Isabelle Andrieu, co-founder, and CEO at Pi School tells us about mentorship in AI programs.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Isabelle Andrieu: Luckily enough, we are all fine. For the time being, we have not suffered much from the covid from the health point of view. We have been cautious in everything, and in spite of everything, you never know.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Pi School.
Isabelle Andrieu: I am a French grown-up girl, who arrived in Italy 20 years ago to be near my fiancé, Marco Trombetti. Together, we founded one of the most successful online translation agencies. Since the very first day, we have used artificial intelligence applied to our processes. We have tried to have the machines do every task that is repetitive in our work.
About 6 years ago, with the company’s revenues and in order to diversify, we created a Venture Capital fund, Pi Campus, where we invest in start-ups that use AI applied to various sectors, such as transport, medicine, etc. Today Pi Campus is a fund with 48 start-ups in its portfolio, half in Italy and the rest divided between Europe and California.
A few years after the creation of Pi Campus, we realized that there was a lack of training for the new generations of start-ups. We think that the company of the future must necessarily include a design/creativity and technology component, so we opened Pi School to help overcome this problem. Pi School helps companies to deal with digitization and students to train on concrete projects. It is not the classic classroom training, but on-the-job, real training.
How does Pi School innovate?
Isabelle Andrieu: Precisely with this concept of uniting students who have great talent and want to specialize in AI or more creative jobs, and companies who want to outsource a project to the school.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Isabelle Andrieu: All programs were done in presence, here at the school. We hosted students from all over the world. With Covid, we necessarily had to go through everything remotely.
But I must say that we are doing well because now there are no restrictions to travel, you can follow your training in the heat from your home and manage your things however you like. In the last batch, there were guys from Mongolia, the United States, China, and even an English boy who lives in a boat on the Thames! It’s great to reach so many different people.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Isabelle Andrieu: At the beginning of the pandemic, we set ourselves 2 concrete objectives: no one would lose their jobs and no one would end up in intensive care.
Luckily, we were able to fulfill both of our plans. For the first purpose, we have cut various costs, rolling up our sleeves and unsubscribing, for example, subscriptions to various management tools. This allowed us to understand which were the most essential things to the success of the company, and this gave us more control. For the second, we switched to smart working, favoring safety at work, and luckily no one got sick.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Isabelle Andrieu: We try to live in the present and be reactive if the strategies implemented do not work. But above all, we think about the future and how best to prepare it to be ready. It’s not easy and it takes a good deal of resilience. We have to adapt and not fall in love with our ideas. If they cannot be applied because of a certain situation, we keep them ready in the drawer for when it will be possible to implement them again, and, in the meantime, we try to be creative and do different things that bring home money.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Isabelle Andrieu: Preparing for the future by trying to imagine it. By bringing all of our programs online and offering the market what people need most. It is essential to try to solve a problem to be successful. This is the first thing. Then the second implementation.
Your final thoughts?
Isabelle Andrieu: I am convinced that this pandemic will bring significant changes for all of us and only those who are able to seize the new opportunities, adapt and transform themselves will be able to emerge.
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