Kelsey Schroeder Szot ’13 Makes Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ List in Entrepreneurial Technology

Oak Knoll alumna Kelsey Schroeder Szot ’13 enters business history by making the coveted 2024 Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 list in Entrepreneurial Technology. The prestigious financial publication celebrated Szot for her role in co-founding Adept — an artificial intelligence research lab building AI digital assistants that could revolutionize how humans interact with computers.

As her star rises rapidly in the technology universe, she openly credits Oak Knoll for the happy accident that endeared her to programming in the first place.

“I always loved science and math, and I think that’s something Oak Knoll did a great job of fostering in my middle and high school years,” Szot explained, while having no interest in computer programming or entering the field. “I had a picture in my mind that a programmer was a boy, eating Cheetos in a basement, playing with lightsabers — it was an image I didn’t see myself in”

Nonetheless, during scheduling for her senior year, despite having none of the prerequisites, she reluctantly agreed to join an AP Computer Science course following the strong urging of the principal at the time.

“I said, ‘All right, I guess I’m going to try it out and give it a few weeks. If I hate it, I’ll do something else.’” Szot explained. “And then, as these stories often go, I fell in love with it. That’s what set me on this trajectory and changed my life. Through that class at Oak Knoll, I discovered that computer science is about real-world problem-solving, decomposing difficult challenges, and building helpful tools. I fell in love with the field.”

“Now I work in a very technical field,” Szot said. “The gender balance is extremely skewed, so I’m grateful that I got that early computer science exposure at Oak Knoll because I came into college with confidence, a purpose, and an awareness of what I wanted, and that set me up for my career from there.”

Following graduation from Oak Knoll, Szot soared through computer science at Stanford, obtaining her Bachelor of Science in Mathematical and Computational Science and Master of Science in Management Science and Engineering concurrently. She went on to work as a consultant for McKinsey & Company in New York, a Product Manager for Google’s Machine Learning division — where she immersed herself in artificial intelligence — and then made the entrepreneurial leap to found Adept with other colleagues in the field.

As the Forbes Magazine write-up explains, “Adept’s offering is currently waitlist-only and converts natural language commands into computer actions. The company has raised over $400 million and has strategic investment partners, including Nvidia, Atlassian, and Workday.”

According to Adept, “Most interaction with computers will be done using natural language, not graphic user interfaces. We’ll tell our computer what to do, and it’ll do it. Today’s user interfaces will soon seem as archaic as landline phones do to smartphone users.”

With Adept’s offering, artificial intelligence moves from information generation and interaction in the digital world to computers being able to take action for humans in the real world.

For example, based on a simple verbal request, Adept’s tool could research a potential vacation, compare rates, make hotel and plane reservations, add calendar entries to mark the event, and compose and send emails to colleagues and friends notifying them of your absence. Upon return, the tool can combine all your photos and videos from the vacation into a sophisticated video based on a simple verbal request.

“Beginners will become power users. Anyone who can articulate their ideas and needs in language can implement them, regardless of expertise. Software will become even more powerful as advanced features become accessible to everyone,” reported Adept.

There are many fears — whether real or imagined — concerning artificial intelligence. When asked how Szot balances her Catholic faith and belief in social teaching with the potential for harm some believe AI may produce, Szot replied, “Everything we build is human-centered — to make people more fully human in their work experience and using technology. It’s really all about building tools in service of people.”

Szot is exceptionally passionate about the role women can play in the STEM professions (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). “Please get involved,” she implores females potentially interested in these careers. “There is room for you in this field even if you don’t see many people who look like you yet. There is an opportunity for you to have a lot of impact.”

Szot is undoubtedly impacting the field of computer science, and the demand for her time is exploding. But her faith-based education has also helped her find work/life balance.

“Between January 2022 and July of 2023, I started a company, planned a wedding, got married, and moved from New York to San Francisco at the end of the year, so it was a crazy time,” Szot related. “It has been amazing, though. How you spend your time reflects your values, and relationships are still essential for me as a Catholic. My family, husband, and friends are a priority and a huge part of my life.”