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Innovation, Leadership, and Women in Tech: The Story of Ayushi Mishra

“I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance.” —James Baldwin

I was born into a family that valued education and academics, which I believe afforded me a certain privilege. My father was a physics professor, and my mother taught chemistry. So, science ran in the family. It propelled me to take engineering as my career path. Having said that, I also had a well-rounded childhood, developing hobbies like painting, poetry, and photography.

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I had a supportive family, who had my back and allowed me to take financial risks. I majored in biomedical engineering—a hybrid field between engineering and medicine sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Yet, I never really had a plan as to what I wanted to do; I just wanted to explore and learn. I wanted freedom, flexibility, and the ability to express myself in my career.

I launched my first start-up in 2015 while I was still in graduate school. Marigold Health had the vision of combining AI with peer support and therapy. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Rock Health Foundation in the States. While that still goes on, I moved to India in 2017 and began a fresh chapter.

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I had always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and allowing all my creativity to shine through in my work. STEM is the fundamental logic governing all my start-ups. My second organization, DronaMaps, was more focused on sustainable development and governance and again, we leveraged drones and other AI-powered tools to map out less accessible areas to enable governments to make better and more precise decisions regarding agriculture, city planning, disaster management, and more.

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In the beginning, we were unsure of what we were doing, but over the years, we pivoted and grew our organization. We learned how to run a business through that journey. In the future, I want to scale up DronaMaps and expand to make it accessible in a larger region. 

We had a number of setbacks, or as I like to say, numerous character-building experiences. In the initial part of my journey, I was living with my co-founders in a place with heating and air conditioning in just one room. We had no furniture and I slept in a sleeping bag for months. From the experience, I learned that a lot of what we take for granted is superfluous. What you think is your necessity is usually not necessary.

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It was interesting to evolve a leadership style since there is no rule book for that. Usually, women are not expected to be strong leaders and regretfully, we have very few examples to look up to. In the end, you find yourself taking a few traits from different people and amalgamating them into what you would like to be. Like many women, I found it hard to make my voice heard at first. However, over the years, I have learned that one has to strike a balance between bowing down or having your opinion heard—and that often the latter is important to give hope and ignite change.

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I have come across clients who do not think I am good enough, but I learned how to deal with them. I focus on sharing robust facts, giving reasonable opinions, and backing them up with information. In the end, it comes down to standing your ground and proving your worth.

As an entrepreneur, you have phases where you are working 24/7. There are phases when you think that your enterprise might crumble from lack of resources, and you want to give up. At these times, what sees you through is simply grit and stubbornness to see what you started to the end. What matters even more than talent is a steadfast determination and strength to see it through. So, to anyone wishing to take the entrepreneurial journey I would say stick to what truly matters to you till the end, and it will be worth it.

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