When assembling a team to work on the sort of complex problems that businesses face with their data, it can be difficult to find the people with the experience in AI and machine learning necessary to resolve those issues.
Here at Stradigi AI, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with one of the world’s foremost experts in artificial intelligence, Carolina Bessega, our Chief Product Officer.
For those of you who do not have the pleasure to know her, we sat down with her to talk about what she’s working on, who she’s working with, and how she’s leading the team at the Stradigi AI lab into the future.
From southern scientist to north star
To be clear, there’s nothing about Carolina’s intelligence that’s artificial. She has a PhD in fundamental physics, is an award winning professor and researcher, and has been the Director of the Nonlinear Phenomena Lab at the Central University of Venezuela. She has helped graduates and undergraduate students to apply machine learning techniques, including neural networks, to real-world problems.
Carolina chose to remove herself from her comfort zone where she was very successful and well-known in academic circles to make a fresh start in Canada. And it wasn’t easy.
“There were many sleepless nights, but I persevered,” she says. She remained consistent in her vision and worked very hard to prove herself. And after just a few years, Carolina has reached the same level that she was back in Venezuela—an accomplishment that does, and should, make her very proud.
Getting behind the wheel
At the heart of any artificial intelligence initiative is the desire to solve a specific set of problems. Since coming to work at Stradigi AI, Carolina has been the driving force behind our AI and machine learning projects.
“We started doing artificial intelligence, not because it was cool, but because our clients needed it,” Carolina said in another interview. And as a scientist, she is, of course, overjoyed. “I’m thrilled that there are now so many opportunities and means for us to advance our research and to innovate.”
But perhaps most important in this equation is Carolina’s drive to see these projects through—not just to completion—but to a point where AI is really making a difference in people’s lives at work.
“In AI, or in any other field,” she says, “you’ll never get the perfect result the first time around,” she points out.
It’s all about digging in and solving the problem. Despite the fact that one might be confronted with problems that may seem insurmountable and, as a result, one can become discouraged, Carolina makes sure that her and her team are focused on believing that there’s “something you can do.” That there is always a solution.
Problems aren’t just solved by AI, they’re solved by teams
Someone as accomplished as Carolina has earned the right to a certain degree of professional pride. Where she differs from many of her peers, and what really makes her so effective as a leader, is her sense of humility.
“You must stay humble,” she says, despite her many accomplishments. “[AI is] extremely complex and nobody starts from scratch because, if we did, nobody would get anywhere.”
When faced with challenges, Carolina knows that the first step is to reach out to her team. “I usually have a brainstorming session with a group of people with different backgrounds. It allows me to hear different perspectives.”
Many times, just explaining the problem at hand can be enough for someone else to see the solution. It’s like it just comes out of nowhere, but the reality is that Carolina knows what other scholars have known for years: diverse teams help to “untangle complexity” in ways that those groups of people who are very similar to each other will not.
Cognitive diversity in teams, or to put it more simply, teams that have people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, have different ways of thinking and defining problems. According to Scott Page, a professor of complex systems, political science, and economics, “differing ways of looking at the world, interpreting experience, solving problems, and predicting future possibilities working together to produce a distinctive mental tool set… Groups with this sort of variety consistently outperform groups working with a single problem-solving perspective.”
Knowing this, Carolina has assembled a multidisciplinary team of researchers who are intelligent, committed, and understand innovation. This pragmatic group has a passion for solving problems and, according to Carolina, their “diversity brings a richness to our brainstorming sessions.”
The variety of specialization extends to both partners and advisors, as well. “We believe in collaboration,” she says. New AI ideas are developed within the lab, then incubated in the Stradigi AI Ventures arm. From there, a team of engineers and developers are leveraged to take complex products to market.
“This symbiotic relationship between the three entities is an incredible advantage that is unique to us,” she points out.
This is a big part of what makes the Stradigi AI lab stand out from other teams. Carolina points to the innovative spirit of the group, in both research and their ability to get products to market.
“We believe in collaboration. Our executive branch has a business vision and substantial network, so we’re fortunate to have partners and advisor specialists in different areas of research.”
Moving forward, she is determined to “continue to be the leading AI experts and top consultants and developers.”
“There’s no such thing as the unknown—only things temporarily hidden” – Captain Kirk
To say that we’re grateful to work with someone as intelligent and accomplished as Carolina is an understatement. It’s difficult to overstate what she means to our business and to all of the people who are fortunate enough to work with her. And what’s most remarkable about Carolina is her ability to assess the problems that exist for businesses who use data, and leverage the team she has assembled to get to work on solving those problems.
Unsurprisingly, Carolina has a role model to point to that has advised the way that she works with teams and technology: Captain James Tiberius Kirk!
“He’s the greatest leader,” Carolina says with enthusiasm. “He was able to successfully lead a group of people with diverse backgrounds and always brought out the best in them.”
What she has learned from the intrepid leader of the Starship Enterprise is that a team who challenges each other is more important than one who says yes to everything. “Kirk was smart, able to find alternative solutions to impossible situations, and was not one to shy away from a joke when it was needed.”
And like Captain Kirk, Carolina is leading her team to where “no one has gone before.”
“That’s definitely my dream,” Carolina says. Most inspiring to us all, is that she’s actually making that dream become a reality.