Diving into Deep Learning: Meet Narimane Hennouni



Can competitive swimming prepare you for the dive into AI?

Once a competitive swimmer in national and international competitions for 18 years, Narimane Hennouni brings a competitive and resilient mindset to her role as an InstaDeep research engineer in San Francisco. Now, she navigates the complexities of insurance analytics, Printed Circuit Board Design (PCB), and biology. Follow her story as she shares her journey into AI engineering, advocating for gender diversity and breaking barriers for women in tech.

We sat down with Narimane to discuss her journey in AI.

What inspired you to work in AI?

Before going into computer science, I was uncertain about my path. Chemistry was a passion, among other things. But when I realized that computer science, specifically artificial intelligence (AI), would open doors for me to enter various fields, I saw it as a gateway to endless possibilities and that was my main motivation to enroll in a computer science engineering school.

During my undergraduate studies, I delved into AI.  At that time, it wasn’t really a big thing but, today, it’s the real thing, even if not fully understood by everyone. Engaging in various projects reinforced my belief that AI integrates into different domains using the same base knowledge of AI.  For instance, at Instadeep, despite lacking experience in biology, working with the bio team allowed me to learn this fascinating domain. The adaptability of AI and its everyday evolution keeps me engaged in the field with a lot of learning opportunities. You simply can’t get bored.

What path led you to where you are today?

My journey in AI started at the end of my second year in university. Our courses were primarily focused on computer science fundamentals and mathematics but I was always curious about AI. It was during this time that I discovered a school club called “School of AI”, I started attending some of their workshops and I really loved the vast potential of AI and its unique qualities compared to other computer science disciplines. Unlike its counterparts, AI (particularly Deep Learning) ventures into understanding cognition and complex human-like behavior, which I found both fascinating and challenging – a combination that resonates with me as someone who eagerly embraces new challenges.

In my final year of engineering, I got the chance to work as a research assistant at a lab in NYU Abu Dhabi. There, I worked on using reinforcement learning for compiler search space optimization. While prior efforts had been made in compiler optimization, our aim was to introduce a novel approach using reinforcement learning. The project was open-ended, offering boundless possibilities while maintaining a consistent objective. However, transitioning to the industry, particularly with my current projects at InstaDeep, has brought a sense of urgency to accomplish tasks, meet deadlines, and satisfy client expectations. The environment is notably more rigorous and demanding.

What advice would you give to women just beginning their journey in the field?

As a WomanTech Makers (WTM) ambassador, an initiative by Google to empower more women in tech, my goal is to support more women and encourage them to join the field. I’ve never hesitated to be part of a team or pursue opportunities, even if I’m in the minority. Women may sometimes feel intimidated in male-dominated environments, where representation is lacking, and judgment from others can influence them. 

My background in competitive swimming instilled in me a mindset that welcomes challenges and allows me to see them as a path to growth rather than obstacles. I want to share a quote that I always work by: “Fear is a reaction, Courage is a decision.” That feeling of fear is natural, but allowing it to hinder your progress is not acceptable. Don’t let fear or doubt hold you back. By setting an example and offering encouragement, we can motivate more women to explore and excel in this remarkable field, reducing the gender gap far sooner than the estimated 131 years (it’s predicted to take).

The presence of  women in teams brings diverse perspectives and allows the creation of truly gender-inclusive solutions and products.Therefore, it is essential to encourage women in your teams and acknowledge their value and contributions.

Are you ready to take the leap and step into AI like Narimane? Apply now: https://www.instadeep.com/careers