Women in Innovation: Samantha Lengyel

"Right now, I have a responsibility to try and make it easier for young women to enter the AI industry."

We interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries. This week we spoke to Samantha Lengyel, CEO and Co-Founder of Zalia Flow.

What are you working on?

Zalia Flow is a toolkit to build AI that people delight in trusting. Whilst we’re really excited about AI, we’ve found that most businesses find it more of an alien intelligence than an artificial one. We want our customers to be able to quickly deploy state-of-the-art AI that can explain why and how it makes decisions, so that businesses can rely on this technology with more confidence. Right now, you can use our product to build really quick explanations of machine learning models, so that cross disciplinary teams can work together on difficult problems.

Why is innovation important to you?

To me, innovation is the perfect combination of creativity and defiance directed at improving or tackling an unsolved problem. It’s a weird and wonderful collision of storytelling and mechanical design. It’s exhilarating! You always hear an unexpected story whenever you talk to someone in innovation. It can feel like there’s a kind of gravitational pull for us all to come together from all walks of life. All that, and then you remember that we’re solving problems that affect real people? It’s really the ultimate opportunity.

What drives you to make a difference?

There’s definitely a kind of freedom in innovation. I think that, in that freedom, you almost can’t help but try and make a difference. There’s almost a responsibility or moral imperative to innovate. If you’re in a position to make someone else’s life better or easier (without a cost to someone else) then why would you do anything else?

I also think that, right now, I have a responsibility to try and make it easier for young women to enter the AI industry. There are a lot of barriers in this world and they can seem really arbitrary. Often, I find that the opportunity to build something from scratch lets us create things that aren’t held back by old ways of thinking. I see that as a cycle of creation, implementation and then reflection, all of which give us the opportunity to grow both as a company as well as individuals.

Do you have any advice for getting more women into the innovation ecosystem?

I have three ideas.

For society: stop putting girls and young women in bubbles and telling them not to take risks. Let them fall, fail and flail, repeatedly. The root of inequality is discrimination at a young age. It always bears repeating.

For successful people: connect, mentor, publicise and let entrepreneurial women follow you. Learning from others helps us to find new perspectives but those perspectives are hard to come by. There are so many programs out there, or create your own? Don’t be afraid to share, you never know what a connection could mean to someone’s success.

For women young, old and anywhere-in-between looking to get into innovation: find something that you’re passionate about and immerse yourself in it. Be a sponge! Eventually, you’ll start seeing patterns and problems. Talk to people about them, testing is essential! Usually, the first thing you think is wrong (but it’s OK to be wrong!), so you’ll pivot closer to the right one. Ask anyone who knows us, we’ve pivoted more time than anyone can count. Failure can be hard. You can spend months thinking ‘am I crazy?’, ‘can I really make something out of this?’, or ‘does anyone even care?’. You’re not, You can, and They do. Find a problem that drives you. If you’ve found a problem you care about, it won’t be a question of whether you want to quit, it’ll be that you can’t quit.Just do it. It’s hard. But I also wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.

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