TheBridge profile: AJ Shankar
Name: AJ Shankar
Current city: Berkeley, CA
Current job: CEO of Everlaw
Past job: Co-founder/CTO, Engineer, Grad Student
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? Maison Bleue in Berkeley
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job has helped you in your current job. I don't get to write code anymore, but there are many concepts from computer science that apply to building a business: how inputs affect outputs; the value of great documentation (a.k.a. business processes); being liberal in what you accept and exacting in what you produce; refactoring/reorganization and continuous improvement; attention to detail; understanding the value of abstraction -- when to take a bird's eye view and when to see what's underneath; and more.
There is, of course, the human element, which is huge! But this other stuff matters a lot, too.
Q. Job advice in three words? Curiosity enables insight
Q. What can Silicon Valley (innovators) teach DC (regulators)? "Software is eating the world." It is possible to make a huge difference with little capital and few resources. Sometimes it's helpful not to look backward before you move forward.
Q. What can DC (regulators) teach Silicon Valley (innovators)? Being deliberate matters. Explicitly considering the public good matters. All services have a cost, even if they're free. Externalities are everywhere.
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech/innovation and regulation? Well, we're at the nexus of law and technology, for starters. Our product is a truth-finding machine: we unearth facts and help people tell stories from them. Sometimes this is in a conventional legal discovery setting and sometimes it's in a far-reaching investigation.
We also offer Everlaw for free to investigative journalists such as at the Associated Press and ProPublica, and nonprofits such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Get in touch if you're interested!
Q. What's one piece of advice you are still trying to master? How to say no. I'm curious and always want to learn. But not every meeting or conversation provides a positive return on time spent.
Q. Most underrated virtue in an employee? Ability to synthesize. Teasing out insights from multiple perspectives and sources of information is incredibly valuable.
Q. How often do you work from home? Never. The office can be frustrating with its distractions, but people communicate best in person. So much valuable nuance is lost over chat, voice, and even video.
Q. How do you unwind after work? With my wife and three daughters, and when I have a moment, playing music and sports. I'll try to digest a New Yorker article or sci-fi book chapter before bed.
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