Interviews, North America

Alishba Imran – Blockchain & Machine Learning Developer at The Knowledge Society

To me, technology is not just software or hardware, it’s entrepreneurship, emerging technologies and a way for us to crack humanity’s hardest problems. And to solve these harder problems, we need to think differently than we have for ages.

Alishba Imran is a 16-year-old Blockchain and Machine Learning developer from The Knowledge Society, who interned at TD Bank working on AI enterprise solutions.

She has worked on an application alongside IBM to track medication in the supply chain using Blockchain and put an end to counterfeit medication. Right now, she is working on using EHR data and Machine Learning algorithms to integrate a new patient portal for hospitals to provide patients with risk scores and visualizations about their conditions. 

In a nutshell, tell us a bit about your job, and what role technology plays in it?

I’m a 16-year-old Machine Learning and Blockchain innovator and from a human-accelerator program called The Knowledge Society. I’ve worked on a platform with researchers from IBM to track medication in supply chain using Blockchain and put an end to counterfeit medicine, for which I won CES Young Innovator to Watch. Working alongside SingularityNET, I developed various CNN and GAN algorithms to diagnose Pneumonia and Malaria with a 90% efficiency. This summer, I interned at TD Bank working on a Digital Identity platform. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working with Clearbanc on data science and Machine learning work!

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

At age 14, I started coding and teaching myself basic programming. I really enjoyed Robotics and joined my school’s First Robotics team for a few years where I got to build a Robot and work with basic Computer Vision programs. It wasn’t until a year later, I joined a human accelerator program called The Knowledge Society where I got exposed to emerging tech and how to leverage them to solve important problems in the world.

This was the inflection point for me where I started to learn about technologies like AR, Machine Learning, Blockchain, building projects and starting to speak about them at conferences all over the world as a result!

I think a lot of this started when I got over the learning curve and realized that I can read research papers, and build projects just with my computer and the internet, age really doesn’t matter for most things. 

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

There are lots of things that excite me like Gene Editing, Quantum Computers, and Nuclear Fusion. Specifically, I’ve been really into understanding Quantum Physics and the Quantum Mechanics behind Nuclear Fusion. Google claiming to reach quantum supremacy which is when a quantum computer solves a problem that classical computers practically cannot was huge and really interesting. In Gene Editing, there have been a lot of advancements in CRISPR with things like CRISPR Chip, Anti-CRISPR and CRISPR Prime.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

I personally want to see more young female entrepreneurs emerge and I think that starts with exposure, which we need more of in our school system today.

I often think about the stigma attached to women working in technology fields. I think a lot of this comes from the previous ways in which we have perceived “technology fields”, the jobs were more often around navigating computers but the jobs today are very different & versatile. To me, technology is not just software or hardware, it’s entrepreneurship, emerging technologies and a way for us to crack humanity’s hardest problems. And to solve these harder problems, we need to think differently than we have for ages. This is why when I look at our world today, technology is the one variable that has drastically changed from let’s say the past 50 years. Today, women are starting their own companies, working at startups, learning programming but this number is still very low. I personally want to see more young female entrepreneurs emerge and I think that starts with exposure, which we need more of in our school system today.

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that? Using your own words, why do we need women focused groups in the tech community?

Although I strongly agree that having a women-focused group can help attract more women into the field, I also think that the thing holding us back is either: 1. Not having the conversation, or 2. Having the conversation but not taking enough action. We need both conversations to start but also action to be taken; more groups to be created, more exposure in our education system, and more support for women. There are lots of smart women in the world that I have personally looked up to and for me, that has been a huge motivating factor. For example, Jessica Livingston is an author and a founding partner of the seed-stage venture firm Y Combinator has been a huge inspiration for me. 

I also think that the thing holding us back is either: 1. Not having the conversation, or 2. Having the conversation but not taking enough action. We need both conversations to start but also action to be taken.

What skills do you need for a career in tech (aside from the acutal tech skills)?

I think a lot of skills are important like just being a good person to work with, knowing how to operate well on teams and your ability to figure things out. On top of all these skills, the most important is having the right mindset. Being open to learning, feedback, and being uncomfortable. It’s the difference between having a fixed vs. growth mindset that I think determines a lot of your ability to learn and keep moving in hard situations.  

It’s the difference between having a fixed vs. growth mindset that I think determines a lot of your ability to learn and keep moving in hard situations.  

What and who were the influencers of who you are today?

From a young age, I got exposed to people like Bill Gates and Elon Musk and their “moonshot” thinking. They are two people that motivated me, in general, to think big and be curious. Some other people I really look up to are Naval Ravikant who is the Founder of AngelList, Vinod Khosla who is the founder of Khosla Ventures and Paul Graham co-founder of Y Combinator. I also want to shoutout, Navid and Nadeem Nathoo (Co-founder of TKS) who helped expose me to these emerging technologies, helped me build my mindset and how to solve important problems in the world. 

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

Just do it. Action > overthinking.

Just do it. Action > overthinking. It’s easy to think that you can’t read that research paper or you can’t learn that new programming language but often there is no point in overthinking. I really believe in the idea of figuring things out and taking ownership of your life. If you really want something and you’re willing to put in the work, most likely you can do it if you can overcome your internal barriers. I would tell myself to start now and just build things and work on projects that interest me the most. Focus on the fundamentals as you’re learning programming, math and data analysis. 

Alishba Imran is a 16-year-old Blockchain and Machine Learning developer from The Knowledge Society, who interned at TD Bank this summer working on AI enterprise solutions. She’s worked on an application alongside IBM to track medication in the supply chain using Blockchain and put an end to counterfeit medication. 

She’s worked alongside SignularityNET on various Deep Neural Networks to diagnose Pneumonia from medical images with a 90% accuracy rate. Right now, she is working on using EHR data and Machine Learning algorithms to integrate a new patient portal for hospitals to provide patients with risk scores and visualizations about their conditions.

See more interviews of our amazing Gals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *