May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. At AEO, we are taking this time to reflect on the significance of the AAPI community as we seek to amplify their voices, stories and contributions.
AEO is an industry leader—attracting top talent who are eager to play a role in the company’s incredible performance and future growth. Bk, Vice President of Data Technology & Analytics is one of the many tenured leaders who was compelled to join the AEO family. Originally from southern India, he has been in the tech industry for nearly 25 years. Throughout his entire career, Bk has been a passionate advocate for driving inclusion and building diverse teams and is excited to continue his work here at AEO.
Tell us about your role as VP, Data Technology + Analytics.
In this role, I am responsible for the data platform and advanced analytics at AEO. My role is to enable AEO to action on any insights generated by my team. By optimizing AEO as an insights-driven organization, we can ensure we are always providing the most exceptional customer experience!
You’re new to AEO, but you’ve been in tech for over two decades. How did you grow your career?
Before joining AEO, I worked for Walmart and T-Mobile. I actually spent nearly half my life at Walmart! I’ve worked in every function I could – IT, store systems, merchandising, finance, supply chain logistics and compliance. I’ve really tried to learn as much as I could in each different area to round out my skills.
I completed two masters programs – one in Computer Science and one in Statistics. This combination has always made me passionate about data driven decisions and makes me unique in a way. With the Computer Science background, I am able to develop platforms for customers, but with the Statistics edge, I am able to make the work even more relevant to the business. This combination has definitely given me an advantage in my career.
What drew you to AEO?
AEO was intriguing to me because of the growth opportunity. I am really excited to mix my technical experience with my retail experience and help propel the growth of AEO and the American Eagle and Aerie brands. We have a tremendous growth plan laid out for us here and I knew I wanted to be part of it. I am excited to bring that value to the table even faster!
What advice would you give to young professionals?
Initially, you need to be open to learning and remove the entitlement mentality. Second, you must find what you’re passionate about. It’s so important to love your job. Last, you have to work hard. People often see success stories like Mark Zuckerburg and think it happens overnight, but what they don’t see is the work they had to put in to get there.
This month is AAPI Heritage Month. Why is Inclusion & Diversity so important, especially in the tech space?
Everyone has unique strengths that make them special. Inclusion and diversity is all about appreciating individual differences. It’s my job to accept people for who they are and I know as a leader it is my responsibility to create an environment where everyone feels included.
I once took a Zumba class and I was the only male. I was so uncomfortable the entire class. At the end of the session, the instructor commended me for showing up and making it through! The lesson I learned that day is the experience of a lot of women in technology, a historically male-dominated industry. Whenever I see a few women in a meeting with many men, I always think about that Zumba class and how it made me feel. I make it a point to reach out and include women so they know they always have a seat at the table.
How do you hope to impact the I&D work here at AEO?
I will continue to ask myself “how can I make a difference in people’s lives?” As a leader, I can advocate for marginalized groups. I have been doing a lot of research to educate myself on others’ cultures and experiences. I can be a voice for anyone as long as I continue learning.