The following article by David Leichner, CMO at Cybellum was published in Authority Magazine on October 23, 2023 and on medium.com as a part of a series about the women leading the Artificial Intelligence industry, David had the pleasure of interviewing Ash Shehryar.
“Believe fiercely in your abilities and the unique value you bring. Do not let gender imbalances make you question your worth or knowledge. You deserve to be here.”
Award-winning creative executive, Ash Shehryar is the Founder and Chief Product Officer of Prontopia, a groundbreaking AI-driven platform that is reshaping the video production landscape. Prontopia enables businesses to create professional videos at scale, quickly and cost-effectively. As the head of product, Ash is recognized for her innovation, creativity, and unparalleled ability to deliver game-changing results. Her pioneering work has set the standard for the industry, and her dedication to excellence continues to inspire and transform the video production landscape.
With over 20+ years of industry experience in global brands, B2B/B2C marketing, digital strategy development, e-commerce, process improvement, team building, and user experience design, Ash has become a respected authority in her field. Her visionary leadership has not only inspired her team but also driven her clients to new heights of success.
Her unmatched skills in UI/UX/CX design and marketing have been honed through collaborations with top brands like Kellogg’s, Kimberly-Clark, Pfizer, Tazo, Ford, and P&G. With these partnerships and her own ventures, she’s created industry-defining solutions and led high-performing teams to unparalleled achievements. Her extensive accolades include over 67 awards, such as the Effie, Reggie, Sammy, IAC, Web, W3, and Addy Awards, making her a distinguished leader in her field.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path in AI?
My journey into the world of AI is a blend of my inherent curiosity as a designer and my close encounters with tech innovations through my personal and professional life. Throughout my career as a designer, I’ve been driven by an insatiable appetite for innovation. What truly excites me about design isn’t just the aesthetic, but the potential to think outside the box, to create something unprecedented, and to use it as a tool to deliver extraordinary outcomes for clients and customers. It’s about uncovering that unique idea that has the power to provide solutions — and to change perspectives.
There’s something else that’s always defined my professional journey: whenever I encountered something I didn’t know, I purposely immersed myself in it. This wasn’t just to broaden my knowledge, but because I genuinely relish the challenge of figuring out intricate problems. There’s a certain thrill in diving headfirst into the unknown, armed only with a mindset eager to learn and solve. This penchant for seeking out challenges, for wanting to grapple with the not-so-easy problems, has shaped my career.
While I was on this creative journey, I had the fortune of witnessing the tech revolution up-close, thanks to my husband’s venture, “Cloutel,” an AI solutions provider for global enterprises. His world exposed me to the immense potential of AI — its power to transform industries, its application in solving complex problems, and its role in shaping the future. As I delved deeper, I realized that AI was not just a tool for tech enthusiasts, but it held immense value for creative minds like mine. It presented an opportunity to address many of the challenges we face as creators and amplify our creative capabilities.
The “aha” moment came when we were conceptualizing Prontopia. I instantly felt a resonance with its mission and vision because it was the perfect intersection of my love for design, my interest in AI, and my passion for breaking new grounds. The decision to embark on this AI journey wasn’t just a choice; it felt like a calling. And, the rest is history!
What lessons can others learn from your story?
From my journey, I’ve gleaned several insights that I believe can inspire and guide others:
- Embrace Curiosity:My path underscores the importance of nurturing and following one’s curiosity. It’s this curiosity that led me to explore unfamiliar terrains, like AI, even when rooted in the world of design.
- Dive into the Unknown: Often, it’s the things we know the least about that offer the most significant opportunities for growth. Whenever I faced something unfamiliar, I plunged into it headfirst, driven by a desire to learn and solve. This proactive approach has not only expanded my knowledge but also enriched my career.
- Celebrate Interdisciplinary Paths: My story highlights the beauty of letting varied interests intersect. Combining design and AI wasn’t just about blending two fields; it was about creating something entirely new at their intersection. Don’t limit yourself to silos; instead, explore how your passions can come together in unexpected ways.
- Value Diverse Perspectives: Being exposed to different worlds, from design to the tech innovations at “Cloutel,” has broadened my horizons. Encourage diversity in your circles; it can be the catalyst for groundbreaking ideas.
- Trust Your Instincts:When Prontopia was being conceptualized, it wasn’t just logic or market research that guided me — it was a deep, intuitive resonance. Always give weight to that inner voice; sometimes, it sees the bigger picture.
- Challenges as Stepping Stones: My love for tackling complex problems has been a defining aspect of my journey. Instead of being daunted by challenges, view them as opportunities waiting to be seized. They can lead you to new avenues and solutions you’d never have thought of otherwise.
In a nutshell, my story with Prontopia and the interplay of design and AI is a testament to the power of curiosity, the joy of exploration, and the fulfillment that comes from addressing challenges head-on. If there’s a single lesson to be drawn, it’s this: With a mix of passion, intuition, and a love for challenges, you can carve paths you’ve never even dreamed of.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Our journey to success is often paved with the contributions, guidance, and support of many. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to have outstanding mentors and supervisors who have shared their wisdom, challenged me, and offered invaluable insights. Their collective guidance has been instrumental in shaping my professional trajectory.
However, if there’s one individual who stands out as a beacon of support and inspiration, it has to be my husband, Sherry. He hasn’t just been a partner in the traditional sense but has also been a pillar of strength, encouragement, and wisdom in my personal and professional journey.
I recall a particular instance early in my career when I was grappling with a challenging project. The stakes were high, and I was filled with doubt about my decisions. It was Sherry who, over a late-night cup of tea, listened patiently to my concerns and then asked me a simple question: “Do you believe in your idea?” When I nodded, he smiled and said, “Then go for it with all your heart. Failures and doubts are but stepping stones.” It was a simple conversation, but it reinvigorated my spirit and reminded me of the importance of belief and perseverance.
Moreover, it was through his fervent discussions about his innovative AI projects that my own curiosity in the domain was kindled. He spoke of AI not just as a technology, but as a transformative force, painting a vivid picture that stirred something within me. It made me realize the potential intersections of our worlds — design and AI — and how I could play a role in that narrative.
Sherry’s unwavering faith in me, combined with his gentle nudges to step out of my comfort zone, have been instrumental in pushing me to explore uncharted territories and achieve milestones I had once only dreamed of. In essence, while many have contributed to my story of success, it’s Sherry’s enduring support and belief that have truly made the difference. To him, I owe not just gratitude but a testament to the power of genuine support and partnership.
Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Certainly! At the forefront of my current endeavors is our startup, Prontopia — a groundbreaking venture that is poised to revolutionize the way businesses approach video creation. As the Founder and Chief Product Officer, I’ve been deeply immersed in this project since 2020, and it’s been an exhilarating journey so far.
Imagine a world where creating a video, often seen as a task that requires hours of effort and specialized expertise, can be accomplished in just 60 seconds. That’s the magic of Prontopia. It’s not just another video platform; it’s an end-to-end AI-driven solution designed with the ethos of transforming complexity into simplicity. In today’s fast-paced digital age, content is king, and videos reign supreme. Yet, the process of crafting quality video content can be daunting for many businesses. Prontopia seeks to eliminate that barrier, democratizing video creation by making it accessible, efficient, and exceptionally user-friendly.
Every day at Prontopia is a fresh challenge, as we constantly brainstorm and iterate to push the boundaries of what’s possible. We’re not just building a product; we’re sculpting an experience. A key focus for us is the customer journey — how can we make it smoother, more intuitive, and ultimately, more delightful? We envision Prontopia as the quintessential hub for all video needs, a place where businesses can see their visions come to life seamlessly.
While Prontopia is undeniably a technical marvel, at its core, it’s driven by a human-centric philosophy. It’s a testament to our commitment to empower businesses, regardless of their size or domain, to tell their stories, share their messages, and connect with their audiences in the most impactful way possible — through captivating videos.
In essence, while I’ve been involved in numerous projects over the years, Prontopia stands out as a beacon of innovation, passion, and potential. It’s not just about what technology can do; it’s about the transformative experiences and endless possibilities it can unlock for businesses worldwide.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Thank you for recognizing the influence one can have. If I were to champion a movement, it would be “Storytelling for Change.” My unwavering commitment lies in the movement to educate and empower girls across the globe. This cause is not just about schooling; it’s a transformative journey that has the potential to change lives and shape the future. It’s a movement that advocates for equal access to quality education, breaking down the barriers that have held girls back for far too long.
I firmly believe that every girl, regardless of her background, deserves the opportunity to learn and grow. It’s about more than just enrolling girls in schools; it’s about creating an environment where they can thrive. This movement calls for well-trained teachers, safe and nurturing learning spaces, and up-to-date resources to ensure that education is not just a dream but a reality for girls everywhere.
Financial support plays a crucial role. By offering scholarships and incentives, we can ensure that the cost of education does not stand in the way of their dreams. And it’s not just about academics; it’s about equipping girls with life skills and vocational training, empowering them with the knowledge and confidence to shape their own destinies. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s about changing hearts and minds, challenging cultural norms and prejudices that have held girls back. It’s a call for community engagement, where parents, communities, and local leaders come together to support girls’ education, creating a groundswell of support that can’t be ignored. Health and well-being are integral too. Ensuring access to healthcare, proper hygiene facilities, and menstrual hygiene management is vital. We want girls to attend school without compromising their health or dignity.
This journey is about global partnerships, where collaboration among international organizations, governments, NGOs, and the private sector can mobilize resources and expertise for girls’ education worldwide. It’s a testament to the power of collective action, demonstrating that when the world unites behind a shared purpose, transformative change is not just possible — it’s inevitable. In my heart, I know that the movement to educate and empower girls is not just a cause; it’s a calling. It’s a reminder that by investing in girls’ education, we invest in a brighter, more equitable, and prosperous world for all. It’s a journey worth taking, and I’m dedicated to making it a reality.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
“Live every day as if it were your last.” In Buddhist teachings, there’s a story of a young monk who approached his wise teacher and asked, “What is the most important lesson I should learn on my path to enlightenment?” The teacher replied, “Imagine that you have only one more day to live. How would you spend it?” The young monk pondered this question and realized that if he had just one day left, he would spend it in deep meditation, practicing mindfulness, and showing kindness and love to everyone he encountered. He would let go of grudges, judgments, and worries, focusing only on the present moment.
The wise teacher smiled and said, “That is the most important lesson. Live every day as if it were your last. Let go of attachments to the past and worries about the future. Embrace the beauty of the present moment, cultivate compassion, and seek inner peace.” This story from Buddhist wisdom emphasizes the idea of living in the present, cherishing each moment, and approaching life with mindfulness and kindness. It encourages us to reflect on our priorities, let go of unnecessary burdens, and make the most of the time we have.
Whether or not this story has a specific origin, its message resonates with me and serves as a valuable lesson on how to approach life with greater awareness and a deeper appreciation for the present.
As you know, there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 5 things that you would advise to other women in the AI space to thrive?
As a woman leader in an AI space, I’d offer five crucial pieces of advice for women looking to thrive in this field.
- Believe fiercely in your abilities and the unique value you bring. Do not let gender imbalances make you question your worth or knowledge. You deserve to be here.
- Proactively build a robust support network of mentors, sponsors and allies. Seek out those who can provide guidance, collaborate with you, and advocate for your advancement. Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed.
- Voraciously continue your AI education through courses, conferences, training programs and more. Stay relentlessly focused on being at the cutting edge of new developments. Let your technical excellence silence any doubters.
- Be a visible champion for diversity, equity and inclusion. Advocate unapologetically for fair policies and practices in your workplace and the broader AI community. Lift others up along the way.
- Step forward boldly to take on leadership roles as they arise. Do not hold yourself back — your perspective is critical. Lead by example in fostering inclusive cultures where all talent thrives.
By embracing this mindset and taking proactive steps, you can thrive and shape the AI field for the better. Your success lifts up those following in your footsteps.
Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the AI industry?
The journey to bring more women into the AI field demands a comprehensive strategy spanning education, recruitment, workplace policies, and messaging. It commences with a proactive showcase of women role models in AI, spotlighting their achievements through conferences, media, and prestigious awards that amplify the triumphs of current tech leaders. This illumination ignites the aspirations of young girls, inspiring them to envision a future in this dynamic realm.
Simultaneously, companies must adopt proactive recruitment practices, leveraging techniques like blind hiring to reduce unconscious bias and fostering a diverse technical workforce. Industry-specific networking and mentoring groups dedicated to women create vital communities that offer career guidance and opportunities, amplifying each other’s advancement.
Leaders in the field have the critical role of implementing inclusive policies such as flexible work arrangements, comprehensive parental leave, and nurturing cultures that retain women in the AI workforce. Investing in STEM education for young girls and initiatives that provide training and scholarships for women transitioning into AI careers is paramount.
Setting and diligently tracking diversity goals, coupled with maintaining accountability, is pivotal. Celebrating the achievements of women in AI helps generate meaningful change. However, it is essential to recognize that this transformation requires deliberate, sustained efforts from both the public and private sectors. The ultimate outcome will be a strengthened AI field, enriched by a broader spectrum of perspectives, ideas, and innovations.”
How can our readers follow you on social media?
As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?
The debate between prominent figures like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg reflects thoughtful concerns and optimism about advanced AI. On one hand, Musk argues we should proactively consider potentially dangerous long-term scenarios, like AI surpassing human intelligence without sharing human values. His caution advocates strong safety protocols and ethics in AI research to prevent unintended consequences. On the other hand, Zuckerberg focuses on the immense near-term benefits of AI like healthcare advances and enhanced productivity. He argues we shouldn’t stifle innovation by excessive fear of unlikely risks.
There are good faith arguments on both sides stemming from a shared goal of developing AI responsibly. We need a balanced approach — one that doesn’t regulate innovation into stagnation, but also prioritizes ethics, safety and control mechanisms. The most constructive path forward is likely in the middle — preserving the transformative potential of AI while channeling energies into addressing its challenges through technical research and thoughtful policies. With diligence and wisdom, we can harness the power of AI to uplift humanity.
What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?
I would suggest prioritizing a few key areas for a responsible approach to AI:
- First and foremost, prioritize the adoption of transparent and ethical development practices. Technology leaders should make a public commitment to upholding human values, such as privacy, fairness, and accountability in their AI systems. Demonstrating this commitment involves rigorous testing, external audits, and the sharing of best practices.
- Secondly, allocate resources to safety and control research. Being proactive in creating safeguards, including fail-safes, containment methods, and formal verification for AI systems, is essential. These measures prevent uncontrolled risks and provide assurances to users.
- Third, advocate for thoughtful regulation and independent oversight. Collaborative governance frameworks, with checks and balances devised by policymakers in close cooperation with researchers and companies, are vital to ensuring the safe development of AI.
- Fourth, promote inclusive public engagement. It’s crucial to seek diverse input and provide clear explanations of the current state of AI technology to dispel unwarranted fears and guide the formulation of sound policies.
- Lastly, redirect the conversation toward realizing the immense benefits of AI for humanity. Emphasizing applications that save lives, create opportunities, and more can anchor discussions in the overwhelmingly positive potential of AI.
With these responsible approaches, we can advance AI while simultaneously building public trust through our actions. While there are risks, they are manageable with diligence and wisdom. AI is a technology that we must continue to shape for the benefit of all.
What are the 3 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?
AI holds tremendous promise, yet also raises complex concerns we must proactively address. In my view, three issues stand out:
- First, ethical and bias challenges. AI systems learn from data that can embed societal biases around race, gender, and more. If not mitigated, AI risks perpetuating injustice and discrimination — the exact opposite of its potential. Prioritizing explainable models, rigorous testing, and inclusive teams is key to developing ethically aligned AI.
- Second, data privacy and security. The ubiquity of AI relies on access to data — our data. Misuse or abuse of this data compromises individual rights and freedoms. To build trust, companies must minimize data collection, encrypt sensitive information, and prevent unauthorized access through cybersecurity investments.
- Third, economic impacts like job displacement. As AI automates certain tasks and roles, it may displace jobs, especially those involving routine responsibilities. However, AI also creates new kinds of jobs. Managing this transition responsibly, through workforce training programs and inclusive policies, is paramount to ensuring prosperity is shared.
Meeting these challenges will require cross-sector collaboration. But done right, AI can become a democratizing force for empowerment. Advancing AI for social benefit should be our North Star, guiding companies, policymakers and researchers alike. Our future depends on it.
What are the 3 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?
Three facets of AI innovation evoke a sense of optimism and excitement within me.
- Firstly, I am enthused by AI’s potential to address humanity’s most pressing challenges. From combating climate change to eradicating diseases, AI offers innovative solutions to intricate global issues. As we continue to advance, we can harness AI to democratize opportunities, save lives, and safeguard our planet.
- Secondly, I view AI as a novel engine for economic growth. It isn’t merely a transformative force for industries; it has the capacity to birth entirely new sectors that we have yet to fathom. Through thoughtful policies, AI has the potential to generate employment, diminish repetitive tasks, and foster prosperity across diverse societies.
- Thirdly, the prospect of AI amplifying human potential is profoundly inspiring. By automating routine responsibilities, AI affords us the opportunity to channel our time and energy into more fulfilling endeavors like creative pursuits, nurturing relationships, and self-actualization. Thoughtfully directed, AI has the potential to aid us in realizing our fullest potential.
What unites these three aspects is hope. I firmly believe that, with ethically guided and accountable AI rooted in shared human values, the future holds immense promise. AI will not naturally develop equitably or safely; it necessitates diligent and principled guidance. However, when this technology is thoughtfully shaped, it has the power to make the world a significantly improved place for all. It’s this promise that fuels my inspiration.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
Success, in my eyes, is not just a personal milestone but an opportunity to uplift and empower those around us. As I progressed in my career and stepped into more executive and supervisory roles, I recognized the influence and capacity I had to make tangible differences in others’ professional journeys. One principle I’ve always held close to my heart is the importance of genuine networking and community building. The digital age has its advantages, but it’s also led to a phenomenon I’ve noticed and been disheartened by: the tendency of some professionals to “ghost” or ignore others on platforms like LinkedIn, especially when they reach a certain stature or level of success. This is something I’ve consciously chosen to counteract.
A memory that stands out is when a LinkedIn connection reached out to me, expressing their interest in a role within my company. They were qualified, passionate, but struggling to get a foot in the door. Recognizing their potential, I not only facilitated an introduction but also vouched for their skills and dedication. Today, that individual is thriving in their role and contributing positively to our organization. But it’s not just about jobs within my own company. Whenever I come across talented individuals within my network or even beyond, I take it upon myself to bridge connections, make introductions, and leverage my position to benefit them.
To me, success is truly meaningful when it’s shared. If my journey and position can serve as a platform to elevate others, then that, in my opinion, is the real impact and legacy of success.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.
About The Interviewer: David Leichner is a veteran of the Israeli high-tech industry with significant experience in the areas of cyber and security, enterprise software and communications. At Cybellum, a leading provider of Product Security Lifecycle Management, David is responsible for creating and executing the marketing strategy and managing the global marketing team that forms the foundation for Cybellum’s product and market penetration. Prior to Cybellum, David was CMO at SQream and VP Sales and Marketing at endpoint protection vendor, Cynet. David is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jerusalem Technology College. He holds a BA in Information Systems Management and an MBA in International Business from the City University of New York.
Automated Video Creation 101
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AUTOMATED VIDEO CONTENT CREATION.
Marketing experts and content creators across all industries will undoubtedly have noticed the global appetite for video content: it seems insatiable. Even five years ago, experts knew that video content would be the way forward in communications, advertising, and even politics.
But creating cost-effective video content regularly can be challenging, especially for resource-strapped businesses. The video creation and editing processes are time-consuming, especially if your company wants to engage consistently on a more personal level while still increasing reach.
That’s where automated video creation comes in.
What is Automated Video Creation?
Put simply, automated video creation is the process of using software to create engaging and exciting video content automatically. The method uses AI to match high-definition video content to your industry, business goals, etc.
How does it work?
There are numerous strategies your marketing team might want to take. Automating the video creation and editing process starts with identifying your priorities, choosing a platform, uploading the material you’re using, and then, letting the software do the heavy lifting.
Again, depending on what audience you are targeting, you can be more or less involved in the editing process. If you’re looking to employ a highly efficient system, you can confirm your details within a template and be ready to publish. If you’re looking to customize video content with text overlays, captioning, and graphics, you can certainly achieve these goals. This is commonly used for franchises.
How can automated video creation be used effectively?
Your company most likely has many marketing campaigns in flight at one time, from advertising and promotions to large audiences, all the way down to one-on-one contact with clients (like a birthday message). With the wide range of demand in the type of communication happening, you also need a variety of video content: perhaps 6-second ads for YouTube and minute-long informational messages announcing a new product for Facebook or TikTok.
Most social media platforms each have their video creation tools but are just different enough in their capabilities and requirements to be frustrating, and they often do not look professional. You can save time and budget by creating high-quality automated videos and posting them to different platforms simultaneously.
How can we get started?!
Prontopia is a simple-to-use AI-based tool for creating videos to market your business on social and video platforms. Prontopia is making the process seamless and focused for your team, even for employees with no editing skills or experience, at the forefront of AI-based video creation. This is crucial as content marketers from different industries adapt to the voracious appetite for video content happening around them.
Plus, with Prontopia, you will have detailed insights into your videos’ performance with data analytics to see what’s working! Whether it’s quick transitions or punchy overlaid text, you can track the efficacy of your efforts in a split second.
Making high-quality videos has never been easier for businesses—start today!
Visit prontopia.com or learn more at Why Your Brand Should be using Video Content on Social Media