Reshma Ananthakrishnan is the Co-Founder & CEO of Ready Surgery, a healthcare AI startup that makes surgery safer through Decision Science. She is a second-time healthcare entrepreneur and believes strongly that AI can help our healthcare system achieve the quadruple aim of quality, value, patient engagement, and provider empowerment. She has lead product teams at top technology companies such as Box, Microsoft and Edmodo, as well as at Providence Health System.
Reshma graduated summa cum laude in Computer Engineering, and with Lockheed Martin, CISCO, Schlumberger and Microsoft Technical Scholar Awards. She is also the recipient of the Texas A&M College of Engineering Alumni Gathright Award, the Apalla Scholar Award and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars Award for Outstanding Scholarship, Leadership & Service. She has spoken at various conferences including at the prestigious Grace Hopper Conference, as well as at the AWICS and COI Leadership conferences. Her talk on Healthcare Innovations was voted ‘Best Talk’ by the audience at the ProductCamp Product Management conference.
Having always been involved in supporting girls and women in STEM, she ran the PR Committee for the Society of Women Engineers, was a professional mentor for IGNITE and a Math Tutor for the Girls Lead Club at the Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy. While working at Box, she served as a judge for their women and minorities Diversity Scholarship program. Reshma is a finance buff, triathlete, classical dancer, proud feminist, and an avid traveler, having lived or visited over 25 countries spanning all 7 continents including Antarctica!
WITH GROUPS CREATING PROGRAMS TO ENCOURAGE FEMALES TO CONSIDER STEM, WHAT IS THE BIGGEST BARRIER TO ENTRY THAT IS STILL PREVALENT TODAY?
Studies keep concluding that we, as a society, are still unwelcoming of women in STEM and leadership. The mindset cannot shift in isolation in professional environments without shifting in society at large. There is a massive social penalty that girls and women pay to pursue and do what it takes to succeed in STEM and leadership roles. The choice is always spoken of in terms of compromises. It's the insidious stuff that keeps us from making progress and there is an unwillingness to think critically when it comes to our dinner table conversations, workplace banter, traditions and popular media that perpetuate gender roles. Girls feel a huge burden of needing to be a certain way early in life and are socially rewarded for looking a certain way rather than for building something.
Another issue is that women are lumped into a singular group at all times. We forget that there are women who like jewelry and women who don’t, there are ambitious women and not-so-ambitious women, etc. Teachers and managers experience cognitive dissonance when they have a girl they love (their mom, wife, daughter) who is different from the girls they teach or the women they manage professionally. For women to have to represent the whole gender, or worse yet, to resolve amongst themselves which way “women must be” is unnatural and unproductive. Girls and women who choose not to pursue STEM/ Leadership roles have to stop referring to those that make the opposite choice as ‘not-girly’/ introverted/ not family-oriented etc. There is more in common between an ambitious boy and an ambitious girl than there is between an ambitious girl and a not-so-ambitious girl. For girls, forming friendships with similarly-driven individuals of either gender help avoid the negative reinforcements.
WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?
Those who are unselfish and courageous enough to take risks in order to pursue something bigger than themselves - whether it is risking their life in the army or time for a mission-driven venture.
Those who are willing to be unpopular when fighting for the right cause, and doing so without seeking external validation.
Those who are intrinsically motivated and take pride in their work, seeing it as more than just a source of income, but rather as an opportunity to build something that can make a difference.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT/ACCOMPLISHMENT?
First and foremost, entrepreneurship requires a giant leap of faith in yourself. Each startup is as unique as the founders that take the risk to start it. Even though there are general guidelines and patterns, it is like flying a plane as you assemble it, without a map and into a storm. In bringing Ready Surgery’s AI-enhanced Decision Science to care delivery, we are already seeing its game-changing effect on healthcare outcomes. I’m proud of navigating Ready Surgery towards an impactful solution. Charting the course while holding on to our convictions through the challenging times before the external validation arrived has brought us far and continues to drive us towards ever-bigger ambitions.