closely with the sales team, where I translate the value prop of our products to sales in our organization.

Banu Nagasundaram: In this background and landscape, one of the things that I’ve taken upon myself is that I’m also a student at Berkeley Haas. I’m currently doing my MBA program. And on a typical day, this is how I look, trying to juggle the school, work, and life. And I know many of you may relate to this graphic here, but this is me trying to balance the different opportunities, and the different learnings that I have across the board. And as I go through this, one of the things that I’ve realized that has helped me be successful in building this balance, has been the power of the connections.

Banu Nagasundaram: And the best way to explain that, I felt was through a Candy Crush analogy. So most of you know this game, it’s on the phone where you connect candies of the same color, so that you get points. So this is how I interpret my role, is I help make connections between people across the board, that is relevant. They may have needs which are mapped to, maybe the colors on the board at a given point. And when I make these connections or try to bring people together, then there are associated network effects that happen on the side because of the connection that I enabled. One thing that is different from that of a Candy Crush environment to what happens in real life at work is that I’ve had to build this board for myself.

Banu Nagasundaram: Who are these people who I can rely on, who I know have… And what are the qualities that they have to offer, and connecting whom with whom makes most sense, is something I have had to figure out throughout my career in terms of building that board, and making those connections. One of the examples when I’m asked is, how to think out of the box in order to make connections. Let’s say you are looking for your next role or an opportunity, and you come across an executive VP in that process, who says they’re hiring for a VP. Hey, maybe you can connect your current manager to that executive VP to make that network happen. Even if there is nothing in it for you, but you are acting as an agent in order making that connections that makes you a better networker.

Banu Nagasundaram: And that is what has helped me throughout my career to achieve the best out of the network that I’ve built. But through this, it’s not been of course, a smooth ride. All of us face challenges every day in terms of pushing forward or trying to get to the solution or facing failures and trying to bounce back from it. That portion is what I define as resilience. They are able to push the ceiling and take control of the situation, and then find the solution in that situation, and bounce back. That has been the resilience part. But what I’ve learned through my years of working in large corporations has been that resilience is one part of it. But when you are faced with opportunities that try and test you, what are the opportunities you can find to grow in those is key.

Banu Nagasundaram: So what I mean by that is, as an example, in 2015-2016 time frame, the organization that I was in went through a lot of changes in terms of organizational movement. I used that as an opportunity to explore, how I can switch from an engineering role to a marketing role. What are the skills that are needed? I took public speaking classes, I did a technical course in AI, and I built my profile and used that tumultuous situation as an opportunity to grow. 

Banu Nagasundaram: That is how the analogy of starfish plays into the picture, where you are finding that opportunity or the challenge that is posed to you as a way to regenerate and move forward. So, that is most of what I had to share today. And in this process, a lot of people have been super supportive in helping me grow, and as I make these connections, there’s more people who offered to help, and you just build that network in a Candy Crush environment and think of yourself as the starfish and you’re able to grow.

Banu Nagasundaram: And that’s been my experience. So with that, I’m open to answering any questions you may have and you may also reach out to me on LinkedIn. Feel free to ping me, and we can connect through that. And quickly, for the lift as you climb theme, I also have my VP who has helped me climb and who has lifted me through this process and she’s talking later today, Julie Choi, and I’m excited to hear from her.

Angie Chang: Awesome. Wonderful. We are out of time. In fact, we’re running a little over into Julie’s time. So, I just wanted to say thank you so much to Intel AI for being a sponsor of Girl Geek X Elevate and to check out their job opportunities at girlgeek.io/opportunities. And now we will be going to our next speaker. So thank you so much, Banu-

Banu Nagasundaram: Thank you.

Angie Chang: … For your talk and we’ll be back soon. Thank you.

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