Updated: Nov 25, 2019
Tensor Network’s New President of North America: Alexis Flores-Betancourt
Starting on or about December 1, 2019 Tensor Networks - a Bay Area start-up offering networking, machine learning and edge-computing in a single turnkey and cost-effective platform – is announcing that Alexis Flores-Betancourt has accepted the new role President of North America.
The role is strategic to any company, and perhaps most of all a start-up like Tensor Networks, where the cultures and competencies built often determine the company’s ultimate outcome.
Flores-Betancourt is new to the position, but she’s not the type of individual who’s shy of taking on new challenges. Born in California, her immigrant parents moved the family shortly thereafter to Texas and along the way, she became multilingual, fluent in English, Spanish, and conversational in French. This will be useful across the North American landscape.
Committed to learning
In high school, she graduated at the top of her class and then moved to the Bay Area to attend UC Berkeley and focus on STEM. Tuition for out-of-staters is brutally expensive, though, and Flores-Bentancourt was nearly forced to drop out. That’s when her close family offered assistance, with her father spending all of the rent money on a house he owned to support her, while her Grandfather and Godmother pitched in as well.
Determined to graduate with a degree in applied mathematics with a concentration in chemical engineering, Flores-Bentancourt took a part-time job doing research. She also took a semester off and worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and earned enough money to continue her studies.
Upon graduation, she landed a permanent job at Oak Ridge, where she was responsible for technical work, including conducting and overseeing experiments and experimental design, and managing lab space for three different labs. Her professional interests also included performing theoretical calculations to define different mechanical and thermal properties.
Flores-Betancourt understands the challenge of leadership, and the need to motivate teams by drawing out the best in others while also taking the lead in addressing specific challenges. She cites her experience as a college freshman where she was able where she was able to collaborate with a professor and lead a student facilitated course on campus. This course focused on raising awareness of the achievement gaps in STEM education correlated with different cultural, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. She eventually developed that initial undertaking into a broader program to teach science in Oakland schools far from the Berkeley campus with the goal of exposing elementary school students in the West Oakland area to careers in STEM fields while simultaneously helping them improve scholastic achievement through fun and engaging science experiments.. She also brought other student volunteers into the program, and many of them stepped into leadership roles. Flores-Betancourt commented that while she was responsible for developing the effort, she didn’t want the program to be too closely affiliated with her. “Many times leaders take over,” she comments, but “a leader is able to recognize when that other person has a trait they don’t have, and be willing to step back and let that person lead…Most of the time when you give that person the trust and confidence they are able to perform.”
She knows that assuming such a broad role as a Division President will have its challenges, but her life has been full of challenges and people who put up walls and told her what she couldn’t do, so she’s not phased. She’s worked in environments that have been lacking in diversity and dominated by an older generation. And like many Latina women, Flores-Betancourt has faced more than her fair share of discrimination, commenting matter-of-factly, “Yes, I’ve had issues that have been racial. But if I don’t do this and break down that wall, who will?”
The allure of Tensor Networks
Flores-Betancourt isn’t worried about those types of challenges at Tensor – she’s known executives Eric Frazier and Maria Flores since her sophomore year in college – and she appreciates the workplace culture they have created. “They see me for my ability to lead and to be that person within the organization.” At the same time she understands that there will be those inevitable bumps along the way in establishing a start-up in the rough-and-tumble world of IT.
Being a Leader is not the same as being a highly competent mathematician, she says, and, “This is not science. One thing about Berkeley: it taught me how to manage the real world. They don’t hold your hand and you’ve got to do it for yourself.” Noteworthy though is that Cisco’s CEO Chuck Robbins is also a mathematician. The ability to visualize a problem and then formulate a solution is likely a differentiating virtue.
Defining future success
As Flores-Betancourt grows her career and becomes the face of the next generation networking, she will be supported by a team of industry experts and advisors within the Tensor Networks Ecosystem. Buttressed by that team, she expects to help the company grow and leverage its strengths in the marketplace, possibly embracing partnerships with other complementary companies. The key for her though, is that the company should be known for its competence, its integrity and its humility in “providing something that is making your company’s ability easier…I want to be able to say ‘we are doing something for the greater good. We’re making technology easier and more secure, for you, and we are an all-in-one package.’”
Tensor’s value in today’s - and tomorrow’s - world
At the end of the day, she observes, Tensor Networks has a unique superpower, and her job is to lead the company into a future that maximizes its strengths and offerings: “We’re the AI, machine learning with the GPU cores, and the networking combined.” As the future proceeds, what I see being the biggest thing is the networking. That’s one thing I think Tensor has over many other companies. Hardware is important but what about the connection – how are you networking? We are giving you something more.” Connectivity brings all the value together.
As the world continues to evolve, there will be countless opportunities to address big problems. Many of these will require the ability to marshal, connect, and make sense out of a universe of data. Tensor’s success may result in the ability to bring high-performance computing to places and people that have previously lacked access to such useful and powerful tools. Perhaps someday it will empower traditionally excluded and talented researchers solve previously intractable problems, or identify the next great cure. Those possibilities are worth striving for and Tensor Networks democratizes super-computing.
Alexis is a compelling example of an American who from the ground up has empowered herself to lead an American technology company with a global focus. The world should keep an eye on Alexis as she makes her mark on the industry.