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Data Scientist, Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
Long before she began her work in artificial intelligence, Beata Shahriari had already lived a few lives. A first generation Iranian-American, she's worked as an x-ray astrophysicist, performed as a classical violinist, and even owned her own string of tattoo and tattoo supply shops—where she developed the first-ever disposable tattoo materials. Along the way, she came to a realization: “I was really interested in figuring out what the best business problems were to solve," she says. "Why is this a problem worth solving, and why does it need to be solved now?"
Now she's a Distinguished Engineer and Head of Artificial Intelligence for Global Technology Infrastructure at JPMorgan Chase. She leads a dynamic—and quickly expanding—25-person team. “My team itself is, I think, one of the most diverse teams we have in technology," she says. "It naturally became that way by the nature of hiring by merit."
What does success look like to you?
The success and growth of those around me is the most important indicator of my success. I like to be an enabler for my team and the people I work with. I want the people surrounding me to feel that they are working in a comfortable atmosphere, doing meaningful and impactful work, and are actively pursuing their own development. Together, we are at the forefront of our industry, and I want my team to feel that, and feel energized by it.
I used to focus much more on my individual contributions, but there's only so much one individual can do to achieve success. Holistically, we can do much more.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My parents are very passionate and accomplished in science and the arts. This instilled in me an appreciation for discipline and a drive to make the most of the opportunities afforded to me.
Another major influence is Noam Chomsky. Despite being one of the most brilliant minds and the father of modern linguistics—an entire scientific field of study—he spends much of his life bringing light to political issues. He could have spent much more time basking in his own brilliance, but he uses his platform to do more—despite the criticism he's received.
It's not enough to just live your life for yourself in a bubble. We need to find a way to use our voices and platforms for those who don't have the opportunities to. I feel that I'm in a position where I can do that. Hopefully, I can encourage others to do it too.
What has been your biggest obstacle, or turning point?
For me, my biggest obstacle—and my biggest turning point—was really learning what it meant to be empathetic. I used to go about getting things done through brute force, but I've learned to create bridges and partnerships—and to really listen.
When I came to JPMorgan Chase, my mentors supported my personal development, and helped me learn to be a better leader. I came up with a new method for how I would operate, and how our team would operate. I always start with an outcome — what is it that we're really trying to achieve here, and how does that align with JPMorgan Chase’s vision? From there, what are the objectives that we need to meet in order to be able to draw that outcome? That method shifted my focus: I am now more about objectives and whys, rather than trying to pretend that I know everything.
What made you want to get into this type of work?
I had a few careers that were seemingly unrelated to finance, but there was still the same aspect of research and quantitative analysis. But working at JPMorgan Chase has made that more tangible.
When I was in research, I worked on projects and outcomes that were more theoretical and long-term. But I like having my finger on the pulse of real life, with projects and outcomes that have an immediate impact on people. l also like working in a team, which is something I didn't get much of a chance to do before.
As the pandemic has allowed for comparison, do you prefer to work from home or the office?
I appreciate the immense value of face-to-face interactions in the office—it’s a great environment for collaboration and innovation. But having people work from home has brought the team closer together. It’s allowed me to see people in their element, and that’s added a new level of closeness. On a team basis, it hasn’t been as much of a transition since we span the globe, working across multiple time-zones. In fact, we’ve even been more productive in some ways. And, in terms of connection, we’ve been bridging the gaps through virtual team events.