A Conversation with Author, Entrepreneur, Microsoft Alumnus, United Nations & TEDx Speaker & Honoree of Forbes Next 1000 Chaitra Vedullapalli

A Desi Woman Podcast
A Conversation with Author, Entrepreneur, Microsoft Alumnus, United Nations & TEDx Speaker & Honoree of Forbes Next 1000 Chaitra Vedullapalli

Soniya Gokhale (00:05):
Welcome back to another episode of A Desi Woman Podcast. I am your host, Soniya Gokhale, and the voices I am seeking may have never been heard before, but their stories deserve to be told. What is a Desi woman? She is a dynamic, fearless, and strong woman. She’s your mother, your grandmother, your daughter, your sister. She is every one of us who is on an endless pursuit of self-empowerment and fulfillment. I am Soniya Gokhale, and I am a Desi woman.

Soniya Gokhale (00:40):
Hello and welcome to another addition of A Desi Woman Podcast. I am your host, Soniya Gokhale, and today we are so very excited to be joined by Chaitra Vedullapalli. Chaitra, or Chair as she prefers to be known, is recognized as an influential business leader with a passion to enable digital equality and access to achieve economic prosperity in our communities. She is the co-founder and CMO of Meylah, an organization focused on helping customers to modernize their business with cloud solutions. Chai is also the co-founder of Women in Cloud, a member of Indiaspora.

Soniya Gokhale (01:23):
She sits on the board of several companies and drives global conversations with the United Nations and other top organizations and corporations. Using the power of AI and cloud, Chai is fiercely committed to empowering women and other business owners to access the deep digital economy. Chai is also recognized as an author, speaker, change leader, patent holder, and is a TEDx and United Nation speaker. Chai was recently honored to be named to the Forbes Next 1000 list. Chai, welcome to the show.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (02:02):
Thank you. Thank you for having me here. Really appreciate you having me here, Soniya.

Soniya Gokhale (02:07):
Well, we are so excited to speak with you, and I always like to start out my interviews with guests, many of whom are from the South Asian diaspora or another country of origin, about their immigrant journey to the United States. I know that you’re a graduate of Bangalore University in India and were an engineering major. But what I think is so interesting is, and you’ve offered this in other interviews, is that you truly thought your destiny was to be a housewife.

Soniya Gokhale (02:36):
However, you credit your husband for encouraging you to embrace the concept of being an economic powerhouse in your own right. I really want to hear more about this from you and what inspired both of you to set your sites on immigrating to the United States and what that daunting journey was like for you. And then I do have a follow-up question for you.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (02:58):
Sure, Soniya. First is thank you for having me. It’s 26 years that I’m in this country, and it doesn’t feel like that. I still feel like I’m just here migrated or immigrated to US. The way I look at is mine was arranged marriage, and I had to follow what my parents wanted me to. But I did my engineering because they do truly believe that having a good degree in college would provide me the understanding of complexities of different ideas and model.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (03:35):
Engineering was a good idea instead of going into fashion designing or maybe be other medical profession. I did take the engineering, got married, came here. I stayed at home for three years and used to watch Days of Our Lives every day, so I can talk about many stories around that. But what changed my life was a show that was happening in 1995 around Microsoft and how the technology is going to change the world democratize access.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (04:10):
And because I knew I used to program in COBOL and Pascal and I didn’t really enjoy, until I saw what the software can do. And that was, I will say, a start off the curiosity to explore that. And then I met some of our friends and we had one of our teacher who really taught database skilling. I just loved it. My husband and I, we basically spent time to figure out how do we create access for me to learn a new tech technology, because none of us in our family were in tech at that time. I was the first one to explore in that area.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (04:48):
But what’s amazing was I used to go for classes in the evening and used to work in the morning and we supported each other in helping to grow three areas. One is mindset. We were thinking big ideas and concepts, even at 26 when we didn’t have a lot of money and resources. We focused a lot on mindset expansion, focusing on learning a lot. The second area we focused on is economic readiness and empowerment, really focusing on financial piece of the one, because we never got that educated.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (05:25):
We spent a lot of time there. And third one is philanthropic work in our community from the day one of when we are here. Ram comes from a very, very amazing background where the family does a lot of giving in the network and same thing with my family, but his family definitely is 10 times more. When we focused on the mindset, of financial empowerment and focused on kind of philanthropic, that kind of gave us a very good barometer for us to… And also a North Star for us to work together as a couple.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (06:01):
It was very adventurous. We tried very new things, and we failed in so many ideas, but we knew what it takes to hustle. We knew what it takes to take care of people in our network. We knew what it takes to create access for others in our network.

Soniya Gokhale (06:18):
Well, that makes so much sense. We were just talking about mindset before we began this recording. And yes, your mindset is so key, but clearly you and as listeners will find out shortly, you are impassioned about making a difference in society and leaving it better than you found it. And as if follow-up question, in researching for this podcast, I was struck by how deeply you were affected from a young age by familial stories of the need for women to have economic empowerment and access.

Soniya Gokhale (06:49):
You even referenced a heart-wrenching story about your grandmother, who wasn’t traditionally educated and was left very vulnerable after the death of your grandfather, and much of this in your estimation can be attributed to a lack of access to economic autonomy or higher education.

Soniya Gokhale (07:06):
I have to say, that story resonated with me so profoundly because I have similarly been raised with this concept and the precarious existence that can be circumvented when women do seek higher education and are able to pursue vocations or careers which can then lead to economic access. If you can expand on some of that for me and how that may even have been a driving force not only for what you currently do, but also just your mindset in general.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (07:38):
Absolutely. It was very hard for me to share my own personal story because it’s very deep. And as a family, we all have gone through the aftermath of things that happen if you’re not economically empowered, right? The whole family suffers and women generally not having that power definitely puts a burden on many areas, just on herself, also with the family. Growing up, I’ve heard so many stories of how people can take advantage of situations and how it can put more pressure for women to survive.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (08:17):
That one was definitely I’ve heard many, many stories. Also, I used to see in my own family and friends of where women stood in context of money, because they were dependent on their spouse to make the decision. And growing up, that was one thing that I always used to say, like, I do need to be empowered from the day one, whether it is a dollar or maybe $10, but having is a mechanism to have a strong say, have a voice in how we spend, how we earn, how we contribute to the society.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (08:55):
And that has served me well and also my entire family, because I do have a point of view and I contribute to the success collectively. When I think about the whole concept of economic access, and that’s the platform that I talk about, is it’s not about that you need an opportunity, but you need to know how to get access to that opportunity in the way that represents you, in the way it helps you grow, in the way it helps you connect to the bigger outcomes is very, very important in the efforts that we take.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (09:32):
For me, inclusive economy and having the access to help all of us create an inclusive economy with the digital tools is definitely area of my passion. I spend most of my time learning, exploring, experimenting, and figuring out ways for more women to stand up and create access each other and also allies to support us in creating access for those opportunities. We can become self-sufficient. We can become heroes in our own life, so we don’t have to be dependent and we can contribute to the economy.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (10:10):
And that as a feeling is phenomenal when you can contribute to the society in a positive way, and that’s a life worth living.

Soniya Gokhale (10:20):
Well, absolutely. You are walking the walk. It’s incredible. You’ve created Meylah and Women in Cloud, and I will have the link to both of those sites in the podcast notes. But I do understand that one of your longstanding frustrations as you ventured into technology related to the lack of equity. You often wondered if it was the right place for you. I do suspect many women in Corporate America sometimes feel that way, perhaps around the world.

Soniya Gokhale (10:47):
But in fact, your lack of access to a community woefully caused you to question your capabilities as a technologist and a contributing member of an organization. What’s quite striking is that perhaps as a result of this, you took the bold step in 2017 of co-founding Women in Cloud with the key goal being to help women technology entrepreneurs to not just exist, but to thrive in the field and get their products and ideas in front of the right companies, venture capital firms, and customers.

Soniya Gokhale (11:23):
Through public-private partnerships with innovative companies like Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Leaders in Tech, Women in Cloud helps to be a catalyst for women to have access to partnerships and programs that accelerate business growth and strategic alliances.

Soniya Gokhale (11:41):
If you can walk me through this incredibly inspiring journey from being disheartened and questioning your place and ability in the world of technology to then co-founding an organization to empower and encourage other women who might be facing similar emotions and credible obstacles in their tech and entrepreneurial careers, that would be so appreciated.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (12:05):
Absolutely, Soniya. This one I would say is a lot of people have supported in this journey to make Women in Cloud abroad for creating economic access for women. But let me share your story. I’ve been always an entrepreneur in mind. What that means is I always have ways to find solutions to the challenges in front of me and I enjoy solving them. But when I left the corporate world, I really didn’t know which direction I would be go, whether I’ll go back to corporate or the entrepreneurial route.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (12:36):
But I did take a leap of faith and said I will explore the entrepreneur piece and joined and started the Meylah journey in the enterprise sector. Through the journey I realized access to the enterprise opportunity for female tech founders was extremely hard of many ways that I… Only the entrepreneurs can talk about the paint, right? Because you need a scalable solution. And for scalable solution, you need funding. You need funding so you can hire the right talent to get all the pieces.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (13:12):
And to hire the talent, you have to have a very strong network, to find the best talent in the world to create an amazing solution. Those pieces, if you don’t have a contract, you have nothing else supporting you, right? That’s kind of the one. But you also can grow your company very quickly in the enterprise market because one deal can really change the game for the company. Looking around, there was no communities that was supporting that part of the narrative is going into the enterprise ecosystem and selling a cloud solution.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (13:48):
Those two did not exist. When you look at their spend, it was less than 2%. I was like, well, there is a need for it. And I’m really thankful to my friends at Microsoft, Gretchen, Gabriela, Karen Fazio. They’ve understood the pain because they knew what it looks like in the enterprise sector. We basically put it on a piece of paper what that new world should look like is Women in Cloud is to create a billion dollars i economic access in the enterprise ecosystem.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (14:22):
From there, if you look back, we have created the accelerator. We put together the right programming, the right networks so women can really accelerate in their journey. Instead of taking three years, they can do it six months through the work that we do. And now, yesterday I was meeting with Gillian Muessig, who runs Master Fund. She said four out of five companies were funded and all the companies represented from Women in Cloud accelerator.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (14:51):
She truly believes the companies who are coming are absolutely strong and brilliant entrepreneurs and know how to actually deliver a world class solution. We also had one company just bought by Neiman Marcus. We have multiple companies who are getting amazing funding. Customers and relationships to really expand in the market. When I look back is, yes, there were obstacles and similar emotion. What I learned was creating access was the only thing required and there was some skilling required.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (15:28):
You knew what the new world that you will go in when you get at the access. When you get those two right, the magic automatically happens because everyone is driven to make an impact in the world. We just need to create access and some skilling, get those two right, to create the opportunity for them and they can fly after that. That was the genesis of Women in Cloud.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (15:50):
And if you look back right now, I say is thank you to everyone who’s listening to make Women in Cloud the brand and making it very influential for so many women to really explore ideas, explore career opportunities, explore new ways of coming into the tech industry where they’re empowered and they can truly, truly add value to the economic development that’s happening through digital technologies.

Soniya Gokhale (16:21):
Well, I think that’s absolutely extraordinary and it kind of ties into my next question for you, because I know you call yourself a curious entrepreneur. Those two almost are inevitably tied, right? To be a great entrepreneur, you have to be curious. During your hugely popular TED Talk, which I will have a link to in the podcast notes, I encourage everyone to listen, you posed a question to the audience, how many of you have created economic opportunities for female entrepreneurs?

Soniya Gokhale (16:51):
As you have related in other interviews, to your surprise, less than 2% of the hands go up in the audience when you posed this question. You then bring up a very staggering statistic. You mentioned that when women and men are given equal opportunities for entrepreneurship, it is absolutely possible and viable to increase our global GDP from $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion. In other words, greater global prosperity and stability can be actualized by simply offering equal access to women entrepreneurs.

Soniya Gokhale (17:29):
And yet the conundrum, as you point out and I would wholly agree with, is that while women are given opportunities to rise, the power of influence is not showered upon them in the same way it is for men. However, you are nothing if not a problem solver. I would really enjoy hearing from you more, you just expanded upon it a bit, but how Women in Cloud is accelerating the societal impact of female tech entrepreneurs with the colossal goal of generating over one billion in global economic access by 2030.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (18:05):
Yes. The billion dollar goal takes thousand plus activations to make that real. This is lot of action work, collective action work, that we need to do. We have taken three core pillars to make this possible. The first one is the economic development with female tech founders in partnership with all the Fortune brands. We work a lot in understanding where the supply chain is looking like, how the purchasing is made, how does the enterprise customers are buying as they move in the 21st century.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (18:41):
Especially during the COVID and post-COVID, the buying process is changing. We focus a lot on figuring out where the customers are and where they’re buying. The second thing that we do is get the entrepreneur truly, truly ready in those places where the customers are buying so they’re ready. They know how to have conversations, how to engage in a meaningful discussion.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (19:07):
And third one is promoting and spotlighting and showcasing them in the right networks, whether it’s investment groups or it is in the partner groups, which allows them to partner with them or raise investment. If you get that right, will drive the economic development. I ask all the entrepreneurs listening to this one is if you are thinking of how to get into enterprise market, please look into Women in Cloud and learn about the process that we do. The second area we are working on is the workforce development.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (19:42):
What we learned from the pandemic was there was a big need for women to get ready, upskill, and reskill their skills so they can contribute in a way that the new environment is required. However, the skilling and the wraparound services for them to be successful, whether it’s networks or whether it is access to advisors or access to the right kind of skilling, that one was missing.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (20:12):
We basically put together a cloud skilling initiative, and we partnered with Microsoft and Coursera to bring thousand plus scholarship, cloud scholarship or cloud and AI scholarship for women so that we can pilot and see what we could do. There was such a huge need for those scholarship, and we are seeing like these women are completing at the rate that no other companies have seen. Very high completion rate of the basic fundamental course.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (20:44):
And second, we are providing them with our signature events, a lot of the leadership and professional development and network access. And the third one is we are trying to provide them directly access to the enterprise recruiters who can recruit them or female founders who are looking for women to join their organization. We have created a complete pipeline for the workforce development in the cloud industry. That is another innovation we did.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (21:13):
The third one is the policy work, which is identifying what are the type of policies we need to look at. We are working on a 51% conundrum that female founder faces, that if they need to be owning a 51% of the company. But as soon as you take the money from an investor, your company gets diluted and you lose the certification in the enterprise ecosystem. Hence, all the benefits that comes with that. The last one is the AI ethics policies around solution development.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (21:46):
Those are kind of the areas we are focused on. But to do that, we bring the community together through campaigns, events, and programs, so that keeps everybody engaged and they feel like they’re contributing to a movement. We are the custodians of the movement to make this possible, Soniya.

Soniya Gokhale (22:06):
Well, there’s no question about that. And what’s even more encouraging is that, as you stated, many tech companies, including Microsoft, recognize the need to diversify, and they’re struggling to find employees with needed IT skills. You’re really solving both of those issues. And yet the challenges remain obviously. But creating an inclusive economy through the technology sector is really one of your core emissions and that of your organizations, both Meylah and Women in Cloud.

Soniya Gokhale (22:34):
And you work closely with the United Nations and corporations in overcoming challenges to unlock access for women. The sustainable development goals or global goals are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. If you could elaborate a bit for us on that and your intersection with the UN and what they’re trying to accomplish.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (23:02):
Absolutely. Soniya, as I communicated, Ram and I, we both focused a lot on content building to the society from the day one. That was our value system of how we wanted to build our relationship as a couple and how we go into the world to contribute to others. We learned that we need to be part of a goal that is bigger than ourselves. When we looked around all the models out there, the UN Sustainability Goals were like the right ones we felt. We could connect to that.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (23:39):
We can contribute to that, and it can take a lifetime for us to contribute. It’s a life worth living. That was kind of the personal mindset and alignment to find the right goal. We found out for each one of us, and same thing for our kids, they all have a goal that they work on on a regular basis. It gives us a North Star to work. For me was gender inclusion was one, which was goal number five. That one was very important. And second one was global partnership.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (24:09):
Those were my two ones that I could really talk about because that is my core skillset and I could contribute. And the third one is building solutions and inclusive solutions, which is like goal number eight. These are my three goals that I know I can contribute every single day in the work we do and my team does. When you think about it, I look at the UN Sustainability Goal as a strategic blueprint for your life to create value and impact.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (24:39):
And also, it’s a common language to have discussion with the like-minded people in our network. Because when you can associate yourself and represent yourself for solving the global goal, the acceleration of the impact becomes very, very easy. Number three is you get to create the right tribe, the right dream team to really going and solving a goal. You are not talking about out yourself.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (25:06):
You’re talking about how you’re making a difference in the world, that world that needs right now, because we have got to a place where we can contribute back. When I think about a company, the team has ideas. Let’s go leverage the ideas to solve a bigger problem through the work that we do. Women in Cloud was one of the outcome of that work, where we saw that we could directly impact the economic empowerment for women on the goal number five.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (25:37):
And we can proactively contribute as through a collective action so we can solve it in the next 10 years. The way we are going, we probably will accelerate the work as every year we will start to see that we are coming closer to the realization. Instead of 10 years, maybe in five years, we’ll be done with this work, and we can go and pick another goal and go solve it through the same strategic blueprint that we have developed.

Soniya Gokhale (26:03):
Well, I have no doubt about that. I think you’re so spot on in terms that being surrounded by like-minded people that are trying to make society better than they found it, make an impact on the global level. I’m so delighted that you are affiliated with Indiaspora and MR Rangaswami, a previous and valued guest here and what they’re doing.

Soniya Gokhale (26:24):
Again, for listeners, it just demonstrates that, first of all, it’s just an honor to be associated with you and talk to you about this, but it’s really, really indicative of what your goal is for this lifetime and what you want to do, not just for yourself, but in serving humanity at large. Because here’s the next question I have for you. I know you have predicted that technology will be the leading sector for the next 20 plus years powered by cloud and AI.

Soniya Gokhale (26:51):
And that the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the adoption of digital transformation with cloud and AI technology. However, you point out the need for greater focus on public policy. You did speak to that briefly, but policies really need to be advanced in your estimation to meet the needs of people who will be using the technology and ensuring it is accessible, free of biases, affordable, and enabled with cybersecurity.

Soniya Gokhale (27:22):
Human attention will be mined as a key resource in the industry, and that will create significant upheaval if appropriate policies are not developed to keep up with this in real time. You also call out the fact that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory actually needs to be actualized for everyone. And that inclusivity and opportunities for R regardless of gender, race, religion, and racial background is so pivotal.

Soniya Gokhale (27:51):
Can you tell us more about this need for public policy focus and the fact that it is an uncomfortable truth that in 2021, about to welcome 2022, there are still digital haves and have not in the US and globally.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (28:08):
First is thank you for having me. I respect and admire Rangaswami, and he’s definitely… I’m his fan and a follower. He definitely guides me to become a better person. I’m honored that I’m here with you, Soniya, because he’s definitely the right person to be interviewed and acknowledged and highlighted. Now, coming to the work around the public policy and the things that are happening, I would say, yes, we have adopted a lot of digital tech.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (28:42):
We are going through the work, but cloud and AI has done something that makes our world very inclusive, very fast if we are strategic about it. What it did was everyone has a phone and you can access an app that is running on cloud, any part of the world. You can do anything that you need. You can become an entrepreneur overnight. You can build a business overnight, and you have all the tools and resources. Now, the places where the disparity starts to happen is at five areas.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (29:16):
One is the broadband access. You need to have proper broadband and wireless access so that people can access those technologies. That’s very important. Second is skilling. Not everybody understand how to be skilled. And we saw during COVID just using Zoom was so hard for our previous generation, right? They were struggling. They didn’t know how to use it. But yes, it took literally a month, month and a half, and they got skilled, and all the children were teaching their parents how to use the new technology.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (29:46):
There’s a skilling component required. The benefit of pandemic is everybody got skilled, very interestingly, but they had to be skilled. And it may be a Teams call or a Zoom call or whatever it is. We have had to figure out because we couldn’t go in person and meet with the people. The third one is the solutions itself, the solutions that are coming out. If we do not look from a biased perspective what’s happening, we can start to create a gender parody, like gender exclusion of people into opportunities very quickly.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (30:19):
That’s other area we need to think about. Fourth one is the economic opportunity. Who gets opportunity and which area? In enterprise, why is it 2%? Why can’t we get to 50%? What does it take? That’s another area we need to talk about. The last one, which is a very important component of making this possible, is the leadership develop. Do we have the right networks? Do we have the right model? Do we have the right mindset to really make sure that everybody is building a purpose minded leadership skilling so that they can contribute?

Chaitra Vedullapalli (30:53):
When we think about how we approach this one is look from access, right? Do they have broadband access? Do they have not? Why don’t they have it? Let’s get that right. The basic infrastructure needs to put in. The second access is to skilling. Can we get them ready? What are the ways we can get them ready? Do we need scholarships? Do we need projects? Do we need ways we need to skill people? Third is solutions.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (31:20):
Do we have enough inclusive solutions in the market that we can easily find that are built by women, built by black founders, or minority founders, or anyone? Where do we find them and are they inclusive? Are the VCs looking at before investing money asking is, are they putting the right policies in place to ensure that the technology is bias free? Are they putting that lens and a parameter to do it? And number four is, are we creating access to economic opportunity that is jobs, contracts, partnership, opportunities, mergers and acquisition?

Chaitra Vedullapalli (31:57):
What does that look like? And the last one is, are we creating the right leadership development in our schools, in our college, in our workforce, so that humans are really amplified to give their best, to transform themselves, to create the world we want to live. When we take care of that one from a digital lens, we have to still look at all the pieces, all the five areas, and really look at where are we missing. And everyone in their own network can go and start asking the questions.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (32:31):
If I’m sitting here, my family, how are they looking like from a broadband? Are they skilled? Do they have solution? Do they have an opportunity? Are they have the enough leadership development? If I’m in a company, go through the same question. If I’m a Senator, you should be talking about that. If you’re a corporate executive, you should be talking about the same thing.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (32:52):
If you get that, the policies automatically will be identified and people will start to make an impact by serving, influencing, and partnering to create an inclusive one for us.

Soniya Gokhale (33:04):
Well, that is so absolutely stunning, everything you’ve outlined there, because it really takes accountability and ownership at so many different levels. I do want to share with listeners, I’ll have a link to this as well, you’re even rolling this out to youth. I know you have a Women in Cloud X Summit coming up where you connect youth to adult mentors to explore STEM-based careers in the trillion dollar cloud industry. Absolutely spectacular. I will have a link to that in the podcast notes as well.

Soniya Gokhale (33:34):
But it’s really hard to believe we’re approaching the end of our time together, but I have to ask this, what is next? I think it’s kind of clear based on what you’ve outlined. But in researching for this podcast, I would offer that while it does appear there are a plethora of programs like Girls Who Code, there are simply not as many programs focused upon business building for women, which is what you are doing.

Soniya Gokhale (33:57):
I know that one of your ambitious goals is to take your program to 50 different countries and really see if you can help women use the accelerator model and start building the tech business. I would say the sky is the limit, but would love to hear more from you about what gets you excited, the mourning? Or as you look to 2022, what do you look forward to the most as it relates to all of these groundbreaking and critical initiatives?

Chaitra Vedullapalli (34:27):
Wow, that’s a beautiful question and I hope I can do it justice by answering. I love bold and audacious goal for creating a billion dollars of access. And that’s how I’ve been trained and skilled at my Microsoft, and I’m forever grateful that they gave me the opportunity to get skill to create an impact. But when you think about the groundbreaking and critical initiative, I don’t think we can do it by ourself. It’s a collective action, collective power, and collective influence for making this work come to life.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (34:59):
The first area, which I really would like to do, is global partnership with all the enterprise brand. We are working with Fortune brands to contribute to the economic access movement for women, and we are inviting the companies to participate. My goal is to really have thousand Fortune brands to really step in and say, “We support. We want to be represented. Let’s make it happen.” That’s the project of a lifetime to get the global partnerships in place and figure out a way that we can all contribute to the success together.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (35:33):
The second one is from an entrepreneurial perspective, which is where the roots of the Women in Cloud is, to really bring thousand women to be ready in the next 10 years and build a successful business, so they have access to funding, access to customers, access to partners so they can grow. And hoping that some of them will become unicorn companies and we there to lift them up, provide them the right support as they become the unicorn company and go on the stock exchange.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (36:04):
That would be kind of a lifetime vision. I would love to see that. The third one is the workforce. To make all these pieces happen, we do need to have women to be skilled and ready. Looking at as 250,000 women skilled in cloud and AI, and majority of them have got placed in opportunities, either working as leaders or working at the employee ecosystem in multiple companies in the Fortune brands and female tech founders who are hiring them. The last one is the policy.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (36:39):
This is the lifetime policy that we would want to work on is the 51% conundrum that women face and the certification and the funding should not be together the way it’s linked. It’s a systematic barrier that needs to be removed. We all have to band together for driving advocacy work together. And last and most is the AI ethics, looking into the ethical piece. How do we think about solutions that are more ethical in nature? What do we do to create awareness around this particular work over the next three to five years?

Chaitra Vedullapalli (37:14):
That’s kind of my big audacious goals that I am pondering and thinking and working as a collective network. I’m hoping that each one of you can step in this summit, which is coming on January 26th to 28th. Really coming here, show up with your tribes, show up with your employees, and support the movement and learn solutions and understand opportunities and also truly develop your leadership mindset to make this access become a reality for everyone around you.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (37:52):
That’s my goal, Soniya. Hopefully I did the justice to an amazing question you asked.

Soniya Gokhale (37:58):
Oh, you most certainly did. You most certainly did. I do want to congratulate you, Chai, as we come to the end of this interview, you have made the Forbes Next 1000 list, which shouldn’t be a surprise to listeners who have enjoyed this podcast. But I just want to offer that it really shines a light on ambitious sole proprietors, self-funded shops, and pre-revenue startups in every region of the country all with under 10 million in revenue or funding an infinite drive and hustle. I really want to congratulate you on that.

Soniya Gokhale (38:31):
I want to thank you. Yes, huge accomplishment. We’re going to see so much more of this from you, I’m certain, but the beauty of it is you bring people with you. You raise everyone around you. Wow! We are just so delighted to have spoken to you today. Thank you so much, Chai.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (38:49):
Thank you so much for having me. I am really grateful for you to giving me the opportunity, and I hope I can inspire one human being on this planet to take action and create access for them and the people in the network. I think that would be a remarkable mission that we can accomplish.

Soniya Gokhale (39:10):
Oh, that’s beautiful. I have no question that that will occur not only via this podcast, but through the critical work you’re doing. And you know what? I would welcome you back over and over because technology is constantly changing and we can’t thank you enough.

Chaitra Vedullapalli (39:25):
Thank you so much.



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