Blog: Women Leading the AI Industry: “You don’t have to be a technical expert to be in a technical…
You don’t have to be a technical expert to be in a technical industry. There are tons of roles & opportunities available where creative people can contribute and excel in. Don’t be scared to have a non-linear career and explore different industries. These experiences enrich your life and give you a unique perspective. Since many important skills are transferable, you don’t have to start from scratch entirely.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Preeti Adhikary, VP of Marketing at Fusemachines Inc, an Artificial Intelligence company based in NYC. Fusemachines Inc educates and trains students around the world on AI.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path?
I did my undergraduate degree in Economics in Tennessee (USA) and MBA in Finance/Strategy in Vancouver (Canada). Apart from startups, I have worked in Banking, Energy and Non-Profit sectors in Nepal, Singapore and USA. I started at Fusemachines in an Operations role and moved into the current position about 1.5 years ago. While i almost stumbled into Marketing, I love being a Marketer — Bringing much needed awareness about Artificial Intelligence is something I am passionate about. The social mission of Fusemachines to democratize AI is like a cherry on top and provides a strong purpose to what I do.
What lessons can others learn from your story?
1. You don’t have to be a technical expert to be in a technical industry. There are tons of roles & opportunities available where creative people can contribute and excel in.
2. Don’t be scared to have a non-linear career and explore different industries. These experiences enrich your life and give you a unique perspective. Since many important skills are transferable, you don’t have to start from scratch entirely.
Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Our clients are dispersed in diverse industries like healthcare, food delivery, transportation, etc where we utilize natural language processing, computer vision, demand prediction, etc. But my favorite project is our proprietary AI platform called fuse.ai. We have developed dynamic content that will enable us to educate thousands of students globally on AI. This access to state-of-the-art courses and mentorship can impact the lives of the students as well as their communities.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mom quit her dream of becoming a doctor and chose to be a homemaker for my two sisters and I. My parents raised us to be independent, strong and vocal.
My dad died when I was in high school, but my mom has remained a pillar of strength for us. She is tough yet empathetic and has supported my choices, good or bad. While she opted for a completely different path, she understands my ambition but also provides the much needed reality check. I am grateful to my mom for everything I am today.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?
– More girls (from high school onwards) are learning about AI thanks to organizations like AI4ALL. The world is better when more girls and women are at the table.
– There is a conscious effort towards ‘AI for Social Good’ where private companies and organizations are trying to leverage AI for the benefit of humanity.
– AI education is becoming more mainstream. Few colleges as well as online vendors have started offering AI courses, both for technical and non-technical audience. I hope this will improve the awareness about emerging technology and how it can impact lives and businesses.
– The huge (and untapped) potential Artificial Intelligence could have for developing countries like Nepal is exciting and fills me with optimism.
What are the 5 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?
– Lack of diversity
According to AI4All’s report, only 18% of AI conference leaders and 20% of professors are women. The number of women and people of color in AI companies (both the big ones and startups) is on the lower side. These are the people that will build and train algorithms and hence diversity is not just recommended, but needed.
– Ethical issues
Technology like facial recognition can have positive AND negative implications. It could help the police find a missing person, but also isolate those of a certain ethnicity/color. What governments and private companies can do with such technology is not clearly defined. The moral lines differs on this topic across individuals and organizations, and that’s a scary thing.
– Privacy concerns
Data is the fuel for today’s world — it allows personalized ads and messaging. But the collection, ownership and usage of data cross said/unsaid rules of engagement between customers and companies. The trend of pushing the envelope when it comes to customer data needs to be addressed.
– Lack of standardization and uniform policy
While nations fight for AI supremacy, who upholds the benchmark? What is the benchmark for developing and utilizing algorithms? A global body is needed to create transparency and awareness of the academic research as well as industry adoption.
As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?
What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?
Transparency and awareness are key factors. The public needs to know what’s happening in the academic arena as well as government/private sectors. Journalists and the media also need to stop sensationalizing news and provide accurate coverage.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I am a connector by nature and love to connect like-minded individuals. This has resulted in close friendships and lucrative collaboration opportunities for the people involved.
As you know, there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the AI space to thrive?
– Keep learning. The industry keeps on changing. The more you learn, the better you can adapt.
– Do things that make you uncomfortable. Speak at events, share your experiences.
– Start to ‘ask’ and to ‘give’. Articulate what you need and how you can help others.
Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the AI industry?
As with any other industry, conscious effort has to be put in to attract, hire and retain women in the AI ecosystem. This includes engineers, scientists, academics as well as non-technical personnel. Hire a woman, mentor a woman, promote a woman.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
One of my favorite quotes is “The days are long but the years are short”. The author Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) used it and I love the description. On a daily basis, it can be challenging to take care of a hundred priorities and balance work & personal life. But when you take a long term approach, time goes by fast, faster than we realize. This quote helps me not get too bogged down by nitty gritty details and focus on the important things.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I believe in ‘measured mentorship’ — unless you define the expectations and deliverables of the relationship, the mentorship does not work. I am passionate about women empowerment and think that having a better model of mentorship for women will result in actual change.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you for joining us!