May 25, 2023

From AI expert at Amazon to successful solopreneur: Polly Allen's inspiring journey

By Wes Kao
Co-founder of Maven
Follow Polly Allen's inspiring journey from a principal product manager at Amazon to building a profitable course business, teaching AI product management.

Six months ago, Polly Allen left a prestigious AI role at Amazon for something even better.
Polly was a researcher at MIT, principal product manager at Amazon Alexa, and has a 20-year career in AI and engineering. 
Throughout her two decades in AI, Polly noticed a growing problem:
  • She was often the only female leader in a room of 30 people
  • Only 22% of AI researchers are women, and even fewer in leadership roles
  • Qualified job candidates are passed over because they didn’t have the “right degree”
Polly believed having a degree in computer science doesn’t matter–the best AI product managers know how to deliver the right solutions and create business value. She wanted more people to realize this.
Six months ago, Polly left Amazon to start a course. Her goal: address the growing gender gap in AI leadership & bring more qualified folks into AI product management. At first, she was nervous to leave a prestigious tech job in an unstable economy. She expected it would take 6-8 months for her course business to break even.
To her surprise, she was profitable within 3 months.
Today, she teaches Conversational AI Masterclass—part of Maven’s new AI lineup. The result has been 3 consecutive sold-out cohorts, an incredible 9.9/10 rating, and 60+ students where half are women looking to pivot into AI. Through her course, Polly can advance her mission AND build a sustainable business.
Lessons from Polly’s story:
1. Identify where you’re an obvious expert. When a stranger looks at Polly’s Linkedin, they would undoubtedly say that she should teach how to build AI products.  If you’re considering teaching a course, pick a topic where you’re an obvious expert. Ask yourself: What questions do people ask me all the time? What would I be asked to do a guest lecture on? 
2. Solo businesses can be both mission-driven and profitable. The success of her course has led to requests for coaching, consulting, and training multiple times a week. Her course lets her scale her coaching and training, so she can make a bigger impact. She said:
I didn't expect to be doing better than break even. And we're profitable already three months in.
3. Many senior operators are leaving the corporate world to start their own solo business. In the past, becoming a solopreneur meant all your friends thought you were “consulting” as a euphemism for being in between jobs. But today, solo businesses are becoming more profitable, flexible, and exciting as a viable path.

PS If you're a solopreneur, teaching a course is an additional income stream and helps you accelerator your business. Check out the Maven Course Accelerator, a free 3-week program on how to build a successful course.
When you start earning on Maven, you keep 90% of your course revenue minus Stripe fees. On average, instructors earn $20,000 in their first cohort. Plus, you own your IP and content. Our goal is to help you launch and grow a course you’re proud of.
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