Dr. Melissa Sassi is the Chief Penguin of Student & Entrepreneur Experience within the IBM Z division of IBM. Dr. Sassi is also the Global Head of IBM Hyper Protect Accelerator with 100 startups in her portfolio with a focus on enabling early-stage startups to build and scale. Her aim is to introduce startups to the IBM Cloud with a lens on data protection, privacy, and security. She leads startups through credit activation, cloud onboarding, go-to-market, storytelling, and co-marketing. Dr. Sassi's program consists of fintech, healthtech, digital assets, regtech, music, edtech, and other small to medium enterprises looking to secure their most sensitive data. Dr. Sassi's startup accelerator has 50% of her startups with at least one female founder, 30% with at least one black founder, and 15% with at least one LatinX founder.
Dr. Sassi is a Call for Code Judge, an initiative aimed at creating technical solutions to solve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Dr. Sassi spent several years at Microsoft in its Microsoft Airband Initiative where she was an internet and energy access impact investor, focused on solving the digital divide.
Dr. Sassi is the Founder & CEO of MentorNations, a youth-led digital skills, and entrepreneurship movement that enabled tens of thousands of young people to code across twelve countries.
Dr. Sassi is also Chair of IEEE's Digital Skills & Readiness Working Group. Her work led to the creation of the world's first global framework and definition of digital skills that was adopted into an industry-recognized IEEE Standard.
She holds a Board of Directors position with TAKMIL, a nonprofit with 30 informal schools in rural Pakistan. She is a former Board Member with TechWomen.Asia, an Afghanistan-based nonprofit focused on tech skill-building for young Afghani women prior to the Taliban taking control of the country.
Dr. Sassi's doctoral research focuses on the digital inclusion of underserved and underrepresented communities, and the ties that access, skills, and utilization of technology have on driving meaningful use of the internet, including increasing education, economic, and healthcare outcomes.
Dr. Sassi is an avid writer and gives hundreds of talks and keynote speeches annually impacting thousands with entities such as IBM, Microsoft, IEEE, United Nations, World Economic Forum, CES, World Bank, and others providing thought leadership and dialogue in topics such as startups and entrepreneurship, professional development, digital inclusion, gender inclusion, youth empowerment, and the like.