Career Notes 2.28.21
Ep 38 | 2.28.21

Aarti Borkar: Make your own choices. [Product]


Aarti Borkar: My name is Aarti Borker. I am the head of product for IBM Security. I grew up with doctor parents, which meant there was always this hope in the house that I would end up becoming one, but my passion lay in math. It was just my thing. You know, I finally sat down with my dad and said, yeah, "I'm not going to cut people open for a living. What I'd like to be is an engineer."

Aarti Borkar: And then I moved around a bit between I loved chemistry, so I toggled between computer science and chemical engineering as a as what I wanted to be for a little bit. But I just landed on computer science, driven by my love for math and logic.

Aarti Borkar: So my bachelor's degree was in computer engineering, and that included both the hardware and software elements of things. My favorite space in that timeframe was databases. I thought it was the perfect combination of human problems and computer science kind of pulled into one. I then have a master's degree in computer science, which was a combination of my two very complicated choices, one was databases and the other was computer networks. And at the time I got it at the turn of the millennium, I think it might have felt weird for someone to think of networks and databases in one degree. Now, when you think of cloud and AI, it sounds like the smartest thing I could have done, but there was no thought behind it. It was the two things I loved and that's what I went off and did.

Aarti Borkar: I decided I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. So I took a sabbatical as part of that sabbatical, ended up joining IBM with the intent of going back. And I spent that nine month sabbatical working on a pervasive computing database, which meant it was a little database. It was supposed to sit on mobile devices. At that point, it was like Palm Pilots. And now Sony had some phones that it would sit on. And it was just really intriguing. It was a mix of databases and networks for me. So I loved doing it. And one of the VPs at IBM said, well, if you're so intrigued by that, we should send you to business school. And I had this conversation with my professor back at USC and he goes, to be honest, you know, your heart seems to lie somewhere at the intersection of tech and business. And you might be better served going to business school because you already have a masters in computer science. Then at some point I want to do product management that my engineering friends call the Dark Side. But for me, it was the ability to to call B.S. on my engineering colleagues when they give me, you know, weird assumptions of what the tech would do, but at the same time, take that tech and make it viable for a market.

Aarti Borkar: I have responsibilities around the vision, the products, and design across $3+ billion business that IBM has around security, so makes for a fun day. No one day looks like another. You get to traverse between deep technical discussions. My favorite topics very often being around use of AI for converting security into predictive domains. And then sometimes it's just how do we get into a new business relationship or how do we go into a new country that we're not doing as much business in? And so the gamut is pretty wide.

Aarti Borkar: I love to say follow your heart, because the reason I get up every morning is because I want to do this. Don't make a decision because someone else thought that was a good one for you. Choose your own career, make your own choices versus letting someone else make them. Take the time once in a while to see if you are on the right path because people change, their loves change, their wants change. So staying on a path because you started there is also an equally bad idea. Being willing to change is needs to be part of one's thought process.