“Awesome woman” tells of transformation from tech industry trailblazer to personal sovereignty

A tech industry globetrotter told a Humber Business Week audience that the “personal sovereignty” which enabled her to bounce back from personal and professional catastrophe would be at risk in the modern era of AI advances.

Ragini Annan and Paul Sewell at the Elevenses event

Ragini Annan, who was one of the early recruits at Lotus and then worked with Steve Jobs at Apple, told how she turned to the traditional Indian Vedic techniques as her world crumbled in the face of shattered relationships at home and at work.

Her memoir, “The Unpunctured Being: Timeless Vedic Wisdom for Sovereignty in Life” tells of her journey what she saw as from “the entanglements of modern living to attaining self-empowerment and sovereignty”.

Finding herself “ensnared by progressive culture for decades”, she embraced the Vedic lifestyle. Speaking in Hull, she told how she found her fragmented life coming together, enabling her to live with empowerment and experience the fulfilment that comes from sovereignty.

Ragini joined Biz Week founder and Chair of Sewell Group Paul Sewell for the latest in his “Awesome Women” Elevenses chats, which attracted a full house to the Sewell Studio in Hull.

She recalled: “I wanted to see the tools available to teach me about our inner world. We know everything about our outer world – you do what the outer world tells you, how you do your career, your work, your relationships.

“I wanted to know where you go when you are crumbling internally. I think inner power will be the closed, go-to space because we are going to be enslaved by AI.”

Paul revealed he knew Ragini and her husband Scott through the Independent Retailer Owners’ Forum, which travels around the world looking at best practice in its sector.

He said: “After sitting in airports and on planes with them I found she had quite an interesting story to tell and she was happy to come and see us in Hull.”

Ragini was born in Uganda to Indian parents. She told how she went to study in the United Sates, stayed with an uncle and earned money from selling lemonade and personalised cards.

She said: “I also sold newspapers at traffic lights and hitch hiked to Atlantic City because I knew I would make more sales but I felt abandoned and independent so ran away from home – sparking an alert across 13 states.”

Her uncle sent her back to Uganda but she continued to experience difficulties connecting with her mother and then in 1972 the family was among the thousands of Asians expelled by the country’s President Idi Amin.

She said: “We were thrown out of Uganda and went to Mumbai and then the UK as refugees.”

A computer sciences degree from Loughborough University set her on the road to a career in tech and to roles with Mitch Kapor’s Lotus start-up and she then worked with Apple and Steve Jobs. But things began to unravel again in the 1990s as she hit a series of personal and professional problems.

She said: “I wanted to work in Lotus and I saw the data revolution, how data was going to drive the business world. I was the 52nd employee at Lotus and I was the best travelled person within two years of being there because I was asked to go and train dealers in other countries and appoint authorised training centres.

“Everything outside US, UK and France was mine. There are not many countries I haven’t visited to train people. It was an incredible career. I worked with Apple on the launch of the 512k Mac with a Lotus Jazz – the first product in the world which combined a word processor with other tools.

“Steve Jobs was inspiring, inspired and innovative and had a brain like no other. I had met people in IBM and HP and there was nobody of his ilk. He left Apple on bad terms and founded NeXT Inc. and then Pixar. We are living with his innovations today.”

But Ragini revealed that one crisis followed another. She was living a lie with her husband, she was devastated by the death of her sister and she took on Lotus and won after becoming victim of sexual harassment at Lotus.

She said: “The dumbest thing I ever did was take the company to court and then think that everything would be all right if I went back.”

“I was totally crumbled at that point. Lost my friends, family, career and I had a child to rear. I had no name, no status. But I got off the hamster wheel. I was freed. I thought of other ways to become and entrepreneur.”

Ragini met Scott on a flight to Cyprus for a conference and that led to a relationship and then marriage. Her interest in Vedic healing systems took her to Tibet and a transformation in her life.

She said: “Something happens to you and you are not the same person. I started writing poetry, stopped drinking, I was literally unrecognisable to myself.

“My life story is about being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. Whether it was running away from home and ending up in Uganda at the right time and witnessing what happened there to being in the IT world.

“I learned about how you go from being totally outwardly focused to totally inwardly focused and it doesn’t matter anymore what the outside thinks and how they view you. We are sovereign, we are true to ourselves.”

Ragini explained how she is also harnessing her experiences to face up to the issues arising from the very industry in which she was once a trailblazer.

She said: “I see human beings made up of five things – physical body, mind, intellect, emotions and consciousness. I see AI being able to take control of four of them but not consciousness.

“Pretty soon we will be in a situation where all of the things we do physically, AI will be able to do better. AI can be more intelligent and your intelligence won’t be worth anything. AI can give you better emotional experiences that you give yourself.

“You will not know the difference between what is reality and what is AI. It will create better text, videos, images than you can. You will be in a matrix life until you break out of it.

“Consciousness is where productivity will happen and that’s the only place you can go beyond AI. Consciousness may be the place for a get-out clause.”

Invited to close with one piece of advice, Ragini said: “Spend the rest of your life being sovereign. Put your own crown on your head and work from your heart. Develop a connection with your heart because nothing else is going to matter.”