Brendan Kelly grew up in Toledo, Ohio and proudly describes his younger self as a bookworm and nerd. He wanted to be an inventor from a young age and loved reading and learning about new technologies and how they worked. His proximity to Detroit also sparked an interest in electric vehicles, a first step towards pursuing mechanical engineering at the Ohio State University.
Brendan’s involvement in the electric motorcycle race team was a highlight of his time at OSU and helped him figure out his career path. He started his freshman year and assisted in converting a gas operated motorcycle to electric. The team then shifted focus to setting the land speed record for electric motorcycles, leading them to the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) Zero race. That’s where Brendan discovered he was not a traditional engineer. As he worked along the racing team, he gravitated towards the marketing, fundraising and communication work. This, in addition to his interest in automation and business, helped inform his choice to go from mechanical engineering to industrial engineering.
A series of internships followed to broaden his experience and expertise, including analytics work at the OSU Wexner Medical Center and reporting and business intelligence work at Fiserv, a financial services company. He then interned at JPMorgan Chase & Co., where he was in the data quality and infrastructure realm, followed by project management and analytics work at AMEND Consulting. It was around this time that Brendan and Rehgan Avon, Ikonos Co-Founder, met through the OSU Big Data Analytics Association. Brendan served as the education director, strengthening the passion he still has for teaching. He and Rehgan went to Austin Startup Week together, where he connected with Praecipio Consulting, an agile product development consulting firm, and later joined their growing team of 5-10 people. Next, he worked at Jackrabbit Mobile, a technology company helping startups design and build digital products.
Next, Brendan looked to start his own company. He was ready for something new that would allow him more autonomy over the work he was doing and who he worked with. He wanted to pursue a type of consulting that focused on teaching and enabling clients, rather than maximizing billable hours. Following the advice of a friend, he started his own consulting on the side while saving a couple months worth of income to build out the runway to pursue his business full-time. As his clients began to expand, Brendan had the savings and confidence to leave Jackrabbit Mobile and work full time in his consulting business and travel for the next six months.
He later joined ModelOp, which gave him more exposure to the world of AI and other advanced analytics technologies. This helped him pursue his interest in automation to help people escape the monotonous work AI promised to automate. Working in factories in Toledo taught him first-hand how brutal repetitive work can be for workers. This drove him to study industrial engineering at Ohio State in the first place. Now, he recognized a similar problem in the cubicles throughout the world for white collar information workers. People were doing tasks that could easily be automated, similar to what you see on the assembly line. His interest had evolved to AI and the automation opportunities that were there. He was intrigued by the management structure with business intelligence, where it’s more of a learning organization with the potential to really understand what’s going on within the business.
As a ModelOp solutions engineer, he implemented the product and designed processes for users. He focused on relaying feedback from the users to help inform the product and marketing strategy. He headed up the academy to teach folks how to effectively use and scale the AI operations product and began to focus more on user design, documentation and user enablement. Brendan noticed that there were pieces missing around the AI models including data engineering, product management, project management and other skill sets. They were continuously training or filling in for those roles. All the while, Brendan and Rehgan were connecting about these types of gaps and challenges that prohibited AI adoption. The idea for the AlignAI Academy was born out of these discussions as a way to share the necessary skills they were learning so others could be successful at AI and make it a reality at scale.
Brendan joined AlignAI, dedicated to building out the academy while using his technical background to help the consulting clients. He appreciates that AlignAI looks at the bigger picture of educating business stakeholders and understanding what they’re really trying to solve. He enjoys sharing what he’s learned wearing multiple hats at growing companies to address the skill gaps of analytics. The academy helps other people learn the unique communication skill set necessary to translate from business to technical language and back again. Brendan realized early on that academia was not the right teaching path for his experiential teaching style. At AlignAI, he is able to provide hands-on learning for analytics and AI so people get a real sense of how to do it.
Brendan fills his spare time with a diverse array of activities and interests. Living in Colorado, he takes advantage of the great trail running and rock and mountain climbing. He’s recently invested more time towards meditation and mindfulness to stay sharp and creative in his work. When he has an idea, he goes for it, whether that’s writing a sci-fi novel or creating a fitness app to share what he learned from his own fitness journey and the psychology behind it. His biggest current passions are philanthropy, particularly inspired by William MacAskill’s novel Doing Good Better and the concept of effective altruism, and teaching as a 3 Day Startup (3DS) facilitator.