Championing Women in AI with Meta’s Shikha Kapoor

As technology continues to evolve, we can expect every industry to be disrupted, and AI to become a valuable companion to augment human intuition and intelligence
We speak with Shikha Kapoor, Head of Product for AI Core Relevance at Meta, about how the AI sector can support women and prepare more for transformation

There is no doubt that AI is continuing to transform a wide range of key industries. 

With this in mind, businesses will need to ensure that they are prepared to confront the positives and challenges that it offers, in order to remain ethical and keep a competitive edge

AI Magazine speaks with Shikha Kapoor, Head of Product for AI Core Relevance at Meta, who offers advice to organisations seeking to better prepare for the future of AI, in addition to how they can amplify women within the sector.

Kapoor has worked in Meta AI for more than two years and formerly also worked as a Product Leader for Google, innovating across a broad range of AI products.

Talk to us about your career journey towards Meta and what your current role consists of.

I am a product leader currently overseeing strategy and vision for some of the most innovative and impactful AI innovations for the Discovery Engine at Meta. 

In my role, I work with large teams of senior AI researchers, product managers, data scientists and other cross functional experts across the company to devise cutting edge AI solutions for delivering personalised recommendations to billions of users on Facebook and Instagram

Prior to this, I led teams to launch several industry leading products for Google's AI assistant, helping millions of users around the world be more productive and organised. I have been fortunate enough to be honoured with several accolades, including being featured among top female trailblazers in AI at Google I/O

I started my career as a computer engineer in India, and over the years have led teams to build innovative category defining products in AI, productivity, media and e-commerce.

How do you see AI continuing to transform key industries?

AI is and will continue to have a pervasive impact transforming various industries with advancements in areas such as analysis, content creation, personalisation and automation. For example in healthcare, we are increasingly seeing innovations in diagnostics for improved detection of diseases, analysing vast amounts of patient data to devise personalised treatment plans, and advancements in robotics to assist the medical staff in treatment. 

Similarly, for retail, we are seeing the transformation of the entire lifecycle from delivering tailored recommendations based on nuanced understanding of user preferences, to inventory management, and modernising the supply chain and streamlining logistics enabling faster deliveries. 

I am personally looking forward to the continued pace of disruption in creative and entertainment industries, especially with the advent of generative AI (Gen AI). 

As technology continues to evolve, we can expect every industry to be disrupted, and AI to become a valuable companion to augment human intuition and intelligence.

How can businesses best prepare for the future of AI?

In times like these, it’s easy to feel left out or rush into something that may not be best suited to your business needs. I think it's important to think critically about your needs and be strategic about deploying AI based solutions. 

Stay aware of the fast evolving landscape. Understand the basics and be plugged into the right communities or networks that can help you keep up with the ever evolving landscape. Invest in the right advisors and mentors who can assist you with their expertise.

Prioritise strategic use cases that can clearly benefit from AI solutions. Identify and prioritise a few high ROI areas where AI can enhance user experience with improved analytics or prediction abilities, or make internal processes more efficient with increased automation.

Invest in data quality and maintenance - the output of your AI models will be very highly dependent on the data they are trained on. Ensure that your data is clean, high quality, is addressed for potential biases, and that you have a reliable and scalable infrastructure.

Finally, implement responsible and ethical AI development practices. Educate yourself on the regulatory landscape and implement industry best practices for responsible and safe AI development.

Drawing from your career experiences, what advice would you give those starting in the field of AI?

Invest in building a strong foundation- It’s important to build a strong foundation in the fundamentals of Computer science and AI. I would also highly encourage being hands on and ensuring you build something yourself. Going through that process will ensure a deep understanding of fundamentals and will go a long way in enhancing your confidence and ability to invent new solutions.

Build a network of peers and mentors. Build a strong network of peers, mentors and be plugged into the right communities(such as college clubs, local meetups in your city etc), for access to knowledge and guidance.

Be agile and proactive. Acknowledge that this is a fast evolving space and it's important to be nimble and proactive in keeping up with the pace of innovation. Once you’ve built a strong foundation, it might be helpful to strategically prioritise a couple of areas to build a deep expertise to differentiate yourself and establish your unique brand.

In particular, how can we inspire more women to join the sector?

Relatable role models. I strongly believe that you cannot be what you cannot see. I think it's important for the next generation to see relatable role models. We need to celebrate women leaders in AI and amplify their stories and contributions.

Build a strong support network. As mentioned above, having a strong network of peers and mentors is incredibly important. Specifically there are many organisations and communities focused on advancing women in AI (for eg- girls who code, Women in AI etc).

Bring your unique perspective to the table. Be unafraid to advocate for your ideas or offer a diverse perspective based on your unique experiences. This is a fast evolving space and we need diverse perspectives to ensure we build solutions that are robust, safe and effective in addressing critical pain points for everyone across the globe.

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