Empowering Women in AI with Gelareh Taghizadeh

“Human connections go beyond a simple list of contacts. They form a network of support, inspiration, and chances for growth.”

How does one journey from the realm of AI theory to the frontlines of applied AI innovation?

In our latest Networking Success interview, Gelareh Taghizadeh reveals one of her secret ingredients: Prioritising human connections.

Gelareh’s path in AI started with an academic curiosity about its theoretical foundations. This spark soon grew into a burning desire to see those ideas translated into tangible impact, propelling her transition from academic research to industry. Today, as Head of Data Science at Colibri Digital, Gelareh leads a team harnessing cutting-edge AI to deliver impactful solutions across industries.

At the heart of her story is a vision for a tech world that’s inclusive and welcoming for all.

Get ready to be inspired as this accomplished data science leader shares her experience transitioning from a decade in product roles to client-centred leadership, her work advancing women in STEM through mentorship and how cultivating a strong network can supercharge your career and enable you to make a meaningful impact.

About Gelareh

Gelareh Taghizadeh Headshot.

Gelareh Taghizadeh
Gelareh is a seasoned data science leader, currently serving as Head of Data Science at Colibri Digital, where she spearheads a team delivering cutting-edge AI solutions across industries. With over 9 years of experience in the data science industry, Gelareh has a track record of delivering innovative results that enhance business growth and customer satisfaction. With technical expertise specialising in cutting-edge NLP technologies like large language models (LLMs) and transformers, as well as proficiency in deep learning and recommender systems, Gelareh brings a wealth of knowledge to her leadership role. Passionate about empowering women in STEM, Gelareh serves on the advisory board for the London Chapter of Women of MENA in Technology, a non-profit organisation dedicated to closing the diversity and gender gap in STEM. She is also a Tech Mentor at WomenTech Network, a community promoting gender diversity in tech and connecting skilled professionals with top companies that value inclusion. As an AI Mentor at MentorCruise, Gelareh provides personalized guidance to AI enthusiasts, helping them accelerate their growth and success through career strategy, job navigation, and skill enhancement. Her previous roles include Lead Data Scientist positions at Beamery and CogX. With an unwavering commitment to making the tech world more inclusive and welcoming for all, Gelareh continues to be a driving force in advancing the representation of women and diverse talent in the field of AI and beyond.

A heartfelt thank you to Gelareh for sharing her inspiring journey and reminding us that at the heart of technology, it’s the human connections that matter most.

Your journey to becoming the Head of Data Science at Colibri Digital is inspiring. Could you share what initially drew you to the world of data science and AI?

I’ve always seen AI and myself as old friends, going back to when I began my master’s degree in AI. A time when AI wasn’t as recognised as it is today. My educational path, from my master’s to my Ph.D., was deeply focused on the theoretical aspects of AI. This area of study sparked a deep curiosity in me about how AI can be used in everyday life. It was this fascination that drove me to move from the academic world to the industry sector, a decision I’ve never looked back on.

In the industry, the challenges are immediate and real; you face real-life data problems. Seeing the direct impact of your work provides a rewarding feeling of success and the chance to innovate and put solutions into action much quicker than the slow, detailed research process in academia typically entails. This lively environment is where I excel, always being driven to apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations.

Currently, I am leading our AI initiatives at Colibri, where I support our team of data scientists and cloud strategists in designing and delivering solutions that truly make a difference for our customers. It is incredibly rewarding to witness the real-world impact of our efforts as we address complex problems and significantly enhance the quality of life for people.

Multi-coloured lines of data.

Shifting gears from a decade of product roles to your client centered leadership role at Colibri Digital is quite a change in terms of human interaction. What has that been like for you personally and professionally?

It has been both a significant change and an enriching experience, both personally and professionally. On a personal level, this transition has been refreshing. It has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, challenge myself in new ways, and enhance my interpersonal skills. Engaging directly with clients has given me a unique opportunity to understand their perspectives, aspirations, and challenges directly . This direct engagement has been deeply rewarding, as it has enabled me to make a tangible impact on their lives and businesses through our AI solutions.

Professionally, this shift has broadened my horizon. Previously, my focus was predominantly on the product side, where I was more involved with the technical aspects and the internal strategy of product development. Now, my role requires a balance of technical knowledge, strategic thinking, and a deep understanding of our clients’ needs and industry dynamics. It demands a more holistic view of both our product and the market, pushing me to stay ahead of industry trends and ensuring that our offerings remain cutting-edge and relevant.

Looking back on your career so far, what has been the greatest lesson you’ve learned about the power of human connection, relationships and networking?

Paper aeroplane going faster than other planes.

I think that human connections go beyond a simple list of contacts. They form a network of support, inspiration, and chances for growth. Trustworthy and respectful relationships, where we truly care about each other’s success, can lead to unexpected opportunities that might not be visible at first. They help us see things in new ways, encourage teamwork, and can bring surprising chances that might change our career paths. The key lesson I’ve learned is that the real value of your network isn’t in the number of people you know or the size of your online following. It’s in the depth and quality of the relationships you build over time.

Given your impactful role in empowering women in tech through your mentorship work with Women of MENA in Technology (WoMENA), what unique networking challenges do you see for women and underrepresented groups trying to build their profiles in STEM fields?

I have observed that women and other underrepresented groups of STEM go through many challenges. These range from stereotypes and bias, lack of representation, and limited access to influential networks, issues of careers versus personal responsibilities, to mention just a few. Such challenges may include fewer chances of being taken seriously, finding fewer mentorship opportunities, and fewer opportunities to attend networked events. We need to have more inclusive networking spaces; mentorship programs designed specifically for such groups but at the same level, fight the biases in STEM so that everyone has an equal opportunity to build their profile and succeed.

In your experience, what strategies have proven most effective in supporting and advancing women in these male-dominated spaces?

My approach is gender-free, so I always step into meetings with my skills at the forefront, and this is what I always emphasize to my mentees. So, having said that, to build confidence in our skills, we need robust training and up-skilling programs within our workspaces. This includes not only technical training but also mentorship programs that offer nuanced context and personal growth opportunities.

Creating an inclusive environment is also vital for everyone’s success. Despite the progress in diversity within the tech industry, there’s much work to be done to achieve true inclusion. This means making sure everyone feels valued, heard, and able to fully contribute, regardless of their background. By empowering individuals to bring their whole selves to work, we create a richer, more dynamic environment that benefits everyone. This is the cornerstone of building a truly inclusive culture that leverages diversity as a strength, paving the way for a more equitable future in the tech industry and beyond.

Mentorship has clearly played a vital role in your career. What impact has being a mentor had on your professional journey, and how do you leverage your network to effectively mentor others?

The word mentoring spelled out with paper notes.

Being a mentor has definitely shaped my professional journey by sharpening my leadership and communication skills, expanding my perspective through engagement with diverse individuals, encouraging a culture of continuous learning, and utilizing my network to support and enrich the mentorship experience. Through mentoring, I’ve learned to articulate ideas more effectively, encountered new viewpoints that have sparked creativity, stayed updated on industry trends to provide valuable guidance, and leveraged connections to benefit both my mentees and my own professional development. This role has not only allowed me to contribute to others’ growth but has also significantly enriched my career path.

Lastly, for those aspiring to leadership roles in tech what networking advice would you give to help them navigate their path and make meaningful connections that propel their careers forward?

Climbing the career ladder in tech requires building real relationships and using platforms like LinkedIn to stay visible. Being active in industry events is also key. I remember going to meetups early in my career to meet people and grow my professional network. This helped me build a strong LinkedIn network that keeps me updated on the latest trends. Having mentors and a coach helped me a lot, and now I help others as a mentor. I’ve learned that offering help and keeping in touch are important. You need patience and a true desire to help, not just to collect contacts but to make meaningful connections that can really help your career grow. Embracing new opportunities and staying curious about the latest technological advancements can also play a crucial role in your career development. Remember, every interaction is a chance to learn something new and to potentially open doors to future opportunities.

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