Sandy Carter is the COO and Head of Business Development at Unstoppable Domains and founder of Unstoppable Women of Web3 and AI. She is responsible for creating business strategies, driving growth, and driving new partnerships and integrations. Her previous role was at AWS, where she was a VP, creating and growing businesses in emerging tech with AI, blockchain, and AR/VR. Sandy is a leading voice in this space who has been recognized as 2023 Top 10 Responsible AI Leader, 2023 Business Insight Top AI Influencer, 2023 Women of the Future, as well as many other awards and recognitions.
Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Sandy shared her professional trajectory, the most challenging and rewarding aspects of her career, the secret sauce behind her success, personal role model, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.
Sandy, please shed some light on your career path, and how you started your career in the field.
I’ve always had a love for technology. This led to me studying computer science and math while attending Duke University. After Duke, I went on to get an MBA in Managing Technology & Marketing from Harvard Business School, giving me a profound set of skills across both technology and business management. This path eventually resulted in multiple positions within IBM, spanning 16 years. These included the CMO, CSO, and Channel Chief. After this, I was brought on to AWS as the Vice President of Public Sector Partners and Programs, where I established Amazon’s Enterprise Workload, created the top 5 revenue-producing set of enterprise workload services for AWS, closed some of AWS largest customers, and built new partnerships on service integration in AI, Machine Learning, IoT, and spatial computing, and a whole lot more.
The truth is, I first got interested in crypto when I was still working at Amazon. I had a range of clients who told me about the value of this technology and why it would be so important in the near future. I started looking into the possibilities of blockchain and, of course, cryptocurrency. I was learning about NFTs, metaverses, and everything else, and this idea started to come to me. Web3 is built on decentralized technology. Metaverses are built on Web3. Everything suddenly clicked, and I came to a realization that I wanted to be a part of the next technological evolution.
A part of this journey also involved me realizing that there simply weren’t enough women in this space. Bringing diversity to Web3 is a large part of my mission, and I believe it is the correct way to make this technology better and more useful for more people. Ultimately, it’s the skills I picked up and refined across all of my career stages that prepared me for Unstoppable Domains.
Brief us about your role as Chief Operating Officer at Unstoppable Domains.
As COO of Unstoppable, I’ve led the company operations, go-to-market, sales, marketing, business development, legal, customer service, partner engineering, and customer success, as well as managed global teams. I’ve also successfully facilitated over 1000 new partnerships for Unstoppable Domains that allow people to own and leverage their identity data across Web3. This includes our collaboration with Polygon Labs, the growth and development team for leading Ethereum Layer-2 scaling platform Polygon, to unveil. polygon, a new domain ending that enables users to access Web3 applications, send crypto and NFTs without lengthy wallet addresses, create decentralized websites, and establish their Web3 identity.
I’ve also driven company growth with C-suite executives to achieve Unicorn status, a distinction that only 2% of startups ever reach. I’ve headed business development and strategy and built out numerous teams that delivered a 2300% company growth. Lastly, I’ve propelled product management to increase value for the customer by optimizing the business using Artificial Intelligence to complement the company’s blockchain and web3 technologies.
You are also a Board Member at Altair. Can you please tell us about this company and your role in it?
Altair is where data science meets rocket science, allowing incredible things to happen. The innovation that Altair’s world-changing technology enables is the time-tested result of the rigorous application of science and math. Their comprehensive, open-architecture simulation, artificial intelligence (AI), high-performance computing (HPC), and data analytics solutions empower organizations to build better, more efficient, more sustainable products and processes that will usher in the breakthroughs of tomorrow’s world. Since its founding in 1985, Altair has been making it possible for its customers through the applied convergence of AI, data analytics, HPC, and simulation. As a Board Member, I help Altair make strategic decisions about where to allocate resources, build partnerships, and shape the future of this cutting-edge company.
What has been the most challenging and enjoyable part of your career to date?
Leadership Roles in Major Tech Companies: I’ve held significant positions in major tech companies like IBM and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Navigating leadership roles in such large and dynamic organizations is both challenging and exhilarating, as it involves driving innovation, managing large teams, and making impactful decisions.
Advocacy for Women in Tech: I have been a vocal advocate for women in technology. I have worked to inspire and empower women in a field that is often male dominated. This work is challenging due to the deep-rooted gender biases and systemic barriers in the tech industry, but it’s also rewarding and exciting to see progress and change.
Innovation and Artificial Intelligence: Throughout my career, I have been at the forefront of innovation, especially in areas like cloud computing, AI and digital transformation. Staying ahead in these rapidly evolving fields requires constant learning and adaptation, which is both challenging and exciting.
Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in tech? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
Right now, no, I am not satisfied with the status quo. For example, a mere 20% of technical roles in major machine learning companies are occupied by women. Globally, only 22% of AI employees and only 12% of AI researchers are female.
Web3 is also way behind. Just 13% of founding teams in the space include at least a single woman, with only 3% consisting entirely of female talent. With funding, it’s even worse, as all-male founding teams raise, on average, four times the capital compared to all-female teams, and on the other side, only 26% of crypto investors are women.
Outside of founding teams, women represent only 27% of Web3 employees, often found in non-technical roles. Lastly, the NFT space is also completely dominated by men, with only 16% of NFT artists being female and making up only 5% of all NFT sales.
The first step to addressing this disparity is both a concerted effort and community support. We need to engage with important organizations like HUG, Astro Girls, and Boys Club, all dedicated to empowering and encouraging women through STEM-related education and programs.
Next, we should be spreading visibility by promoting and praising female founders, speakers, and role models in Web3 and AI. This is possible through initiatives such as the “130 Most Inspirational Women,” a list composed by Unstoppable WOW3, a group that I founded.
There needs to be more platforms for female entrepreneurs to connect, share experiences, and gain access to mentorship and resources. These platforms can then collaborate with other organizations and initiatives that champion diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry, forging partnerships with the most prominent leaders.
Lastly, male allies are critical. We need men to actively vocalize the need for gender equality. This is another element that will help break down barriers and pave the way for a more diverse and inclusive world.
What are some of the industries that AI will most impact over the next decade?
First and foremost, AI is going to be working closely with Web3 technologies to overhaul a wide variety of industries. Leveraging machine learning with things like blockchain-verified credentials and web wallets will have a huge impact on fields like Finance, Social Media, Healthcare, Education, Entertainment, Marketing, and much more. The ability for data to be user-owned, as well as the benefits that come with purchases and the sharing of information, will change the way consumers and businesses interact forever.
You have been a recipient of numerous prestigious awards and accolades throughout your career. What is your “Secret Sauce?” i.e. What are the 3 Leadership Principles that you have discovered and executed that have contributed to your success?
First, I would say, is the ability to learn and be curious. Continuously embracing learning has kept me adaptable in a rapidly evolving work environment and has fueled my creativity and problem-solving capabilities. Next, I can’t emphasize enough the value of kindness, which not only fosters positive relationships with colleagues but also creates a supportive and collaborative workplace culture. Lastly, a customer-obsession mindset has proven to be essential. The needs and experiences of customers must come first, and this mentality has not only enhanced the quality of my work but has also contributed significantly to the success of the projects and initiatives I’ve been involved in. Learning, curiosity, kindness, and customer obsession are the “secret sauce” that has always led to true success for both my team and me.
Which courses, skill development paths, books, or blogs do you recommend to aspiring tech professionals for upskilling?
At Unstoppable WoW3, we are building a strong network of Web3 experts to create educational materials for everyone. Our partners from top Web3 and Web2 companies are joining forces to share their knowledge and experience with anyone who wants to learn. This includes a stream, available in both English and Spanish, with 50+ video/audio sessions and articles on various Web3 topics, including Digital Identity, Decentralization, Data, Career, and the review of 20+ Web3 use cases. We also offer streams that educate about blockchain, metaverse, Digital Identities, and Web3 domains. We even have a set of courses aimed at young girls just beginning to become curious about technology and Web3.
As for other media, I would deeply recommend Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and the tech-driven insights explored in my own authored work, “The Tiger and the Rabbit: Harnessing the Power of AI, Web3, and the Metaverse,” alongside the gripping narrative of Jack Carr’s “True Believer.” There are also some AI and female-focused podcasts I love, such as “The AI Talk Show with Asha,” delving into the forefront of artificial intelligence, and “Tech Talker’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Navigate the Digital World,” offering practical wisdom for our digital age.
Who is your modern-day hero and why?
Jim Scapa, Founder and CEO of Altair. Altair is known for its innovative approach in simulation, high-performance computing, and data analytics. I admire Jim for his knowledge and focus on cutting-edge technology and its applications in various industries. In addition, he is the founder and CEO of a successful tech company with AI at its center. Jim Scapa exemplifies entrepreneurial spirit and effective leadership. I truly respect and admire.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I’d like to continue to take on significant and influential roles in innovative startups like Unstoppable and use my expertise in areas like cloud computing, AI, and digital transformation to continue to make me a valuable asset in the tech industry.
What advice do you have for those looking to grow their careers in the tech industry?
First off, always apply for jobs that you aren’t sure you’re 100% qualified for, as long as you are passionate and hard-working. There is no real road map for Web3 or AI, so everyone in this space — especially women — are pioneers. I can’t emphasize enough the need for everyone to take risks; I actually wish I had taken even more in my own journey. Risk-taking is the key to innovation and career advancement, so even if you’re afraid, do it anyway!