Yuchen Fama is director of AI product at Clarifai. She brings to Clarifai more than 10 years of experience in machine learning, statistical learning, big data, distributed computing and large scale production ML infrastructure. She earned her Ph.D. in Statistics in 2010 from University of Connecticut and is currently serving as an elected council member of New England Statistical Society, a non-profit research organization. Read the recent interview to learn about Dr Fama's career path in STEM and to get a glimpse of the future of AI products.
Question: As few as 15% of data scientists today are women. And that lack of diversity is a serious issue. AI algorithms are susceptible to bias, so building them requires a team that includes a wide range of views and experiences. What can businesses do differently to attract and cultivate more diverse AI talent?
Dr Yuchen Fama: We are very fortunate to have a management team that truly cares about diversity, and some of our best researchers and engineers are women. I strongly believe diversity in AI should start early in the talent pipeline - for example, businesses can partner with colleges and even high schools to create a strong pipeline of qualified woman professionals in the rapidly growing field of AI. We should also bring together women from academia, government and industry to help build a strong network and facilitate programs such as mentorship, career development, etc.
Question: What’s one thing you wish you had known when you began your career?
Dr Yuchen Fama: I began my career as a statistician (the term “data scientist” wasn’t invented back then), I never thought unstructured data and deep neural networks would work so well together and explode to today’s scale. I was very suspicious about deep neural networks when it became popular and could have been more open minded.
Question: What is the one common myth about your profession or field that you want to debunk?
Dr Yuchen Fama:Deep neural networks sound fancy but the math behind it is surprisingly and unbelievably simple – mostly basic linear algebra with some clever matrix operations. There is not much barrier of entry - especially with our low code/no code AI platform for the mass!
Question: What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours?
Dr Yuchen Fama:Learn statistics and computer science; keep being curious and trying different things outside your comfort zone.
Question: What are the best resources that have helped you along the way?
Dr Yuchen Fama: All my managers and mentors - I’m incredibly thankful for all their coaching and nurturing in every step of my career!
Question: What does artificial intelligence mean to you? How does one begin to think about artificial intelligence as a product?
Dr Yuchen Fama: There’s a broad definition of AI referring to general cognitive automation, and the more precise definition refers to deep learning. Regardless of definition, the desire to create machines that think dates back to ancient Greek time, and we are very proud of our AI platform built for everyone (you don’t need to be a trained data scientist to use it). For us, our AI platform is our product to enable smarter and better solutions for our customers. For our customers, AI is part of their product DNA - it’s not something nice to have but critical to survive in today’s competition.