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WAI Volunteer of the Month-Fereshta Yazdani

Shannon Kehoe - WAI Germany Ambassador & Data Scientist @troy

Fereshta has gone above and beyond to grow the community here in Germany: she secured a high-profile speaker for our state-of-the-industry event, maintained relationships with partners during the transition period between ambassadors, recommended highly qualified candidates for key roles on the team, and handled some growing pains for us last year in a calm, courteous and professional manner. She has been invaluable to our team and I can’t imagine a WAI Germany without her.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

Currently, I work as a technology consultant and data scientist at Lufthansa Industry Solutions, a subsidiary of Lufthansa. I have more than eight years experience in the field of AI in research and industry.

My parents were granted refugee-status, I was born and raised in Germany. I did my PhD in AI and robotics at the university of Bremen and supervised other students in their diploma or master thesis. Sharing my lessons learned and experiences to younger people by supervising / mentoring them and exchanging with them is a win-win situation. I like it a lot, therefore I am also volunteering as a mentor in Industry for young women and in schools for children.

Q: Would you have any advice to other people who may want to follow your path in Industry?

After I completed my PhD, I applied for a position in the Industry, in spite of my academic and mentoring experience, I was repeatedly told I lacked experience.

And even that 5 years of academic experience = 1 year of industry experience.

I went to work as a Software engineer, I was missing AI and after a year, I applied again for a data scientist role, and was successful.

Q: What motivated you to take an active part in WAI?

I was looking for some community/network to connect and to get involved. I wanted to get to know and learn more from women in this field because as I was advancing in my studies, there were fewer and fewer women. However, after I joined Women in AI, I was impressed that a lot of women are out there but they did not have a stage to shine. This is one of the reasons why I am here, helping them to shine.

Q: What did you do when volunteering for WAI?

At the beginning, I helped in organizing the WAI summit in 2019 . But because of the finalization of my thesis, I had to cut down on my involvement. Weeks later, I opened a chapter in Bremen as a City Lead and partnered with different communities, institutions and research centers in and around Bremen.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer role?

Appreciation. When you are joining and working in a team who is welcoming you with open arms and appreciating you, giving you advice when you ask – it feels amazing. Having someone to support you and you can rely on is a great feeling and also rewarding.

Q: What have you found challenging when volunteering?

Volunteering while keeping deadlines in private life --- for instance at the end of my PhD, start of WAI summit. It was stressful and I could not manage it. However, communication is very important – after I communicated this to the other organizers, I was able to focus on my studies and my task was split with other volunteers.

There is a way to handle those things and it is called communication!

Q: Would you have any advice for anybody looking to volunteer?

Just join the team, if you are not an expert, want to change your career or just want to learn something about AI – the doors are open for everyone. You have not just the opportunity to learn the difference facets of AI, you also have the opportunity to get to know great people inside your country and abroad.



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