Rishi Jaitly had just been elected to his alma mater Princeton University’s Board of Trustees when he was asked to deliver a closing prayer at an upcoming board meeting. After reciting his prepared invocation, a fellow trustee leaned over to him.
“We don’t need technologists at Google,” said Eric Schmidt, then CEO of the technology giant. “We need more people like you.”
And in that moment, nearly two decades ago, a history major’s career trajectory evolved from advocacy in education reform to leadership in global technology.
Schmidt convinced Jaitly to join Google as his communications aide and speechwriter, and Jaitly soon progressed to leading public policy and partnerships for both Google and YouTube across India and South Asia. Years later, he was Twitter’s first employee in mainland Asia, where he helped lead the company’s expansion across Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and North Africa as vice president.
Now he will bring his humanistic perspectives and his technology background to Virginia Tech. In August, Jaitly will join the Center for Humanities as a distinguished fellow and the Academy of Transdisciplinary Studies as a professor of practice and leader in digital transformation and scientific collaboration.
“In an age rife with concerns about the ethics and technology of human impact, Rishi Jaitly is a brilliant addition to our faculty,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, which is both at home and at the center. the academy. “His deep understanding of Big Tech combined with keen awareness of how technology can advance and imperil human rights is a perfect fit for multiple initiatives in the college that are delving into the intersections of technology and the liberal arts.”
As an undergraduate, Jaitly said he discovered the power of the humanities and the history of the field in particular.
“Committing to the humanities during higher education was, at first, a leap of faith,” he said. “I grew up envisioning a career in the sciences, but it was the humanities – and its great variety of disciplines, which provided insight into human character and civilization – that exhilarated me day in and day out. And so, with a concentration in history and a certificate in American studies, I paid to Princeton’s insistence on growing an intellectual life that felt true to my mind, trusting that it would prepare me for all the known and unknowns. What started as a leap of faith eventually became a labor of love. “
Learning to think, communicate, and act with clarity and purpose – skills he developed while pursuing his degree – enabled his meteoric rise in technology. But he said his career still felt incomplete and lacking in pursuit of a multiplicity of humanities that had taught him to nurture as well.
“I was and am proud of my work on Google and Twitter, but I’ve also, and I think, often felt a call to public service,” he said.
Between his stints at Google and Twitter, Jaitly co-founded Michigan Corps, an online service platform for Michiganders to give back to their home state no matter where they live. Inspired by John F. Kennedy’s founding of the Peace Corps in Michigan, Michigan Corps has since 2010 helped students generate ideas for community change, connected local entrepreneurs with global resources, and increased public policy capacity of social entrepreneurs.
Jaitly’s other civic entrepreneurial and executive experiences span a range of sectors. He has served as commissioner of higher education in New Jersey, a director of the Knight Foundation, and director of strategy for the nonprofit College Summit (now Peer Forward) that partners with low-income high-schools and promotes college enrollment rates to their students. General Chat Chat Lounge
He also co-founded Kiva Detroit, the leading first online, peer-to-peer microlending initiative, and helped co-create the BME Community, now the nation’s largest digital storytelling and leadership network for Black men and boys.
Upon leaving Twitter Six years ago, Jaitly co-founded Times Bridge, an investment and partnership firm with a mission to help spread the world’s best ideas internationally and in India in particular, “from the west to the east and from the global to the north. global south, “Jaitly said.
The firm is a part of The Times Group, India’s oldest media and largest digital company, and has a portfolio that includes Airbnb, Canva, Coursera, Girl Effect, Headspace, Malaria No More, Niantic, Stack Overflow, Wattpad, and Uber. others. In recognition of his two decades of leadership in technology, culminating in Times Bridge, Jaitly was named a Top 100 global tech changemaker by Rest of the World, an international nonprofit journalism organization.
While leading as a technology entrepreneur and executive, Jaitly has concurrently lent his voice and perspective on the humanities as well for years, with a particular focus on evangelizing the role of the humanities in education, culture and civic life.
“During the past decade in particular, I’ve come to appreciate the role humanity has played in my career, and with so many advocates and for the field’s leading organizations, it has become increasingly important to me,” he said.
His advocacy has led him to the seats on the boards of the National Humanities Center; PRX, a public media company specializing in audio journalism and storytelling; and the Virginia Humanities, the commonwealth’s humanities council.
It was through Virginia Humanities that Jaitly met fellow board member Sylvester Johnson, who is the director of the Center for Humanities at Virginia Tech. The two realized they shared a passion for the interplay between technology and the humanities.
“Rishi is one of our nation’s most devoted advocates for humanities,” said Johnson, who is also assistant vice president for humanities at Virginia Tech and executive director of Tech for Humanity, a universitywide initiative that takes a comprehensive, human-centered approach to technology. General Chat Chat Lounge “His tremendous knowledge and global understanding of the human condition will transform student learning, our research, and our programming. It is inspiring and exciting to witness how Rishi is creating more pathways for humanists to become leading and shaping our technological society. “
Jaitly said he is looking forward to his new role at Virginia Tech.
“To be a creator and convener of new knowledge, to be a teacher and mentor to the next generation of leaders across sectors, and to represent a public institution organized at a meeting point between disciplines in an always-technologically-advancing world, Can’t imagine a more perfect backdrop than Virginia Tech, “he said.
His role in the Academy of Transdisciplinary Studies will enable him to work across disciplines. The academy’s digital transformation and scientific collaboration area will be an incubator for research, teaching and outreach.
“Rishi Jaitly has the credentials, connections, and especially the contagious excitement to manage and advance those collaborations as we create curricular offerings and research projects that challenge traditional disciplinary boundaries and benefit our students, faculty, and external constituencies,” said Carlos Evia, Associate. dean for transdisciplinary initiatives in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
Jaitly said his path has prepared him well for Virginia Tech.
“While my journey from Princeton to Virginia Tech, with lots in between, may have appeared chockfull of zigs and zags, I felt a throughline and compass throughout, which is the place,” Jaitly said. “More than anything, I’m enthralled by opportunities to lead locally, in place, and to give people new ways to see, engage and commit to places, including drawing on the potential of technology platforms and the people charged with their stewardship. . “
That compass has led him to retain ties with Princeton, where he currently serves as chairman of its alumni association’s communications and technology committee.
“I began my time in higher education at Princeton, whose motto is ‘In the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity,'” Jaitly said. “And I’m returning to higher education at Virginia Tech, whose motto is Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). These calls to serve move in more ways than one and I feel I’m coming full circle – and home. “
Written by Paula Byron
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