Xebians Unveiled; Mariam

"Balancing Tech and Ethics" - Delve into Mariam's path as a Data and AI Strategy consultant at Xebia, advocating for ethical AI. Her diverse background and commitment to ethical practices in tech underscore the blend of integrity and expertise in AI success.

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Balancing Tech and Ethics

The Story of Mariam
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Mariam, a Data and AI Strategy consultant, is on an authority mission. She stands for opening the conversation around responsible AI adoption. It’s important to her to see both sides of the coin: the opportunities and risks of AI. It’s all about balance, that is, in her professional and personal presence. With her cultural background and her curiosity at heart, Mariam is a force that lights up a room.

Stepping Into the IT Field

Young Mariam didn’t always want to be a Data and AI strategy consultant. “I wanted to be an actress […] I knew that my work had to have a public component.”  From an early age, Mariam felt driven toward being a part of a larger whole. Though not directly setting her feet down that path, Mariam found a way to incorporate the element dear to her heart into her professional career.

Mariam’s parents had different plans for her future, as they recognized her aptitude for analytical thinking and encouraged her to pursue a mathematical path. However, Mariam was uncertain about her own path. It was her sister’s job at a bank that initially sparked her interest in econometrics, ultimately leading her to pursue an education in the field. While her study advisor expressed doubts, “econometrics is very difficult; not everyone can do that,” Mariam was motivated by this to prove herself and demonstrate her capability.

Mariam spent 10 years of her career deep in the econometrics and data sector. However, she always knew that she was drawn more towards business than furthering her career as a programmer. At the same time, she did not want to put the years of technical studies – which were full of blood, sweat, and tears – to waste. She looked for positions catering to that sweet spot between data, IT, and business, leading her to a role in Data strategy and AI ethics. Mariam dedicates her career to exploring the issues around responsible AI adoption and ethics.

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A Mosaic of Cultures by Every Definition

Born in Armenia, Mariam moved to Moscow at the age of 3. When she was 15, she came to the Netherlands. “I am ethnically Armenian but culturally hybrid,” Mariam reflects. “I have a deep appreciation for cultural diversity and a thirst for knowledge from various perspectives.” Adapting to different environments is not an issue for Mariam, “but it shouldn’t be at the cost of your authenticity,” Mariam firmly declared. On occasions, Mariam had to compromise her authenticity in spaces that did not make her feel seen for who she was, which is why Mariam took the decision to join Xebia very seriously. “It was a long, well-considered choice, searching for what I was getting into. I wouldn’t be a data person if I didn’t keep an Excel file with all the questions, pros, and cons.” After long consideration, Mariam was finally sure that her purpose fit wonderfully into Xebia’s and that she could be her true self without compromise. “I wanted a (place) where it is safe to share among the open mindedness of my colleagues. Where I’m not judged based on someone else’s filter, but encouraged by their curiosity.”

“I have a deep appreciation for cultural diversity and a thirst for knowledge from various perspectives, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of your authenticity.”

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Generational Influences and a Balance in Energies

The influence of female role models in Mariam’s life cannot be overstated. “For me, it was my two older sisters and my mother who played pivotal roles in shaping who I am today. Growing up as the youngest, I looked up to my sisters and my mother, absorbing their energy and guidance.”  Her mother is an influential source for Mariam to find her feminine strength. “She demonstrated immense resilience in the face of adversity, showing me the power of perseverance and adaptability.” As Mariam recalled, “Her ability to navigate through unfairness, sorrow, and challenging circumstances while remaining steadfast in her journey is something I deeply admire.”

As much as Mariam appreciates the guidance from the women in her family, she also feels an inner motivation to break away from certain patterns and find her voice amidst familial dynamics. With a feminine embodiment coach, Mariam has been working on understanding the power of emotions and different types of energy. “Through various practices containing elements of sound, breath, and movement, much like yoga, running, journaling, and meditation, I learned to channel my emotions effectively and find a balance between my feminine and masculine aspects.” This balance, not tied to gender stereotypes but rather to the internal characteristics we all possess, has been transformative. It has enabled Mariam to confidently navigate the often masculine-dominated consultancy field, embracing her feminine strengths when needed. “It boils down to how can I stand in my power as a woman from my feminine traits but also my masculine traits.” By tapping into both energies, Mariam discovered a newfound sense of empowerment and authenticity in her personal and professional life.

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Navigating Through the Uncharted Waters

While stepping into her comfort zone and getting to know her true self, Mariam’s authority mission became very clear. “My focus has gravitated toward responsible AI and ethics. It’s about being a voice of consciousness, asking the tough questions. Ethics in AI is truly navigating uncharted waters, filled with difficult questions we’d rather avoid.”

The relationship between ethics and technology is a two-way street, as Mariam acknowledged.  “Ethics can be seen as a reflection of society, and at the same time, society changes because of technology. This means that the ethical values we hold today will eventually change. We can consciously think about how these norms will evolve in society, or we can let things happen on their own. We have a responsibility and a significant influence in shaping the future, rather than just letting it unfold.”  Mariam believes that organizations while deploying innovative technologies, should develop a solid ethical compass to guide their actions. “As professionals, we bear the responsibility to address these issues collectively. I aim to raise awareness and inspire action, whether it’s through one-on-one conversations or engaging with clients and colleagues.”

Ethics in (Gen)AI is Mariam’s passion, one that allows her to follow her childhood desire: being on stage. In her journey of sharing knowledge with the world, Mariam found herself on stages, hosting workshops, and joining podcasts—all the places where she can truly live her passion. Not only is she a part of a much bigger whole, but she is also actively contributing to the future of responsible technologies.

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Stay True to Yourself

Mariam’s advice for feeling empowered is to keep looking for your inner connection. “When you are born into this life, you are allowed to take up space. Deep down, everyone knows what they want and what they stand for. Sometimes it’s blurry, but when you strengthen that connection with yourself, you know what home feels like.” 

“When you are born into this life, you are allowed to take up space. Deep down, everyone knows what they want and what they stand for. Sometimes it’s blurry, but when you strengthen that connection with yourself, you know what home feels like.” 

Xebia’s inclusive culture resonated with Mariam. “Here, I could be my authentic self without fear of judgment or conformity. People are open-minded and curious. Instead of making you feel bad or insecure about something, they only want to know more! It’s a safe space to share whatever is on your mind and to take up space I deserve.” With her strong mission and her deep passion for responsible AI, Mariam also notices some of her colleagues joking around. “Sometimes I hear them jokingly say, ‘There is Mariam again with her questions about ethics.’ But there is no judgment in it; I love that I can be unapologetically myself.”

Stay tuned for more profiles on the amazing people behind Xebia.  

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