by Adam Stapleton – 

A few months ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Alessandra Sala from Shutterstock about her role as Director of AI & Data Science. Alessandra is a shining Ambassador for Women in AI Ireland; “a non-profit do-tank working towards gender-inclusive AI that benefits global society”, in Alessandra’s own words. An inspiration not only for women coming into the field but for anyone looking for a blueprint to a stellar career in ML.

I first spoke to her about her education and background coming into the field – one doesn’t simply fall into a leading role at the illustrious Nokia Bell Labs, a company she worked with for more than 8 years, let alone lead an international Data Science team without some serious strings in the proverbial bow. Those not phased by the technicalities and keen on on peering into the future of technology will hopefully enjoy Alessandra’s insights on one of the generation-defining topics of our time – Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) – AKA the all-knowing robotic super-brain that will change the way we exist and interact with reality forever. 

AGI has the potential to dramatically change the world for the better. Or maybe not. Any number of sci-fi epics have depicted the dangers of AI gone wrong to the extent of dystopia. While these dramatisations tend to seem far-fetched and removed from our world, the pace at which technological change is occurring means that the world as we know it and the structure of the societies that we live in may change more in the span of our lifetimes than it has in the history of technological civilisation. All the better that we get a diverse range of inputs to the development of such a technology and that it be democratised for the good of all. 

Alessandra is a passionate advocate of diversity in our shared discipline. We dived further into this in a bit of an off-piste discussion away from our main questions on AI (and I make no apologies for script deviation here, what Alessandra had to say on the topic is worth hearing!) touching on Alessandra’s role in designing Ireland’s first Master’s programme in Artificial Intelligence and some other wonderful success stories from the Women in AI community.

Finally for those of you who are budding practitioners of ML, AI or Data Science or those simply enthralled by Alessandra’s enviable career, we had the privilege of gaining insight from Alessandra’s broad knowledge on the necessary qualities for success in the field. Not every day we are lucky enough to get such pearl’s of wisdom!

Find all of this and more in my interview with Alessandra below.