Creativity, not perfection: Cyclone Engineer Benazir Fateh solves cutting edge tech challenges at Google

Cyclone Engineer Benazir Fateh (PhD ’13 Computer Engr) works on the cutting edge of technology – as a machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) specialist at Google with some of Google’s Cloud’s biggest customers, namely Twitter, Uber, Apple and PayPal.

Problem solving at Google

Fateh gets to work, learn and play with the newest technologies when they first emerge at Google. In her role, she sees the problems big technology companies face within the ML/AI world and helps figure out scalable solutions. She especially enjoys creatively designing ML solutions.

Her favorite type of problem is large-scale end-to-end machine learning systems that have many moving pieces. “Complex challenges require understanding the nuances and limitations of existing products and solutions and creating a scalable solution – and that’s exciting,” Fateh said.

Fateh talks directly to customers to understand the problems they face. She then works with Google Cloud’s Product and Engineering teams to design customized machine learning solutions just for them. While Fateh takes pride in being a woman in her role, she says there are plenty of women in roles similar to hers at Google.

Women in Data Science ambassador

Fateh is scheduled to speak at Iowa State’s Women in Data Science virtual event on March 25.

Fateh’s initial involvement with Women in Data Science began in December 2020 when she joined to meet other data science experts, stay up to date on field advancements and have an outlet to share her knowledge. Since joining, Fateh upped her involvement level and became an ambassador to organize events regarding problems and solutions in machine learning and share them with a wider audience. For Fateh, the involvement is about more than just herself. It’s about inspiring others around her as well.

Fateh said, “I feel that in addition to the external circumstances, many times the internal blockers in a woman’s head prevent her from taking risks and crafting a career of her choice. I want to take every opportunity I can to share with young women professionals the lessons that have helped me being a woman in STEM and in data science in particular. Women in Data Science provides an excellent forum to do that.”

Innovating at Iowa State

Fateh wants to help others in her field, and this is something instilled in her since being a student at Iowa State. During her time as a Ph.D. student, she said one of her favorite memories was being a chemistry teaching assistant. She states that another favorite memory was mentoring seniors in their capstone projects while she was working at John Deere.

“I had a ton of learning and fun being outside my comfort zone and doing a lot of creative thinking,” Fateh said.

Creative progress, not perfection

 Fateh ended up at Google through LinkedIn. A recruiter reached out via LinkedIn and she excitedly jumped at the opportunity to combine engineering, product development and sales in the AI/ML domain.

“The importance of professional networking and self-branding are very much talked about these days, and I could not overstate the importance of it after having landed this job through LinkedIn,” Fateh said.

For other women looking to get into a role like hers Fateh stresses the need to be “creative problem solvers.”

“My advice to anyone looking to be in a role like mine is to have a growth mindset, to learn every day and be comfortable with continuous change. I feel that the quest for perfection limits a woman’s ability to learn from the imperfect moments. Career and life in general are not perfect and perfection sure isn’t needed to be a creative problem solver,” Fateh said.