Kesha Williams is a software engineer, mentor, professor, speaker, tech blogger, and STEM advocate. She is the Founder of Colors of STEM and the inventor of SAM (a predictive policing machine learning algorithm inspired by Minority Report that predicts the likelihood of crime) as well as Live Plan Eat (an Amazon Alexa skill that takes the stress out of meal planning). Kesha has spoken about SAM on stages across the world and her Live Plan Eat skill has won awards in competitions hosted by Amazon and Devpost.
If that’s not enough, Kesha is the chapter director for Technovation Georgia, a mentor with the New York Academy of Sciences, winner of a coveted spot in TED’s Spotlight Presentation Academy, an United Nations volunteer, a Google Women Techmaker, and an Anita Borg Institute Syster.
Who: Kesha Williams is a senior software engineer at Chick-fil-A. She designs and builds applications that run on mobile devices, desktop computers or through web browsers. By day, Kesha builds next generation applications using Java-based technologies and Amazon Web Services. She often spends a portion of her day “playing” with emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), computer vision (CV)/facial recognition, augmented/virtual reality, machine learning and the internet of things (IoT). By night, she’s an online Java instructor for the University of California, Irvine. She’s trained and mentored thousands of software developers in the US, Europe and Asia while teaching at the university level.
As a software engineer, Kesha is always learning the latest technology and playing with new gadgets, which she finds very exciting and challenging. Her next stage of life still includes software engineering but also introduces mentoring, volunteerism, and giving back to younger generations. She is passionate about solving the STEM shortage by introducing people (especially girls and young women) to technology early on. Lately, she’s volunteered with several organizations that share her same passion to increase diversity. She is excited to be able to use her roles as software engineer and mentor to influence younger generations to consider a career in software engineering.
What: Kesha invented a predictive policing machine learning algorithm called, S. A. M. (Suspicious Activity Monitor). Using computer vision and machine learning, SAM looks at a particular situation and predicts the likelihood of crime. SAM considers several attributes about the person, and even considers his/her current location in order to make a crime prediction. When creating SAM, Kesha intentionally excluded race as an attribute because she didn’t want him accused of racial profiling. The decision to exclude race was an “a-ha” moment for Kesha because it showed her that machine learning can actually remove human bias from certain situations. The power of this technology is absolutely mind blowing. After learning this, she wanted to share what she had learned with the world. Kesha routinely travels the world speaking and teaching about SAM and the power of machine learning at technical conferences.
Kesha insists that we make sure that machine learning is used to improve society instead of reinforcing current issues like racial bias and profiling. When human bias is removed, racial profiling becomes a thing of the past. As a winner of TED + Logitech’s Spotlight Presentation Academy, Kesha was able to present her work on machine learning removing human bias from policing on the TED stage in New York City. She’s also published a course with Manning Publications called AWS Machine Learning in Motion, which shows learners how she created SAM from the ground up.
When: When Kesha was a freshman in high school, her father purchased a computer to do her family’s finances. Luckily for her, he placed the computer in her playroom. Her free time was spent with a Barbie doll in one hand and a computer manual in the other. Later on, in her junior year of high school, she attended a summer science enrichment training program that taught her more about computers. Her exposure to computers early on in life fostered a lifelong curiosity with technology. When she enrolled in college, she majored in computer science and mathematics. She started her career with the National Security Agency (NSA) and 23 years later, she is still excited and intrigued by the continuous advances in technology.
How: She’s most excited about the opportunities to learn new and exciting technologies. Technology is ever-changing and advances on an almost daily basis. She’s excited to be at the forefront of where emerging technologies like machine learning and computer vision/facial recognition are headed.
Why: Being a technologist is awesome because technical people have a skill set that can positively impact every industry, society, and even the world! As we know, everyone needs Information Technology (IT). The demand for technology brings about a plentitude of job options for technical people, job security in current roles, job mobility, higher incomes, and even remote work options! There is no other skill set that provides so many great benefits.