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One woman’s quest to improve our lives through AI

By Sydney Radclyffe for Box News

Milena Marinova always had a love of numbers. She spent her childhood competing in math events at a high level, so her gravitation to the world of data, machine learning and AI comes as no surprise.

Milena is Senior VP of AI Products and Solutions at Pearson’s. She’s also a Mentor at Unreasonable Future – a group focused on job creation and social equity. Moreover, Milena is Venture Partner at Atlantic Bridge Capital and a Board Member right here at Box Media. Pretty impressive.

Diverse fields of experience have given Milena a multi-layered understanding of complex ideas that others are often intimidated by, or else see as marginal and self-contained. Recently Milena welcomed Box Media in to share a glimpse of her world.

Exploring how AI can help humanity

Milena’s expertise centres around AI technology. Not just current and future applications, but in a holistic sense. Milena is particularly interested in considering the solutions and problems that AI could address, or indeed create, for humanity.

At the heart of Milena’s outlook is a people-based approach that strives for collaboration between AI and humans, rather than one working for the other. Where many today are overwhelmed by technology and its potential powers, Milena brings an ethical, pragmatic and forward-thinking perspective, identifying links between concepts to see the bigger picture.

A personal vision for the future

Milena’s work pursues a greater good rather than placing business concerns and profit above all else. This approach stems from her vision of success and the way she sees perceptions of this value shifting soon.

Before we know it, she explains, the business labelled ‘most successful’ will be that which proves itself the ‘most ethical’, not ‘richest’ – particularly when it comes to large corporations. Milena believes that AI and other emerging technologies aren’t self-contained. They exist within a web of interconnected technological, economic, political and social concerns – a reality reflected in Milena’s mindset.

A dreamer with an insatiable thirst for knowledge

Milena already has more than enough on her plate. But, this doesn’t stop her from dreaming about careers she’d choose if she had the time to do it all again.

Not to say she regrets her chosen path, but hearing her speak, you get the sense that she’d like to do the work of three or four lifetimes in one. It’s a testament to her drive and thirst for knowledge that, when we asked her what an alternative career might have been, she responded simply with “brain surgeon”. Of course, she doesn’t miss the chance to connect this to AI technology, going on to talk about the possibilities of using AI for the advancement of neuroscience.

It’s a man’s world – but don’t let that stop you

Despite the low number of women in AI, Milena doesn’t immediately identify gender challenges in her experience of the AI industry, claiming she “fell into it”.

Let’s dig a little deeper; there’s more to this story. Milena spent significant time and energy on learning skills like programming in a time before this sort of learning was readily available. Programming is something Milena says doesn’t come naturally to her. However, she felt having a basic grasp of programming was essential to her career path, so she pushed herself to learn.

Some words of wisdom

Milena’s advice to other women looking to build a career in the field is to nurture your expertise as armour against intimidation – something she identifies as a common problem in male-dominated fields.

Milena recommends taking introductory courses as an excellent way to gain a solid grounding in mathematics and other specific skills sets, creating a foundation of confidence. Another example of the philosophy of continuous learning at every level.

Don’t think of ‘goodness’ as lesser in importance than intelligence. Value both equally, and don’t waste time putting up with “brilliant a**holes”, no matter how impressive they may be.

Success comes with sacrifices – but AI could be here to help

Milena doesn’t hide the fact that being a woman executive can come with some challenging trade-offs, particularly when it comes to your personal life. As she puts it, “you can have it all, but not at the same time.”

Milena sees this as a matter of choice. She loves what she does and is driven to succeed, resisting the assumption that all women will, at some point, want to prioritise ‘settling down’. She sees this drive as common in the kind of people who change the world and feels it’s tied more to individual personality than gender.

Milena will always take the opportunity to link these challenges back to AI and its potential to ease struggles we all face daily.

Having our menial and repetitive tasks taken over by intelligent machines would relieve our mental load, leaving us more time to focus on what matters. For women under pressure to succeed professionally, who also want to raise families and still somehow make time for themselves, growing technology like AI assistants could be a lifesaver.

From innovating to mentoring and everything in between, Melina believes thoughtful and responsible AI development will give us all more room to simply ‘be human’.