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Women in AI: Shaping the Future and Inspiring Innovation

by Foundry of AI by Rackspace (FAIR™)

When Rackspace Technology® launched Foundry for AI by Rackspace (FAIR™) in June 2023, Najma Jabeen’s team leader threw her a game-changing pitch: Evolve your current position as a software developer into an AI leadership role in the new FAIR initiative.

Today, as Team Lead of Software Development for FAIR, Jabeen leads a variety of AI projects, including Rackspace Intelligent Co-worker for the Enterprise (ICE™) — a generative AI system that is the future of the AI workspace. Designed for the enterprise, ICE makes inferences and generates text based on a proprietary bank of curated enterprise data hosted in a secure and private enterprise tenant.

It’s just one of the many leading-edge AI-driven projects that Jabeen is helping bring into the future — a future she says will include AI in everything. “In two to three years, AI will be everywhere. It will be embedded into every aspect of our lives — from every shipment to every device. It’s an exciting time to get in and grow with this sector as it rapidly expands.”

Najma Jabeen's Headshot

Journeying from engineering to AI

Before starting college, Jabeen thought she wanted to be a doctor. But on the advice of her brother, she switched her focus to computer engineering. “He told me, ‘You have great math and problem-solving skills. You should go into engineering.’ And he was right. I found my strengths were better suited for this career track. I especially liked solving puzzles my whole life and that’s what software engineers do —solve puzzles every day.”

She studied software engineering at the Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering (SJCE) in Mysore, India, earning a Bachelor of Engineering degree. Ranked as a software developer IV, she is skilled in Python, Golang, Amazon Web Services (AWS), MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, Django, Flask, Falcon, Tornado, C, CSS, and HTML.

After college, Jabeen held software engineering positions in two companies, including Cisco, before coming to Rackspace Technology. After starting as a contractor, she had the opportunity to join the company full-time and jumped onboard.

“I knew I wanted to be full-time with Rackspace Technology, because the company was always very supportive of my work-life balance, even when I had my two children,” said Jabeen. “As a full-time employee I’ve taken full advantage of everything the company has to offer, from professional development to training programs to mentorship opportunities.”

Promoting the rapidly expanding AI field

Although AI was a new specialty for her, Jabeen was thrilled to join the FAIR team and embrace the challenges. “I’ve always liked working on tasks that are beyond my current scope. When FAIR launched, I was very intrigued. I was drawn to generative AI because it’s an intellectual challenge, which speaks to my love of problem solving. It also holds immense potential to impact our lives and make a positive difference in the world. My goal is to help create more expressive AI systems that can collaborate with humans in new and innovative ways.”

Jabeen highly recommends the AI field for anyone who is interested in pursuing this career track. She said, “You don’t need a background in software engineering or data science to work in AI. The technologies we have now, like data libraries and ChatGPT, make it very easy to work in this sector. You can learn on the job.”

In an average workday, Jabeen spends an hour or so continuing to learn about the burgeoning AI field. “We have access to a wide variety of courses. So, I’ll watch a video or read a report at some point in my day. I’m constantly learning and looking for ways to improve my contribution to our AI team.”

Gaining new work achievements

In August 2023, Jabeen received the Rackspace Technology Technical Innovation Award. She was recognized for designing and implementing the backend services supporting ICE, and for working tirelessly to implement the application’s security model.

“This is my second award. I also received the ITS Stakeholder. It’s wonderful to be recognized for your work, because you put your heart and soul into making something that helps Rackspace Technology remain a strong partner for our customers.”

Najma Family photo

Also, Jabeen was invited by Srini Koushik, CTO of Rackspace and global leader and founder of FAIR, to join the Rackspace Technology CTO leaders’ roundtable meetings. “This is an honor and one of the proudest moments of my career, especially since I’m the only member of the team from India,” she said.

“It’s a privilege to be able to sit in on the CTO leadership meetings,” added Jabeen. “I get to see first-hand how they solve problems. Plus, I can ask questions and learn from the leaders.”

One of Jabeen’s hopes for the future of software engineering, AI and leadership at Rackspace Technology is that more people from India will be brought into leadership roles. “That would be very meaningful for me,” she said.

Sharing advice for women entering the field

Jabeen is passionate about supporting women who want to enter the fields of software engineering and AI. “I recommend that women who want to enter these fields find a good mentor who will share their wisdom with you,” she said. “Getting the right guidance and knowledge will help you reach your goals faster. Then when you’re a leader, you should become a mentor to other women.”

If Jabeen could give advice to her 12-year-old self, she would say, “Believe in yourself. You’re unique. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. If you want to do something, just put your mind to it, make a plan and go for it.”

“From the beginning, I’ve had a great work experience at Rackspace Technology,” Jabeen said. “I’ve learned a lot about producing quality code versus just rushing to finish projects. I appreciated being able to focus on doing quality work. The culture here is excellent. I’m free to express my ideas and I’ve received great support throughout my career trajectory at Rackspace Technology.

Jabeen added, “I can wholeheartedly recommend Rackspace Technology to any woman looking for an exciting, challenging and well-supported career trajectory in software engineering or AI.

two children holding hands

“Personally, I’d like to thank Srini, Scott Sanders, Justin Kuss and Nirmal Ranganathan for recognizing my work and giving me an opportunity to lead the developers team working for FAIR projects.”

Want to learn more about AI? Check out Jabeen’s recommended learning materials here

Explore Generative AI Use Cases Leveraging Rackspace ICE