Aspire to Inspire: A conversation with Weiwei Feng, AI National Lead in Sweden

Aspire to Inspire is a showcase of leaders at Sogeti, through which we aim to bring you a wide range of perspectives around the topic of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). In this blog post we are in conversation with Weiwei Feng, AI National Lead at Sogeti Sweden.

Tell us a bit about your educational & professional background!
I started off with my education in construction engineering. However eventually I developed an interest in statistics and moved to Sweden to pursue a masters in statistics. When I completed my masters, I wanted to explore Computer Science and Machine Learning which is how I went about pursuing a second masters in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. I worked as a Statistics Lead before I joined Sogeti.

How did you get started at Sogeti?
Surprisingly my journey started with me meeting my manager’s wife in the gym. We spoke about my work and later I heard from my manager who told me about the work we do at Sogeti and if I would be interested. That’s how my journey with Sogeti began.

What has your journey in Sogeti been like?
Before Sogeti, I was primarily working with statistics but I was always interested in Machine Learning and when I started with Sogeti I got to explore this passion. I started off with some small projects followed by one of our 6 innovation projects with the Swedish government which ended up being a success. Post this, another interesting project I did was with satellite intelligence analysis which was another successful endeavor. After consulting on both these projects for a significant time, I have taken on my current challenge of AI National Lead to build the AI National Team so we can expand on our expertise and speed up AI implementation

As a woman tech leader, how do you overcome the bias and standout?
I noticed that in a lot of meetings, especially technical ones, I was often the only woman in the room. I’m aware that a lot of women who do get an education in IT choose less technical career paths. Partially the gender bias is responsible for this. However, I haven’t been in a situation where I felt like I need to overcome bias. I stand out purely through my experience and knowledge and the professional trust I have built with the customers over the years.

How do you see the industry evolving in terms of becoming more inclusive?
I think the biggest advantage I have is that I live in Sweden where I feel that effort is taken towards fostering gender equality. For e.g. When it comes to parenting leave in Sweden, both men and women have equal rights. At Sogeti I have always felt that there has been a lot of encouragement for young women to choose a tech career path. We have taken an active effort to gender-balance during the hiring process. While I understand the effect won’t be instantaneous, we all should keep inspiring and motivating women talent both in Sogeti as well as the society as a whole.

How do you balance your professional life and passion outside of work?The first thing is that I see no difference between the efforts I need to take to balance my professional and personal life versus my husband. We actively ensure that when we are at work we are 100% focused towards our professional duties. In our personal time we both focus on family and our home life. I train several times a week which is a relaxing activity for me. On weekends, my son and I spend time catching up on our respective reading while listening to music. It’s a great way to unwind, spend time with him and foster reading. I think with the schedule I have, I don’t think I have had to struggle both my professional and personal lives and have managed to give equal importance to both. I do, however, maintain some basic rules like not logging in on the weekends which has helped make the balance easier.

What is next for you and what does your career future look like?
I really like living in the current moment and if I ever feel like something is missing in my knowledge I read and learn. If I feel like I need to be challenged I try to find a new professional challenge to tackle. And if I feel like I need more influence, I look to Sogeti to help me grow in a position where I can have that influence. I try to be optimistic and it is this optimism that I bring wherever I go or whatever I do.

Some key insights or learnings you would like to share with our young talent
I always pay attention to how I act in different situations be it as an employee, as a team mate, a leader, parent, child or partner; but I never in any situation think that “As a woman how should I act?”. So that’s my biggest recommendation to our women talent, if you want to support gender balance, remove the gender bias in your own mind first.