Meet Shikha Surana, NeurIPS 2023 Women in Machine Learning (WIML) Workshop presenter



InstaDeep Research Engineer Shikha Surana presents her work on COMPASS (Combinatorial Optimization with Policy Adaptation using Latent Space Search) at the NeurIPS 2023 Women in Machine Learning (WIML) Workshop.

It is Shikha’s WIML workshop debut but she’s already popular AI speaker at Women in Tech events in Paris, having presented at twice in the second half of 2023. 

“I’m excited to continue contributing to the dialogue and celebrating the achievements of women in the machine learning community,” Shikha says of the WIML workshop. 

“The shared commitment to knowledge exchange and empowerment within these groups aligns seamlessly with my passion for advancing research and technology in a collaborative and inclusive environment.”

Shikha is a research engineer at InstaDeep where she has led various projects, ranging from combinatorial optimization to evaluating state-of-the-art vision language models and even contributing to a biological sequence design project.

To give the WIML and NeurIPS community a chance to get to know her better before the workshop, we asked her three questions.

What inspired you to work in AI?
AI, to me, represents a field with boundless possibilities, and my initial curiosity was instantly piqued by the desire to understand its inner workings and push the boundaries of what could be achieved. This curiosity isn’t just about the technology itself but extends to the profound impact it can have on our world. The realisation that AI has the potential to serve the greater good and address pressing human challenges infuses my work with purpose, propelling me forward in this exciting field. Striving to solve real-world problems within this field allows me to exercise creativity, and I draw inspiration from the myriad out-of-the-box thinkers who continually shape and redefine this landscape.

Moreover, the gender disparity I observed in my professors and peers was a pivotal factor. It became essential for me to enter AI, not just as a career choice, but as a commitment to contribute to making the field more gender-balanced. I believe that a diverse and inclusive AI community fosters innovation and ensures a broader spectrum of perspectives in addressing global challenges.

What advice do you have for someone entering the field?
My advice for someone entering the field of AI is to be courageous in your pursuit of knowledge. Don’t hesitate to ask all the questions and explore every seemingly crazy idea that pops into your mind. AI is an ever-evolving field, and innovation often stems from the willingness to challenge the status quo. Recognize that every single colleague has something valuable to teach you, and strive to absorb insights from anyone and everyone around you. 

But most importantly, savour your time in this field. In my totally unbiased opinion, AI is the most exciting, fast-paced, and mind-blowing field to be a part of. The thrill of pushing the boundaries of what’s possible is an exhilarating journey. So, enjoy the process and revel in the excitement of being part of a field that has the potential to reshape the future.

And last question: What’s your favourite AI meme?

It’s hard to pick one favourite but this one’s definitely in my top three 🙂 

Shikha Surana presents to the 18th Women in Machine Learning Workshop (WiML 2023) at NeurIPS on Monday, December 11 at 8:30 a.m. Think you might be interested in joining our team? Visit