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You don’t need to be a tech fanatic to know that artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most exciting fields of research today. This is largely owed to the world’s AI professionals and research communities; if not for their intellect, curiosity, and commitment, then the innovations we enjoy today simply wouldn’t exist.
One woman who is spearheading efforts in AI is Dr Tina Klüwer, who you may know as the founder and CEO at parlamind. Her company specialises in AI-driven automated communications in customer service and is the product of Tina’s experience and dedication to the AI field. Intrigued by her career history and position as a female CEO and woman in tech, we sat down (well, remotely) with Tina to find out more.
Thanks so much for joining us, Tina! Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about your education and career history?
Sure! Before I founded parlamind in 2015, I had a ‘first life’ as a scientist. After graduating, I moved to the very well-known Language Technology Lab of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, first in Saarbrücken and later in Berlin. There, I researched and published internationally for more than eight years, covering topics such as chatbots, dialogue systems, and text analysis.
At the time, I was also doing my PhD in Computational Linguistics – a sub area of AI dealing with the processing of human language – at Saarland University, where I explored the subject of modelling social signals in chatbots. After that, I became the CTO at parlamind, and only two years later, I became CEO after one of my co-founders left the company.
However, I still have a great passion for science. That’s why parlamind is still very close to research and focuses on self-built innovative technology, and it’s our excellent technology that really differentiates us from others.
As we've already mentioned, AI is one of the most exciting fields of computer science today. What attracted you to working with and studying AI?
That’s true for now, and also for all the AI summers that we had. However, when I started my studies, it wasn’t that popular or well-known.
My main motivation to study Computational Linguistics was actually to better understand human language and knowledge. In doing so, I could work on my goal to simulate human behaviour in machines to better understand human language and knowledge.
During that time, I realised that there are tons of interesting applications you can build with AI that are conversational at their core. I also became fascinated by the technical and business opportunities. Applications such as parlamind for customer service and other AI applications can significantly change the way we work. For the first time in history, we have the possibility not only to support our physical labour with machines, but also our cognitive work.
Technology, of course, is a field historically dominated by men. Can you tell us about your experiences as a woman in tech and as a female CEO?
I’ve experienced being the only woman in a group of men a thousand times, not only in AI, but also in technology and business as well. In fact, several times, men mistook me for being the secretary. Another time, a guy at a high-class meeting of politicians, investors, and technology experts thought I was the woman operating the coffee machine.
Those incidents aside, my experience of being a female tech CEO is quite positive. You definitely get a lot of attention – it would just be nice if it was more normal already.
At parlamind, we’ve always had engineering teams that are at least 50% female – and the same goes for other departments. In fact, our team in general is quite diverse. Finding and attracting women to the vision of the company was never a problem for us. One reason for this, I believe, is that we have a natural and understood culture of respect in the company.
What was the main motivation behind you launching parlamind?
I wanted to build something holistic and permanent, something that is of use for someone and perfect in all its parts. I also noticed that in the startup scene, there are more people that want to change something and build something new and special. It’s a very inspiring and creative surrounding in which people take many risks. I felt more at home here.
Outside of parlamind, how do you spend your time?
Mostly with my family and friends. My husband and I have two kids in primary school, so whenever there is time, I want to spend it with them. If I’ve still got time to spare around that, I can always find something to keep myself busy. In fact, I’m currently obtaining a boat licence! Around Berlin, there is so much water and beautiful waterways. I’ve been quite slow because there’s not much time (laughs), but when I’m finished, I’ll be spending time on that as well as with my loved ones.