Apoorva Pasricha ’14 solves problems at the intersection of the public, private and social sectors.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and schools switched to online learning, the city of San JosÃ©, California – like many cities across the country – quickly realized the inequalities in access and connectivity, as she faced the challenge of bringing digital devices into the hands of children at home.
Fortunately, the San JosÃ© City Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (MOTI) already had Apoorva Pasricha ’14 among its employees. As a Harvard Business School Leadership Fellow and the city’s Deputy Director of Technology and Innovation, Pasricha operationalized the San JosÃ© Digital Inclusion Initiative, bridging the digital divide for 4,000 households by allocating over $ 1 million in grants to community groups serving low-income residents who do not have Internet access. access, digital devices and digital literacy. Pasricha collected the money for these grants within months, developed a framework for the distribution of funds, and oversaw the launch of the initiative’s online portal. Key to her work was to engage and collaborate with partners and multiple stakeholders from the public, private and social sectors.
Pasricha says: âI believe in the power of working together in all sectors, because I believe that no group has the resources or the complete expertise to develop solutions to the biggest problems of our world. This approach makes her a tri-sector athlete, a term used to describe someone who can assess, understand and engage the needs, aspirations and motivations of people in all three sectors.
Pasricha’s work on the Digital Inclusion Initiative has contributed to her work to address the digital divide in remote schools in San JosÃ©. She turned to building relationships that would provide students with quality, reliable laptops. Through the Digital Inclusion Fund, she established a unique partnership model for MOTI with Revivn (a certified public service material renovator), the Santa Clara County Office of Education, and the California Emerging Technology Fund. Pasricha used the partnership to create new income for the city, which ultimately reduced the number of students in San JosÃ© without computer devices during the pandemic.
When I am asked to work on an ambiguous problem, my first instinct is to identify which principles we want to use to solve it. It comes from bringing people together around a shared vision, which I am confident to do because St. Olaf has allowed me to see equal value in different disciplines.
âWe need to understand the challenges from all angles, as well as understand what motivates each stakeholder,â says Pasricha. âSome of the most powerful initiatives I’ve worked on have been collaborations between business, government, and non-profit organizations. While at MOTI, she launched an AI-powered chatbot to 1.2 million San JosÃ© residents to help them access city services via the Internet or text messaging, which was a big deal. of utmost importance when ordering COVID-19 home shelters.
Pasricha is currently responsible for operations and infrastructure at Zoox, an Amazon subsidiary that will soon be bringing robot taxis to cities.
âI am a technology optimist and believe that technology can be a force for good,â she says.
Pasricha credits St. Olaf with teaching her âto think about problems holistically,â she says. She excelled in college, graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, with a concentration in media studies. She spent a year studying development economics at the University of Oxford in the UK and participated in the Mayo Innovation Scholars program at St. Olaf. She applied her knowledge in the classroom through internships at Twin Cities Public Television, the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, and the Minnesota Department of Health.
After graduating from St. Olaf, Pasricha spent two years as an analyst at JP Morgan Asset Management, managing $ 1.5 billion in investable assets, improving client onboarding processes and launching an effort recruitment process that has diversified the company’s workforce. She then worked in Massachusetts State Government Digitization as an Operations and Strategy Associate in the Executive Office of Technology and Security Services, also known as MassIT. Pasricha worked with the Executive Director to prepare the Governor’s business case for centralizing the technology infrastructure in the state, thereby enabling better delivery of digital services. She also led the team responsible for reforming the state’s tech talent hiring process, which resulted in high accountability, streamlined hiring practices and savings for taxpayers. Their work has been codified in law.
âMy biggest takeaway from JP Morgan and MassIT was understanding how data and numbers build stories. To have an impact on organizations at the systems level, I needed to know who the stakeholders were within the system, what their needs and motivations were, and how I could unite them around a common vision â, she says.
While earning an MBA from Harvard Business School, Pasricha was a summer partner in strategy and business development with Sidewalk Labs & Intersection Co., a Google urban innovation company that harnesses technology to make cities more sustainable and affordable. âSidewalk got me thinking about the impact of technology on a city from the perspective of its people,â Pasricha says, noting that her time there opened her eyes to the need to create technological solutions that engage everyone, not just wealthy communities. âVulnerable communities in a city cannot be an afterthought,â she says.
Pasricha’s passion for entrepreneurship – creating solutions that approach problems from multiple angles and engage partners across different industries – has informed every transition throughout her career, she says, and that’s what turns her on the most in her new role at Zoox.
âThe way goods and services flow is an operational challenge that cities face,â says Pasricha. âI am inspired to be part of providing affordable and sustainable solutions to this challenge. “
Her liberal arts training in St. Olaf also explains how she approaches problem solving. âWhen I am asked to work on an ambiguous problem, my first instinct is to identify the principles we want to use to solve it,â Pasricha explains. âIt stems from bringing people together around a common vision, which I am confident to do because St. Olaf has allowed me to see the same value in different disciplines. “