From Fashion Student to Chief of Staff: My Unconventional AI-Powered Career Path

Diverse origins, strong futures: Why tech executives from varied backgrounds create powerful company culture.

Posted by Radhika Shah-Meade on April 23, 2024

I never knew this was where I was going to be. Life is funny that way, taking us on unexpected journeys.  As a former fashion student turned international business graduate, I always envisioned a career in the glamorous world of fashion. Life had other plans for me. This is the story of how I found my true calling as an executive assistant and eventually became the chief of staff at Blackbird.AI.

My goal has always been to make an impact, no matter what I do. My father was an internationally renowned occupational therapist, which was a tall order to live up to, considering I didn’t go the medical or lawyer route post-college. Although I didn’t pursue a predetermined path, I was determined to find my own way to contribute to society through my work. After graduating with a degree in international business, I initially felt lost and unsure about my career. It wasn’t until I let go of my ego and embraced the opportunity to work as an executive assistant that I discovered my true passion.

Blackbird.AI chief of staff Radhika Shah-Meade (left) and CEO Wasim Khaled (right) at a meeting with the National Security Council at the White House in December 2023.

Finding Purpose as an Executive Assistant

Working as an executive assistant was a revelatory experience for me. I found that I could utilize my skills in people management, administration, communication, and marketing to support executives and contribute to the bigger picture of the organizations for which I worked. Whether it was educating the public in publishing or helping create cancer therapies in biotech, I found a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment in my work. I thrived on the challenges and the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of others.

Yet while working from home with a newborn during the pandemic an unexpected opportunity knocked at my door. Blackbird.AI, an AI startup focused on mitigating risks around narrative attacks and providing strategic foresight to businesses, was looking for an executive assistant to support its CEO, Wasim Khaled.

At first, I was hesitant. I had no experience in AI or startups, and the timing seemed less than ideal. However, when I met Wasim, there was an instant connection. As an executive assistant, I knew how important it was to have a strong bond with the executive you support, and with Wasim, I felt like the potential for impact was larger than life.

The Mission Drew Me In

What really drew me to Blackbird.AI was their mission. In the wake of a provocative election cycle, I witnessed firsthand how narratives spread on social media could influence people’s beliefs without any effort to verify the information’s source. Friends and peers were willing to believe anything that aligned with their existing beliefs, regardless of its veracity.

Blackbird.AI’s goal of combating the spread of narrative attacks created by misinformation and disinformation, and providing businesses with the tools to navigate narrative risks resonated deeply with me. I knew I had to be a part of this mission, even if it meant stepping out of my comfort zone and into uncharted territory.

Joining Blackbird.AI in November 2021 was a leap of faith. I was excited to work with a co-founder team of Bengalis, which held personal significance for me as my mother is Bengali, and to be part of a group of world-class employees.

My role involved supporting Wasim, a fast-paced CEO who needed help grounding his schedule and fostering a strong company culture in a virtual world. It was a daunting task, but I was determined to rise to the challenge.

Startup life is not for the faint of heart. I questioned my abilities and battled imposter syndrome, a common struggle for executive assistants and admins who are often not given the opportunity to flex their capabilities and grow into larger roles.

However, this role pushed me to create policies, connect employees, and align everyone with the company’s mission and vision. I learned that being an EA is about much more than just managing calendars and taking notes. It’s about becoming a true business partner to the executives you support.

The Road to Chief of Staff

Over the past two years at Blackbird.AI, I have experienced tremendous personal and professional growth. I have learned new skills, broken down barriers, and pushed myself beyond what I thought was possible.

In August, my hard work and dedication were recognized when I was promoted to chief of staff. It was a testament to the company’s investment in my growth and the belief that our leader, Wasim, had in me.

Looking back, I am proud of the contributions I have made to Blackbird.AI, from enhancing benefits and culture to navigating the company through a successful Series B fundraising during a challenging period.

The journey has been far from easy, but it has taught me invaluable lessons about resilience, adaptability, and the power of believing in oneself. I have learned to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and to approach new experiences with excitement rather than fear.

This claim was checked by Compass by Blackbird.AI.

The Power of Reciprocity

One of the most important lessons I have learned in my career is the power of reciprocity. When you invest in your company and your team, they invest in you in return.

At Blackbird.AI, I have been fortunate to work with a leader like Wasim, who believes in my growth as an essential part of the business. This mutual investment has created a culture of support, collaboration, and continuous learning that has allowed me to thrive.

As I reflect on my journey from fashion student to chief of staff, I am filled with gratitude and excitement for the future.

The past two years have been far from easy. They pushed, bashed, challenged, and tested me in ways I never expected. They allowed me to realize how I was holding back on my potential out of fear and not launching into opportunities with excitement, which is who I really am. 

What happens when your company invests in you and your growth just as much as you do in them and has a leader like Wasim who believes in you and your growth as an essential part of the business? I am so excited for the journey, challenges, and growth ahead. 

The Path Forward

I want to offer some words of encouragement to anyone reading this who may be facing unexpected detours or doubting their ability to make an impact.

Your path may not be linear, and your destination may not be what you originally envisioned. But every experience, every challenge, and every leap of faith is an opportunity to learn, grow, and discover your true potential.

Embrace the journey, and trust in karma. Not the mystical force, but in never stop believing in your ability to make a difference, listen to your family and friends, and contribute to others’ success. You never know where life may lead you, but one thing is certain: the world needs your unique talents and passions, now more than ever.

So take that first step, even if it feels daunting. You may just find yourself on an adventure beyond your wildest dreams, making an impact you never thought possible.
To learn more about how Blackbird.AI can help you in these situations, contact us here.

About Blackbird.AI

BLACKBIRD.AI protects organizations from narrative attacks created by misinformation and disinformation that cause financial and reputational harm. Powered by our AI-driven proprietary technology, including the Constellation narrative intelligence platform, RAV3N Risk LMM, Narrative Feed, and our RAV3N Narrative Intelligence and Research Team, Blackbird.AI provides a disruptive shift in how organizations can protect themselves from what the World Economic Forum called the #1 global risk in 2024.

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