Oliviana Bailey | Hyperion Lab
“AI” is having a moment and whether you are here for it or not, it looks like it’s getting smarter…
Women Rock ambassador Lizzie had the pleasure in speaking with Oliviana Bailey who can explain this complex technology to us mere mortals! Oliviana herself isn’t from a tech background so had to quickly learn to “talk the talk” when she began her journey into this colourful and exciting world.
Now Director at Hyperion Lab – who are creating a space to accelerate green AI and are all about responsible and ethical practices within the AI space, Oliviana is also an ambassador for Women in AI (basically a Women Rock superhero!)
From the Alexa in your kitchen to transforming yourself into an anime character on Lensa – AI is here to stay, so join us in understanding AI with Oliviana…
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME TODAY. I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO SHARING WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER! SO TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND WOMEN IN AI
Yes! So I’m originally from the US and came to the Netherlands 6 years ago to do my masters where I worked for an accelerator that worked for startups in Africa and the Middle East. It’s there I realised that if you're going to make change in this world, it's got to be from the bottom up. After my masters, I worked at Rockstart with startups in Health and AI where I became Head of Community additionally supporting the Energy and Agri food programmes on community. I worked with mentors and corporates to help relocate startups into the Dutch market and get the support they needed. Afterwards, I helped ING build their community by bringing various stakeholders together for cross collaboration across different industries. It was from a NVIDIA referral that I joined Escher Cloud – a start-up who is building a sustainable cloud of AI and HPC. And, the former ambassador for Women in AI was leaving and asked me to take over – which I did!
Women in AI is a global community which started in 2016 and currently has about 10,000 members! Interestingly, the Dutch chapter is one of the most active chapters despite being one of the smallest countries. I think it’s because the Netherlands is very tech focused. Whilst you do see quite a lot of women in the tech space, I saw that the majority of mentors and start-ups were not actually women. So, I really wanted to be able to help push that forward and provide a platform for our women.
I LOVE THAT. IT’S A GREAT JOURNEY THAT YOU’VE HAD GOING INTO WOMEN IN AI. GOING BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF YOUR JOURNEY, HOW DID YOU GET INTO AI?
Yeah, it’s kind of funny because I don’t have a technical background but most people think that I do because I definitely know how to “talk the talk” at this point. I got into this space from working in the AI programme at Rockstart. I suppose when you have to read about 500 applications for AI startups, vet them and then select the top 25: you really get to know the technology.
Also, being one of the first team members at Esher cloud helped me accelerate my AI knowledge whilst they were figuring out their strategy and product at that time. I remember during one of the first product development calls where they were talking about “teraflops” and “GPU versus CPU” and I had to pull our CTO aside and say, “OK, give it to me straight. We really need to dumb this down!.” Even when I asked my husband, who’s a software engineer, he started going into binary numbers – it made no sense!! So, my role in the AI space has been helping with the “explainability” of AI.
AI has a huge potential to change the world but most people within this space are so deep in technological knowledge they haven’t really figured out how to explain it which is why I think there’s so much hype around it. It’s similar to the early days of the internet where no one really understood it. That’s why you see people talking about how AI is going to steal your job. But, really, it’s just a tool like the internet. Like your Alexa at home is just a form of AI. AI is not this big scary thing, it's actually very accessible and it will shape the future of us, hopefully for the better.
WHY IS WOMEN IN AI IMPORTANT?
So, Women in AI is important because it advocates for diversity and representation in the AI space. At the moment, there's not a lot of women in the field and I think it’s due to people’s idea that you have to be good at maths, or love video games, or have incredible technical knowledge. It’s also so important to make sure that AI data is accumulated and managed accurately – especially for healthcare industries using AI. For example, if we use historical data, the majority is white male which leads to a lot of biases in the decision making for AI. But, we know, medically, that different symptoms can arise in different sexes, races, and ages. So that discussion of diversity is important to the core foundations of AI because we need to look at the available data, how we’re using it and ensuring that there’s no bias from legacy data. If you have a very homogenous team, you’re not going to notice governance practices and ensure that you incorporate diverse voices. Also, interestingly, we see that most of the women in ai community comes from healthcare because it’s a huge tool for them where they need to have the right data
But, overall, it’s important we have a community, like Women in AI, to amplify AI and give voices to these women. In such a male dominated field, it gives role models for the younger generation to get involved in what’s important. We’re still in the forefront of the AI journey so if we don’t have that diverse voice now, it’s going to impact us later on.
WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN BE DONE TO ATTRACT MORE WOMEN IN AI?
So, our way is through initiatives that can be used by anyone. For example, we host inclusive talent fairs which bring diverse candidates forward; we do education courses for young girls teaching them how to use AI; we offer mentorship to help develop soft skill leadership building; and, we showcase companies that are doing it right.
It’s also not just about getting more women in, but helping women move up in the field because we need to see more women in leadership positions. You’ll see companies with more Women in leadership positions result in more women joining the company. One way we support this is hosting a Women in AI Awards where we can shine a light on AI companies and women.
AS WELL AS YOUR WOMEN IN AI PROJECT, YOU’RE ALSO THE DIRECTOR OF HYPERION LAB WHICH YOU MENTIONED EARLIER. IT’S A PROGRAMME THAT CAN SHOWCASE AND SUPPORT GREEN AI COMPANIES AND STARTUPS. WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR HYPERION LAB?
The inspiration for Hyperion Lab comes back to NVIDIA and Escher Cloud. I guess the first thing to clarify is that there are different types of green AI. Most people think of green AI in relation to being sustainable, but green AI is also how apps are built: Are you making sure your algorithm isn’t over using resources? Are you on ethical clouds? Any circular energy projects?
It’s also about responsible and ethical practises. So, we wanted to bring all these startups together and provide a sustainable cloud. We know that AI requires GPU but within Europe there’s not much GPU capacity even in the hyperscalars. So it’s also about providing more access to that because GPU runs better whereas CPU is a slower process and less sustainable.
It’s also helpful to have companies being brought together from different industries and seeing the great collaborations that happen. They share technologies and build on each other! I like to see it as an ecosystem that continues to build and support each other’s data without having to keep rebuilding it.
THERE’S SO MUCH THAT YOU DO – IT’S INSPIRATIONAL. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS ONE OF YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENTS?
You know, that’s a hard one. I guess I’m very proud of kicking off Hyperion Lab as it’s the culmination of all the work I've done in the last several years. It jump-started my network - in terms of the startups that I've worked with, investors, mentors, corporates, and it also got me back into the Women in AI ecosystem. It helps impact the startups and talent that we’re working with. So, it’s my baby! Even though I was brought on board to develop it, it's been my blood, sweat and tears that have got this off the ground. So, at the moment, I’m this extra resource to all these startups helping them connect with the rest of the ecosystem; helping them understand how to work with corporates; and, helping them talk about technology and expand their network.
YOU DO EVENTS VERY REGULARLY AND ONE THAT'S HAPPENING IN A FEW WEEKS IS THE INCLUSIVE AI TALENT FAIR. WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO CREATE THAT AND HOW TO GET INVOLVED?
So, knowing that it’s important to create a diverse team from the start, we have launched this talent fair to bring all this talent from all backgrounds together. It's a collaboration of Hyperion Lab on our responsible Green AI segment; Women in AI bringing the female talent; and Extra Mile, a community group based in Amsterdam South working with the local Bijlmer community to help showcase their talent. Also, it’s not just university level, there’s so much talent here that’s self-taught. It’s incredible work they’re doing so we’re providing a space for them to come together and meet companies. If you want to get involved we have our Eventbrite up and it’s happening on March 23rd. And, if there’s companies interested, we have booths available to meet the talent. The goal is to bring together the underrepresented talent community with companies that know that diverse teams are better teams.
THAT’S AWESOME. FINALLY, IF YOU HAD ONE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN AI, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
So, my one piece of advice is: don't be scared about it being “deep tech”. There's so many applications, open source tools, free trainings, and education making it incredibly accessible for everyone. Just don't be scared of these random scary words people throw out that you have no idea about. There’ll be someone who will help explain it.
In general, if you're going to start your own company or get more involved: just jump in and do it. My favourite saying these days is “to not ask for permission, but to ask for forgiveness”. It’s a growth hacking mentality by just doing something small, get yourself into it. If it fails, it's OK. Fail small and keep moving forward.
I LOVE THAT, I DON’T THINK I’VE HEARD OF THAT BEFORE! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME, IT’S FANTASTIC WHAT YOU ARE DOING.
Thanks Oliviana! You rock!
Interview by Lizzie Murray