Kairan Quazi worked for Blackbird.AI as a machine learning intern in the Summer of 2022. We met with Kairan recently to follow up with him about this experience, and to learn more about where he's headed next.
Q&A WITH KAIRAN QUAZI
Why did you choose Blackbird over all the other opportunities you had to intern?
Blackbird stood out from all other opportunities in its platform, its collaborative culture, and in the opportunity for impactful work offered to even interns. I was awed by the company’s revolutionary platform for disinformation detection and management. Also, Blackbird’s culture of collaboration would give me access to mentors and peers that challenge how I think and grow. Lastly, as an ML intern on the R&D team, I knew I would thrive in an environment that required advanced technical skills, challenged my perspectives, and emphasized an ability to communicate with different internal stakeholders.
What did you think about the mission, the team, and the leadership at Blackbird?
Blackbird’s leadership conscientiously lives up to their stated values. I always felt that I had direct access to leadership, that my ideas mattered, and they trusted my ability to develop a complex product from end to end. As a candidate, I do not fit the traditional hiring boxes. Fortunately for me, Blackbird’s leadership team believes in merit, equity, and outlier potential. Instead of dismissing my unconventional circumstances, they saw my value, trusted my accelerated abilities, and invested in my growth. They gave me early lessons on transformational leadership and being a voice for others. I am excited to carry these cultural lessons into my career. But this experience also taught me a lot about myself. I realized that I thrive in environments where the work challenges my existing skills and where leaders and colleagues trust me to be a meaningful contributor.
What did you learn during your internship with us?My work at Blackbird operated at the intersection of disinformation detection/management and the latest machine learning innovations. I had the unique opportunity to build an anomaly detection statistical learning pipeline from design to deployment. On the technical side, I learned many aspects of product design that I was not previously exposed to, including feature extraction, unsupervised learning techniques, production databases, cloud platforms, and designing scalable applications. On the non-technical side, I learned to effectively communicate across different stakeholder groups, manage expectations and timelines, adapt to the fast-paced environment of a startup, and consider the big picture implications of our work.
What did you do before interning at Blackbird, and what are you doing now?
Prior to Blackbird, I served in a software engineering/AI co-op with Intel Labs. I will remain in the co-op until I graduate this June. Fun fact: I am the youngest ever student to work at Intel and remain the only undergraduate student to serve in their prestigious Human AI Lab.
What are your goals for the next four years?
Because of rapid innovation in the tech sector, four years feels almost like a lifetime. I mean, TikTok is only 6 years old! My passion, skills, and experiences intersect with AI/ML, so my focus for the next four years is to launch a career where I can contribute meaningfully to this field while growing my functional skillsets and broadening my perspectives. My ultimate goal is to build a startup that operates on the intersection of data, AI, and security and considers the platform from a lens of ethics, data biases, civil liberties, and unintended consequences.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve worked on in your career so far?
From Blackbird’s disinformation detection suite where I used unsupervised machine learning techniques to help combat information warfare, to Intel Labs’ predictive speech generation platform where I use NLP to help people with disabilities communicate effectively, I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to different projects and thinkers that are transformative in their societal impact.
Congratulations Kairan for landing a job at SpaceX. Learn more about Kairan's recent career development below.
Credit ABC7 News Bay Area | Source
Blackbird.AI helps organizations detect and respond to threats that cause reputational and financial harm. Powered by their AI-Driven Narrative & Risk Intelligence Constellation Platform, organizations can proactively understand risks and threats to their reputation in real-time. Blackbird was founded by a team of experts from artificial intelligence, and national security, with a mission to defend authenticity and fight narrative manipulation. Recognized by Forrester as a "Top Threat Intelligence Company," Blackbird's technology is used by many of the world's largest organizations for strategic decision making
BALANCING THE COMPLEXITIES OF ONLINE DISCOURSE
While all these recommendations seem to be sound, the likelihood that these measures can be agreed upon and implemented are becoming increasingly less likely in the U.S. and around the world. In fact, we have been moving in the opposite direction. Platforms have begun to roll back access for research communities, decrease moderation around misinformation, or strike down moderation altogether in the name of freedom of expression. The very notion of banning a popular platform in the U.S. would have seemed unthinkable a few short years ago, with organizations like the ACLU strongly voicing that a ban on TikTok would violate the First Amendment.