Finding Ikigai: the unexpected magic of AI

Katie Todd
December 19, 2023
Seidenberg alum Mochii De Castro poses at the front of a train car

In 2018, a disgruntled hotel guest triggered a profound realization for Seidenberg grad and serial entrepreneur, Mochii De Castro.

As an LGBTQ+ immigrant from the Philippines, Mochii thought she'd made it–she had achieved her dream of working at a prestigious hotel where she could make the most of her MBA in International Business. But one day, a phone call from an irate guest changed everything.

What was the guest so disgruntled about? "Grapes," Mochii reveals. "Back in 2018, I used to be in a different field. I worked in hospitality management at a 5 star hotel in Beverly Hills catering to the top 1%. One day I received a call from an irate guest. He was so angry, he was like 'how many times am I gonna tell you never put red grapes in my room?! WE ONLY EAT GREEN GRAPES!' This was a wake up call. I immediately realized that I didn't want to do this for the rest of my life."

On a quest for a career change, Mochii realized that getting into tech would afford her the opportunities to grow in more fruitful ways. She discovered ikigai–the Japanese concept of finding purpose—and led Mochii to Pace University.

"In my quest to find my true calling, I discovered the Japanese concept of ikigai, which focuses on finding the intersection of one's passion, skills, societal needs, and earning potential. After careful introspection, I found my life's purpose in data science, with a particular emphasis on automating tedious tasks using artificial intelligence. I was determined to make a more significant impact on the world than merely solving grape-related problems."

Mochii joined the Seidenberg School's M.S. in Data Science program in 2020. Despite lacking coding skills and the necessary calculus foundation, Mochii worked tirelessly to excel in her coursework. She was rewarded for her hard work with her second master's degree–this time in data science.

Now, as a Pace alum, Mochii's mission to live into her ikigai has led her to build a fascinating startup. Asterabrand is an AI tool that auto brands a company and projects the vision of the founder into tangible branding assets. To use the tool, founders and marketing directors answer a variety of probing questions about the company's mission, vision, and values to receive a comprehensive analysis of the brand with suggestions for creating–as the company states–a "harmonious, impactful, and authentic brand identity that truly resonates with who you are and what you stand for."

Harnessing the creative and analytical power of AI, Mochii built a platform that supplies mission and vision statements, branding assets such as brand colors, fonts, images and even web and social media copy.

Mochii wove in astrological imagery and rhetoric to bring Asterabrand even more to life, referring to brand personalities as constellations containing clusters with different archetypal characteristics to them, giving Asterabrand its own unique brand constellation too–based on Mochii's vision for her future.

"My journey of self-discovery and resilience has taught me that it is not a magical map that leads us to our purpose, but rather our daily choices and determination. I am grateful to Pace University for helping me get closer to my dreams," she says.

"All I’m saying is that you are the greatest project you will ever work on, so don’t be afraid to be different. Be afraid of being like everybody else."

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