Feb. 10, 2021

#15: Ifueko Igbinedion - CTO and Co-founder of Hairtelligence


My guest for this episode is Ifueko Igbinedion. Ifueko is the CTO and co-founder of Hairtelligence: a black hair startup looking to innovate the beauty space by use of computer vision. She is an exceptional engineer with industry experience at Google and start ups that still struggles with imposter syndrome from time to time. She breaks down how she battled it over the years to gain more confidence herself and shares how you can do the same. In this episode she breaks down how she battled it over the years to gain more confidence in herself, and she shares how you can do the same.

Show Notes

Introduction [0:00]

When Did She First Discover the World of Computer Science and Technology [01:10] 

 Difference That Switching to Computer Science Made for Her [07:34] 

What Influenced Her to Pursue Master's in Electrical Engineering and a PhD In Computer Science [15:55] 

How She Started Working on Haptics [24:30] 

How She Got Past the Imposter Syndrome and Started Believing in Herself [36:00] 

What is Hairtelligence and How It Works [44:00] 

Her Experience as a Founding Engineer at a Startup versus Being an Engineer in the Industry [51:17] 

Key Takeaways

  • Growing up, I had access to computers. I made a MySpace page that I liked to customize. I was learning to code HTML, CSS, XML at that young age, without realizing it.
  • I wrote an Excel macro, when I was a sophomore in high school. I programmed in the periodic table, stoichiometry balancing, understand the electrons in the bonds, by programming the individual properties of every single element on the periodic table. It did my stoichiometry automatically.
  • When I failed my Organic Chemistry class, I realized that this hardcore chemistry was not for me. As for coding, I associated it with really cool things.
  • When I started doing computer science, I was getting more A's and actually learning how to learn and balance my time.
  • Learning coding is looking at examples and swapping things out to the point where you could write something from scratch with a blank piece of paper.
  • Computer science is finding information, understanding a protocol of communication and conveying what you want to happen with the protocol and the information that you have been given….
  • It's interesting to see the power the internet really has to take technology, simplify it for everyone, bring everyone together in crazy numbers and make a lot of money at the same time…
  • When I was a Freshman, I was in a Summer program with all PhD students of underrepresented minorities and women, just showing kids that they could do this too. That it wasn't a big deal to get a doctorate in this field, and to really dive deep into anything.
  • There is a lot of imposter syndrome and intimidation, when you see people who do look like you succeeding, and you just think how could I ever get there? That seems so difficult and impossible for me…
  • What I really liked about computer science was breaking down problems into a coding type format, and a language that everyone can understand…
  • The way that I ended up doing my Master's in electrical engineering was that in the internships, I didn't have the confidence to think that I would really want to do it forever.
  • Figuring out how to work with hardware was how I got into that electrical engineering degree. My electrical engineering focus was signal processing, which is really just computer science of electrical engineering.
  • I started to realize that computer science is a hammer that you really can put anywhere. If you read enough books about your situation, you can write code for it.
  • I think the kids that really excel either have extreme discipline in the way that they prepare and pure intellect, or the ones who figure out what is important to learn, and how to learn that quickly.
  • With a PhD, I thought if I do a PhD, I can do anything I want; I could probably do a company, become a professor, or an industry researcher. I'm in the PhD now, I'm realizing that there are only very few futures that I would find fulfilling at this point.
  • It's interesting how as you progress through the world of academia, everything you thought you knew doesn't really apply in actuality.
  • I feel like I had an imposter syndrome throughout my undergrad. I think it was it was a combination of low self confidence and extreme anxiety. It stopped being imposter syndrome, when I gained the confidence.
  • Getting over the anxiety of it and just stepping into it is the first step.
  • Figuring out what you need to do is also an important step, because the anxiety of where do I even start is daunting.
  • Learning to build things from scratch is the best way to kind of get over the imposter syndrome.
  • Having the tenacity to fail so many times before you succeed, that's what getting good at computer science is all about.
  • I think realizing that people who wrote write production level code are also imperfect. They are just successful because they have lots of people in system supporting them.
  • Computer vision is using images and writing code that analyzes the pixels and colors in the image to just understand something.
  • We're really trying to do is leverage the power of very simple computer vision algorithms to really revolutionize a space and allow people to customize, you know, visualize and like fall in love with their hair every single day with Hairtelligence.
  • Being an engineer at the founding level requires you to be able to understand systems at a high level and understand how the pieces should fit together.
  • Having an experience of working in the industry and understanding what do engineers need to run quickly is very important from a tech CTO leadership perspective.
  • “You see so many PhDs going into government industry research or industry, software engineering, because they don't want to take the tech and turn it into something that helps people turn something that's useful into a product.”
  • “So many industries have benefited from AI, why can't the Black hair industry benefit from AI as well? Why can't we get better products and create more jobs for everybody?”
  • “I have to try to bring value into the spaces that I care about hair and beauty is like one of my biggest hobby, something that really affects every Black woman.”

Where to Find Ifueko Igbinedion

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/ifuekoi

Website: https://ifueko.com/

YouTube: fancy fueko: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvVAxOBEAMgu7WwTcFptt-w

Transcript

Note: Black Enterprise Network transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human transcription. They may contain errors, although we do our best to avoid them. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting a transcript in print. Questions? Errors found in a transcript? Email us! 

Kimmiko James  0:01  
imposter syndrome, the internal experience that plagues people looking to accomplish their goals and dreams, especially those in the tech industry. I feel like everyone's experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. But if you haven't think can best be described as having intense feelings of self doubt, and thinking you're some kind of fraud with what you're doing. This way of thinking can eventually lead you to self sabotage, because you don't believe in yourself. And this episode, I speak with the phaco, CTO and co founder of hair intelligence, a black hair startup looking to elevate the beauty space by use of computer vision. She's an exceptional engineer with industry experience at Google, and various other companies and startups. She still struggles with imposter syndrome from time to time. In this episode, she breaks down how she battled it over the years to gain more confidence in herself. And she shares how you can do the same. Let's get into it.

small percentage of black people are currently represented in the tech industry and entrepreneurial spaces. This includes engineers, startup founders, investors, especially those that hold leadership roles. I want to share your stories. I just wanted to know how did you first discover the world of computer science and technology?

Ifueko Igbinedion  1:14  
Yeah, so it's funny because I didn't know what it was. And I was already in it from when I was a kid. So you know, I'm a millennial Born in 93. So you know, my parents had like Windows 97, I grew up with computers in my house. And it was kind of like the one piece of technology my parents would let us have, we were not have video games, like we had TV. But I was like very monda My parents are very strict Nigerian immigrants. So they're just like school, you know, but the computer was necessary for school. And I was like, really good at my typing class. And like the third grade, so like, okay, you can use a computer to like, do your homework and stuff. So I wasn't allowed to have social media. But obviously, I didn't listen. And I made a MySpace, right. And so I would really get into like making really cool MySpace profiles, because I didn't want to put so many pictures of myself on my profile. So people would be able to distinguish me based on like, how my MySpace was pimped. And I was like, super lame. I knew at that point, right. But I was, you know, learning HTML, CSS, XML, you know, that type of technology. And I didn't really realize that I was coding at that young age. And there was no computer science class in my high school, even though it was like a top High School, quote, unquote, you know, for public schools in California. But that was just because you know, you know, early 2000s or mid 2000s, it wasn't really a super big focus in high school for people to be coding. So you know, I was set on going to Stanford not even know why I was set on going to Stanford, I think that when I was like, the sixth grade, my sister was a junior or something. Maybe she's six years older than me. Oh, no, she's she's much older than me. And so she was in college, the year before I became a freshman. So I was reading one of her books, was talking about the colleges of the United States. And basically, it was going college by college and talking about the reputations, right. And so Stanford, it said, for their reputation, like if you go to Stanford, that's a big deal. Like just saying you went to Stanford was a big deal. So obviously have to go there, right, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I was really good at chemistry in high school. And I didn't really know that I wasn't actually going to chemistry, I was actually good at math and computer science. And I just figured out how to translate that into automating my chemistry homework, which let me get really high grades on chemistry. So let me explain.

Kimmiko James  3:23  
Yes, we do that.

Ifueko Igbinedion  3:26  
Basically, in high school chemistry, we do stoichiometry, right. And it's like when you balance the equations to make sure you have the number, the right number of molecules, when you're doing some sort of reaction, like x plus y equals z, and there's some sort of coefficients, right. And so that's math, right? And so a lot of the homework we were doing was, you know, understanding what happens in chemical reactions and like doing these equations and stuff. And so understanding what what happens, yeah, this regurgitating the textbook, but the actual answers for the stoichiometry, you'd have to, like, write it out and do it properly. And that's usually where people lost points. And so I actually wrote an Excel macro, when I was a sophomore in high school, and an Excel macro is basically the backend to Microsoft Excel, there's the spreadsheet program, you can write code to do things in your programs, right? And so I programmed in the periodic table, and then did my you know, stoichiometry balancing, like, understand the electrons in the bonds, like just by programming the individual, you know, properties of every single element on the periodic table, and when it was an ion, all that, and I did my stoichiometry automatically, and then kind of verified it by looking at it by hand, right? And so that wasn't really be cranking out the equations, but I got perfect scores on my homework assignments. The poor people are like, what are you doing, like, help me out with this? And I was like, Oh, yeah, I'm so great at chemistry, I should do chemical engineering, because this must be what chemical engineering is right? Got to Stanford realize chemical engineering is more so understanding organic chemistry and environmental science and renewable energy and that type of thing. And so you have to like get through again.

Chemistry. And when I did that organic chemistry class, I failed it. Like Actually, it was funny because it was my spring semester at Stanford. And everybody told me if you're a chemical engineer, you have to have a coding class under your belt to be respected. Right? So I was like, fine, I'll take it early, you know, first stage coding class, just because you're forcing me to. And I was kind of taking a coding class in the Summer Academy that I did prior to Stanford that was focused on making people engineers and putting you in the Ph. D. program. And so I was okay, fine, I'll take it. But that program had scared me when I did computer science, I vowed to never do it again. And so because I didn't know what it was, I really didn't, it didn't didn't give me a full overview what computer science could be for me. And so when I took that first class, it was so funny, because the assignment was the infamous Carol, it's this like robot 2d picture that you just programmed to do mazes and stuff. And I love video games like computer video games, because once again, only having access to computers, when I was a kid, that's the only type of games I'd be able to play. So I really like fell in love with programming this little character and like learning Java, and learning for loops and doing all this stuff. And I got like, perfect scores on all the homework assignments. So I ended up with like, a very high a on the, I'm not in that class, and failed the organic chemistry class at the same time that I was kind of like, you know, reading and trying to do homework and like, I ended up switching it to pass fail, because I was like, I'm no, I'm not going to get an A in this class, or a B, and I don't want to get too many C's and undergrad actually got out with only one. So that was, you know, a win for me switch to the pass fail and failing the class. And then I was like, Hmm, maybe I should rethink what I actually enjoy doing. Because this hardcore chemistry stuff is not for me. You know, coding is fun, I associate coding with video games, and, you know, social media and AI, artificial intelligence, like I associated with really cool thing. So I was like, you know, I'm just gonna do this. And my parents were upset, because that's not usually the job that people want their immigrant child to be, you want them to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or business person, right. And so being a software developer wasn't that, you know, common, you know, it wasn't that revered to my parents and their generation, which, you know, 20 years prior, because 20 years prior wasn't the tech boom. And I was kind of just like, you don't realize the potential that this has for me, and I'm gonna do it regardless. And what are you gonna do? Because I have a full scholarship here. So like, without a full academic standards, and what are you really going to do, like, you can't tell me what I'm doing. I'm getting good grades. And they eventually came around very quickly, once they saw the increase in my GPA, because

Unknown Speaker  7:33  
I was

Ifueko Igbinedion  7:34  
getting like straight B's before I know, I started doing computer science, I was getting so many more A's and actually learning how to learn and balance my time. And like being devoted to school like developing that when you didn't have the structure before, it takes a lot of devotion to be good at school. And my first year, I was not devoted whatsoever, I was kind of just like doing it because I was supposed to. And that was for my future. And then when I found computer science, it was something I enjoyed. I just wanted to explore and figure out what I want to do with it. I took a whole bunch of random classes, I finessed the system in terms of the school requirements to like be able to do as many things I wanted to do and as little requirements as possible. I mean, I did suffer through the requirements and like I passed them and whatnot. But I really excelled in my subspecialty. And that's what made me realize that computer science is such a broad field. And the applications are literally endless. Every single industry in the world is touched by computer science at this point, because every business has a website, if you're legitimate, you will show up on Google, you know, so computer science permeates everything you can really do whatever you want with it, regardless of whether or not you're super into coding or not. I just so happened to love to code.

Kimmiko James  8:39  
So I find it interesting. And I've heard this a lot of you're doing computer science without even knowing what it is like but my space, you have to customize your page using HTML and CSS. And I'm sure a lot of people and teenagers were doing that. But they didn't consider it code. And then High School. I'm still puzzled as to how did you not know what you were doing? Like? Did you just Google? how to program in Excel? Or like, yeah, so

Ifueko Igbinedion  9:05  
for Okay, so I guess the two things are the MySpace profiles and Excel. So my first I feel like it was easy to figure things out eventually, because we were learning digital cameras, right? Like, I bought a digital camera for my birthday one year, and I would go to the park with my friends and take all these, you know, grotesque selfies I look back, I was like, I really thought I was so cute, you know? You know, it's like the joy of just being able to put your face in front of a camera and snap a picture, I thought was a big deal. So I was like, I'm gonna put my pictures up here. How do I do that? And I took a really artsy picture of the sunset or something in California, because I lived in the desert, right? And so there's a lot of desert pictures I could take. So it's not the picture at all want to put this out the background of my MySpace profile and look at like where it was and figure out what was the background picture like where they found it? How would I upload it? How would it access it and be able to just like swap things out. And that's what learning coding is. It's kind of looking at examples and swapping things out to the point where I I could write something from scratch from with a blank piece of paper, just because I knew the different elements that were required to define that page, right? Because you could actually go in and customize that code, so in depth. So you know, that was not really saying, Oh, I'm learning how to code. So I could pick my MySpace profile, it's like, I want to make my face back on pink, I want my background to have like opaque covers and animations and how I do all these things. And Google was a big deal that I was like, you would just google how to animate x, y, z, and my, my face profile will pop up. And that's why people in my generation are so loyal to Google, simply because it really provided us all the answers in high school. So we learned how to not actually have to learn. And we just learned how to be able to find information. And that's really what computer science is, it's finding information, understanding a protocol of communication and conveying what you want to happen with that protocol and the information that you've been given. And so yeah, I think that's really how I learned how to code without actually knowing that it was coding, you know, but it's kind of falling falling into something that I was really enjoying and why to do myself. And so for the Excel macros, that was also I googled, like, how do you do equations in Excel, and it popped up Oh, macros, you can define variables. And that was, you know, simple enough, because you had variables and your equations was like algebra. And so programming algebraic macros is more so you know, mathematical scripting, versus hardcore object oriented programming. So I was never doing, you know, Java programming classes and understanding the structure of things, and sub classing inheritance, all those core concepts of actually developing computer science systems, I had no clue what those were, you know, I was just trying to hack into this program to make my life easier in some way or to make you know, something beautiful, or, you know, something interesting or engaging for myself, because I was so bored as a kid that was really allowed to do anything. So that's kind of falling into coding. And I really find that people do similar things. I've actually heard one story of this girl who was shop online in that generation, and figured out how to change like using inspector and Internet Explorer back then, because I guess there wasn't expected of some sort, and actually change or somehow modify the price of items on the web page. And then like paid $0, for things that would get like free things center house, because they didn't notice a glitch. It is not though maybe you have some coupon code or something. But like, got away with like getting a lot of free stuff, by hacking to these websites before they started to realize, you know, security threats that happened on the internet, you know, and so that person probably wasn't thinking on coding, they're like, Oh, I want some free stuff, you know, and I was like, a 10 year old, I can't do this. You know, that's like, I'm not learning how to code to hack the internet. It's no, it's like, that's a cool little jelly bean bag or something I don't know, like. So I think I think that's really like finding joy in something and really wanting something and then being able to understand technology and try to figure it out. I think in this day and age as well, the app age, right? All sorts of apps are developed to do all sorts of things. And I think they're designed in different ways. So you have to actually understand how to use an app to be successful in it. And the kids nowadays can pick up an app and the scroll through that and understand it in seconds. Right? And that's like, you know, a sign of good design for the average user. But even poorly designed apps, Gen Z can pick up a poorly designed app and figure out that thing in minutes or hours if not, and older people you see them really struggling with interfaces, because they're just not used to that thing. I think I think it's just like, what you grew up with the frame of mind that you're in like iPods and laptops and cell phones are very common in early 2000s. Even for young kids, you know, when I was a kid, in the third grade, I got in trouble for bringing a cell phone to school. So I couldn't get my cell phone back until I was, you know, many years older. So I think just the environment you live in, and the technology surrounded by being able to understand and figure that out. I think a lot of people find joy in that. And you can see that even with the social media age, people getting into streaming on YouTube, and you know, the whole video game streaming era that I've just shocked at, like the pure numbers of it actually saw a report recently about the actual numbers that streamers are making in terms of revenue. And it's really shocking, because the number of people who just enjoy watching video gameplay, right? So that's something that is common for people of younger ages than me specifically because that was, you know, the big thing that right. And so when people hop on to technology as young people, they make it popular as they get older. And those are the things that dominate when they're in their early to mid 20s. Right. And so it's very interesting to think about the real power that kids have to change the face of industries 510 years later, just because of what they like we see it today with Tick tock, you know, yeah, it's crazy growing up, Instagram and Facebook do not have that kind of growth in their first few years. So it's just it's just really interesting to see the power the internet really has to this You know, take technology, simplify it for everyone and bring everyone together and crazy numbers and make a lot of money at the same time.

Kimmiko James  15:07  
What I really appreciated in your answer about when he kind of learning how to code without knowing it really is just using Google as your best friend. And knowing how to ask the right questions of like, I mean, the millennial millennial generation isn't the only generation to rely on Google for answers. sorry to tell you. We probably use it wave.

Unknown Speaker  15:28  
I bet

Kimmiko James  15:29  
I bet. But yeah, I just want to agree to that point. And a lot of people it amazes me about many people are intimidated by learning how to code and I'm just like, you just have to know how to ask the right question. You don't know how to do this thing, Google how to do that thing. And you'll probably get 1000 results, but usually start with the first five to 10. And then from there, you go into a forum or ask an engineer and get help, but I really did appreciate that point.

Ifueko Igbinedion  15:51  
Yeah, definitely. 100% agree with that.

Kimmiko James  15:55  
I just wanted to know specifically, what influenced you to not only pursue a master's in electrical engineering, but also right after a PhD in computer science, because not not a lot of people want to go that route. Once they get that degree that bachelor's degree in CS, they're done. They're in the industry. That's it. I rarely see someone majoring in masters. And even after that, I rarely see people on a PhD. So why did you do it?

Ifueko Igbinedion  16:19  
There are a lot of factors, really. So I like to say it was a fluke, and I'm driven by money, but I have to be honest, that that's really not what happened. Okay, so when I was a freshman, the year the summer before I did the Stanford summer engineering Academy, and I think, role models, and the words you put in people's heads are really impactful. Because in that program, the hugest joke in that program is if you don't get a PhD, you owe Dr. Noah lizano, your firstborn child. And so it's like, like, what do you owe the child for? Like, are they going to do a PhD? It was just like, it was a huge joke. And the program was a huge family, but it was all PhD students of, you know, underrepresented minorities and women, just showing kids that they could do this too, you know, that wasn't that big of a deal to get a doctorate in this field, and to really dive deep into anything, you know, and so that you could really do anything, and they feel you want to do if you want to do a PhD, right? Because you're the first person to do something. That's the whole point of a PhD. So I did all these internships, I actually was, I was not really planning to do a PhD. Like, I don't think in my mind, I was like, yeah, I'm just going to do a PhD. Because the people that I saw around me were amazing, you know, like one of the resident assistants in a nearby dorm, like it was the black dorm. And so I would hang out with my friends over there. And one of the residences, he was so smart, he would get, I think he was the salutatory in of this class. And that's a big feat, because he was in chemical engineering, and I was in chemical engineering as well. So I really looked up to him as kind of like, wow, he's, he's on the PhD track, you know, he's like, going to be successful. And I, I'm pretty sure he was directly to his PhD, and probably a professor now, you know, I think that's actually the case with this specific person. But um, you know, seeing those types of role models is like, wow, what am I doing? You know, like, what, like, I'm just trying to, like, get through the classes right now. Right. And so, I think there's a lot of imposter syndrome and that and intimidation, that you see people who do look like you succeeding in this, and you're just like, how could I ever get there? That seems so difficult and impossible for me, you know, so I did all these internships. And I was probably convinced that, you know, computer science is the way out, you know, it's good money without any more degrees, you know, because you can get, like, I'm pretty sure interns get paid six figures at Google, like are at least when I was an intern back then I'm not certain that it's probably the same if not more, and full timers, you know, you're not getting paid under six figures, if you're a software developer full time at Google, especially in the AI field, artificial intelligence, which is where I mostly work, right. And so the money was great, but I really just didn't feel fulfilled in internship positions, because it was like, Oh, we have this existing system, understand the system deeply create a new attachment or a new node in the system, and you know, help it run a little bit more efficiently, like 5%. And like, I was really good at that. And I enjoyed being successful at that, but it's just like, this is what I'm really gonna do forever. Like, I'm just gonna just fake fix other people's machines and like, clean other people's data. And, you know, it got to a point where I did two internships. The first one was at IBM, I guess that was like a started internship. I was trying to get a job, you know, like, I want to take internship before I was picky. And so it was really cool to actually learn how to use Raspberry Pi. And I understood what like ARM architecture and what all those things meant. And I built like a whole system with another student and he he honestly did most of the work but it was like great to learn under somebody who was a senior and like was going to work full time. He ended up working full time. I was like, wow, like the possibilities are endless, right. And so my next year, you know, I actually stumbled into Google internship interviews. In the gates building at Stanford, I don't even know if I like signed up for it or not. But I did interviews in that building and I got past like two interviews is kind of like coding on the whiteboard and going through problems, I was really good at problem solving. So even if I didn't know the language, I would just make stuff up. And like, fill in the gaps. Like, I didn't know how an array was indexed, I would just like make up a function, right? And I think they really liked that.

Google that right, and fix the bugs. And so they're like, well, the syntax is best. But like, exactly, that's exactly what you need to do. Right. And so I think they liked that about me. And I made it through the interviews to get like a job, I didn't really know what I was doing, I couldn't really code to save my life back then I was a great problem solver. And a great like, you know, code skeleton person, like I was really able to break down process, because that's what I really liked about computer science was breaking down problems into a coding type format, and a language that everyone can understand. Because I struggle with oral communication and comprehension more so than I do with math. I'm not I wouldn't say I'm like deficient. But you know, math is just so elegant and simple and straightforward to me. And I find comfort in that. And computer science is kind of like translating language to math and finding comfort in that structure. So I'm, you know, getting through my that into my first job, you know, I create a MapReduce framework to like analyze Hotel Ads data and detect errors and stuff. I'm certainly don't use that anymore, because it definitely didn't work as as I thought it did, you know, but it was kind of learning new systems and developing something kind of getting code to compile and like process large amounts of data and get expected outputs, right. And so that was really cool and a great experience. And then for my next internship, I did something not similar in terms of the actual application, but it was more of an AI application, because that first one was like pseudo AI like big data, MapReduce, and AI, some sort of like comprehension and classification type problems, right? So that I guess you could consider that application AI. But this one was more so very much AI because we wanted to take a robot, and they already have this system set up where they had a robot that had a little finger, and it could touch cell phones. And like you could like take the picture of the cell phone with this camera and like see what the response was right? And so they wanted to see how can we test latency on something? How can we use this robot to do some sort of computer vision to do some sort of tests comparing Google phones with iPhones, right. And so I think what we ended up doing was, you know, testing latency of keyboard clicks and stuff. And that was really cool for me, because I was like, yeah, I'm writing this whole testing framework. So they can like prove that their phones are better than their phones, I really don't know whose phone was better, but I don't really think it worked. So well, you know, it was good enough that they wanted me to come back. But I was also like, you know, I'm not super interested in it. And I also feel like I got past that internship by the skin of my teeth, like, that application barely worked. And I didn't have the confidence back then to think that I can make it better. You know, and so actually ran away from that position, even though it's very similar to types of things I was doing. It was like embedding models and Python and stuff. And if I had stuck to it back, then I probably would have been doing a PhD much sooner than I did. At that point. I'm not sure if that's when I started doing my masters. But the way that I ended up doing my master's was in these internships, I didn't have the confidence to think that I would like really want to do it forever. And I had a lot of friends who were also tech people, and they just like, yeah, that coding life isn't for me. They were doing business internships and consulting stuff. And like, and I was like, I don't know, if I necessarily want to work in business, and, you know, consulting, banking, and that type of stuff. That doesn't seem much better, you know, seems just as boring as coding all day. Right? So, so I was like, I don't know what I'm gonna do. And I also at that point, I was basically like, it was like, spring semester of my senior year, I had classes that I had to take and pass to graduate, right. So if I failed any of these classes, which is like getting a D, I think I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure to D for like the the program that I was doing, you have to get at least a C or above. And your overall GPA has to be something but I was like, Okay, if I've messed this up, like, I won't graduate, and then I'll be like, screwed, you know. So then I was like, Well, most people do the CO term, right? So you can apply the code term, and then get an extra year to finish it in your same department. And so I was a finessing. I'm not even gonna lie. I was like, I need two years to figure things out, because I don't know what I'm gonna do. And I feel like another year just gonna be stressed out to complete a lot more classes. Like, I'll probably be taking four or five classes. I'm gonna have to pay for that somehow, you know, so I was like, Okay, how do I do this? So I was in computer science for undergrad and electrical engineering. Like I I loved doing hardware projects. I was super into haptics. When I was a junior, I took my first haptics class and I was Stanford stem fellow as well, which is an undergraduate fellowship for people doing research in STEM, even though I wasn't really doing a lot of research projects. I did one kind of like, Cool ish research project, but I wasn't really doing the research. It was another black PhD student who's also now a professor at another institution now, but he was kind of guiding me and I was like writing code for the Microsoft Kinect. And so I you kind of use that to get the simple ship that paid for them to buy me this haptic device, right? And so I learned, like, wow, there's so much hardware that goes into making, you know, video games immersive experiences real. And so I was just like, I'm going to make the next midair haptic devices, um, you know, like, so crazy, like, I'm going to change the world idea. So I was like, I want to do haptics. And so I thought, I have to learn how hardware works a basal level to really, you know, make strides in this because how habits work because it uses, you know, physics simulation, and an end effector. And when you move it around, he uses the response from you to give you a specific force based on your virtual world, right? That's basically like what how a physical haptic device works. But I was like, I don't want to have to have a device, I want to be in midair. And so I want to make haptic gloves for my senior project. So I was like, Okay, well, obviously, this is a great way to segue intellectual engineering, digital signal processing, right. So it's like a kind of a shift from software to more hardware stuff. I started learning how to solder. I'm still terrible at soldering, even though I like really enjoy, you know, putting together circuits. But that's how I kind of switching to engineering. And I applied to the CO term master's degree. And in that application, I kind of was like, yeah, it's time to reinvent myself, I was very good at writing speeches, and motivational writing stuff, my statement was all about, you know, I've done all these things. And I really realized that I need to learn. Yeah, as I told him, I need to learn how to do all this hardware stuff. I'm gonna do all this hardcore stuff, right? I'm gonna go right to the program, right. And it was great. And I want to do research, but I got rejected by literally every single electron engineering professor there. And I was interesting, cuz a lot of them told me they didn't have spaces in their labs, but there's like, their labs are growing. So I was kind of just like, maybe it's just, they don't have space for my expertise, because I'm a computer scientist person, right? And so they're more so hardware people, and they want people with a lot of hardware experience. So is that okay, cool? Well,

let me get that experience that I realize I'm not a hardware person, right. So I did an internship at Verily, and barely when I did it, it was Google Life Sciences. And they had just switched to barely that summer. So I guess I, back then had both a google.com and verily.com email address, like it was interesting. They had completely merged systems email, their its own company. But that's besides the point, basically, I was creating this device for one of their releases called g patch, which is this continuous glucose Activity Monitor. And I was like, you know, testing out parts to see like, you know, how can we start writing firmware for a better version? And, you know, I was just, like, accelerometers and stuff, I never actually worked with any final products or anything, but I was like, actually soldering, you know, connections to be able to test things on my computer and like connected to Raspberry Pi devices, and just like write code, you know? And so it wasn't so much electrical engineering that I actually had to understand how did you know resistors? And capacitors, what happens to you know, the current and the resistance across the wire? When this happens? No, it wasn't that, you know, which is typically what every electric engineer needs to know how to do to this day, I probably can't, it couldn't do that without googling it, you know. So I wouldn't really consider myself a classical true electrical engineer. But figuring out how to work with hardware was kind of how I got into that electro engineering degree. And so I actually ended up that my electro engineering focus was signal processing, which is really just computer science of electrical engineering. It's like, you know, mathematics of signals and wrote a lot of scripts, I did a lot of music classes, where you did like perceptual audio coding, where you created like software codecs for music, which is a music slash electro engineering class, but the entirety of the work is coding, which is very interesting, because you're just applying computer science to a field. And that's kind of when I started to realize computer science is a hammer that you really can put anywhere. If you read enough books about your situation, you can write code for it, and the story, you know, and so I really use that against all these random classes and just get A's I think, by the time I was, in my last year, I was getting the majority of my grades were A's. And that was a shock to me, because I had been like a B student all throughout undergrad, like Yeah, I got A's in high school, but Stanford was not easy, you know. So I was one of those like, all the time in office hours scraping by on the final kids getting BB pluses and the occasional A minus really trying to get my GPA above a 3.5. And so, you know, my undergrad GPA was, you know, below that, and my master's was above that. And it was kind of interesting to see that the success was not because I wasn't so smart in this field. It was really just the passion and the depth of going into the field and understanding what I was supposed to be doing and understanding what I should focus on learning. They don't really teach you how to do that. And I think the kids that really excel either have extreme discipline in the way that they prepare, just pure, pure intent. To begin with, or they figured out how to actually figure out what is important to learn, and they figure out how to learn that quickly. And so I, that's kind of how I got into the master's degree, because I was realizing how do I actually get to where I want to be. And then in that master's degree, I still realize I don't want to work in tech, you know, like, as a full time person with a Master's, okay, so because the range of growth is kind of limited, even with a master's degree, you could probably only get to like some sort of senior engineering position, even as a PhD person in the industry. Like, that's kind of what some people end up and like, it's not bad pay. But I think to think that that would be life forever. And, you know, what would I find fulfillment in, you know, and it doesn't have to be your job, you know, there could be hobbies and stuff, but I guess I had just put all my life into my career that I wasn't gonna allow it to be something boring, you know. So then I was like, Okay, if I do the PhD, then I'll have a little bit more time to figure things out. So I'm applied to the six PhD programs. And it was interesting, cuz I got rejected to most of them. And I got into MIT, just like, I don't understand why they wanted me so badly, because I was from Stanford. But MIT was a school that pursued me the hardest, although USC, somebody kind of flagged my application was like, you're one of the people who fall through the cracks, we're gonna give you a full ride scholarship for your PhD here. Like, oh, bet, I was totally gonna go there. And I was like, I was so set on going to USC, because I was like, Yeah, I can stay in California, but like, literally two hours from my family, and I don't have to worry about funding, like, why not, because, you know, all through my master's I paid for by ta ng, I know, the life of not having funding is stressful, you know, to figure out how to pay tuition and rent, you know, because I know how you can get loans, you know, so I was just like, Okay, this is the perfect situation. I parents are like, you can't turn down MIT. What's wrong with you and MIT had given me a year of fellowship. But I was like, it's not guaranteed. And it was honestly as passionate and I felt like I got it was a fluke, really was like, I really thought it was a fluke that I got to MIT. And that there, I wouldn't be happy or successful there. Right. And so they my parents convinced me to go to the to go to the visit days, but the USC visit days were the same as MIT visit days. And I went to the USC visit, because I was so committed to USC, and I actually feel really bad because they were like, Hey, we got her. And then like, I ended up going to MIT anyway. But when I went to the MIT visit days, it was a really like, great experience talking to the people. And like the haptics thing, that's what really got me because I was talking to a haptic professor, and he was just like, I was telling you what ideas we're having devices. And, you know, it just seemed like they're really interested in like, changing the way how to disease. And it was more of a medical haptics application lab. But I was like, you know, there's still ways to do some cool things with devices here. And, you know, I didn't end up even working in that lab at the end of the day, but um, you know, I think that was the reason why I was like, let me do his PhD, because I can develop a new device, and then that can go into industry, and I'd be okay with being, you know, the head of a lab that worked on that device at a big company, you know, like, that's what, like, my mindset was when I first was going to PhD, and then I got a PhD, and then I wasn't able to work in that lab and struggle to find a lab. And, you know, I think that I was, you know, in the mindset of, Okay, well, now I guess the natural progression is to try to be a professor, you know, wherever it is, because that's kind of what they tell you in these doctoral programs that once you're a doctor, you're going to be a professor that's like, also thought the life that I wanted, because, you know, that also seems stressful and filled with a lot of, you know, just bureaucracy and tiptoeing around things. I don't want that either. So with a PhD, I kind of thought if I do a PC, I can do anything I want, I could probably do a company, right? Because a lot of PhD students, even if they drop out there, do companies, you know, that's an option, I run to your professor, I could kind of like, you know, if I go to MIT and be a professor, you know, I think they have a lot more freedom in the things that they do. And that's a good option. And even if I end up being like a researcher, you know, an industry research that's still a great opportunity in like crazy, cool applications, and there's no losing here, right? It's that's why I ended up doing a PhD.

Unknown Speaker  34:18  
But I, you know,

Ifueko Igbinedion  34:18  
I'm in the PhD now, I'm realizing that there are only very few, very few futures that I would find fulfilling at this point. And it's interesting how like, as you kind of progress through the world of academia, how everything you thought you knew, kind of doesn't really apply in actuality. And it's kind of just like perception of things and the reality is quite quite different, especially for most people.

Kimmiko James  34:46  
Hey, guys, Pardon the Interruption, but I just wanted to take a minute to talk about the new black enterprise network podcast website. If you've ever been curious about what a guest looks like, or what their social media links are. Then we have detailed guest pro files for each episode. And there's also detailed show notes with time markers in case you wanted to find a specific point or piece of advice without listening to the entire episode. There's also readable episode transcriptions. And also the website allows you to easily sync questions and feedback. If you want to get in contact with me, just know that the website will be updated on a weekly basis. So if you don't see something done already, then it will be done soon. Check it out at Black enterprise network.fm. I have people, friends, especially that told me that they're going to jump into a Master's just to take time to figure things out kind of like you. And there was a point where I was a little bit ignorant about it, maybe you're gonna be like, why would you do that you're about to graduate just be done in work. But now that I think about and hear you talk about it more it makes sense. Not everybody's just ready to just jump into industry like the you don't know what's in it. And then when you do find out what's ending, you're just like, Damn, I wish I would have had more time. Or give myself more time. The one of my least favorite parts about getting into computer science tech industry, whatever is the imposter syndrome that comes with it is inevitable, no matter who you are, it just, it springs at you at random times. Like you'll be working on a coding project and then just suddenly just feel like you can't do it. You stress yourself out, you don't believe in yourself, and then you end up not doing the thing you probably could have done if you believed in yourself. And for you, you've done all these internships. I mean, you're speaking with it with confidence now, but in that time, it probably you were probably weren't as confident. So you're going through the industry, you're doing all this research, you're getting into these top schools, which is awesome. But how did you just get past that imposter syndrome and just believe in yourself? Yeah,

Ifueko Igbinedion  36:45  
I think imposter syndrome is a bit multifaceted. I feel like for me, I had it deep like in in all throughout undergrad, I was like I cannot be successfully I used to just take what I can get, you know, I was I think it was it was a combination of low self confidence and extreme anxiety for me. And I think that when it stopped being imposter syndrome, I still think it is a possible job at times, but it's what I lost when I gained the confidence, you know, and so I still have you know, bouts of imposter syndrome today that leads to me procrastinating doing things. For example, this past week, I've been trying to implement a new method of selecting drones and my swarm for this computer vision project that I'm doing my thesis on. And I didn't want to implement this method because I was like, it's gonna be so hard. You know, like, I was so convinced that I was gonna take so long to implement, I didn't want to do the work, like can't even do like, it's probably going to be wrong, I'm gonna have to debug it like that was the imposter syndrome. It was the anxiety of knowing I need to get this done because I have to show that I'm progressing because I don't want my advisor to think he's not doing anything when I'm just like, because I'm I'm like procrastinating doing this, you know, I'm like procrastinating by running experiments. I don't need to be running maybe. So I think getting over the anxiety of it. And just stepping into it is the first step. You know, figuring out what you need to do is also an important step. Because I think that the anxiety of where do I even start is is daunting. I think that especially when you're training system, I was actually working on creating a web app. And I forget what the platform was, I think it was using NPM. Suppose a node is a Node JS app then. So I was trying to use TensorFlow in the browser to do something with no jazz and I had never created a Node JS node, I'd always use Django or some other Python based server, because you know, as an AI person, I'm so you know, comfortable with Python. And no GS is it really any Python whatsoever. It's mostly JavaScript and like, an XML files, right, or JSON files. So I really stressed out on like, creating that versus that. I think that googling it, watching videos of other people doing it, not even like doing it with them, just like watching the videos and seeing how they do it and thinking about the ways they solve problems and these new systems. That's what gives me confidence to start actually working by myself. And I think that learning to build things from scratch is the best way to kind of get over the imposter syndrome. Like, yeah, there are example projects, you can just take and modify. But the legality of that is that you've modified their code. So if it's an open source, you know, application, your code, then must be open source, right. And so if you're trying to build something for yourself, and you want to make a company or prototype for something, can't necessarily use open source code. But what you can do say they're using an OJS app, let me learn how to make a no GS app by looking at their tutorials. And then let me start from scratch and build a no GS app from scratch, right? And that's kind of how I got over that hump of imposter syndrome that I can't build a JavaScript based web application. And it's crazy because I'm a fourth year PhD student, and I'm still having a passenger about coding basic things, you know, like basic web applications that I've already done before. I don't think it's ever something that really leaves you, I think it's something that creeps up and you just have to have the self awareness to be like, Look, you're just anxious about it, you want to be lazy, you don't want to do work, maybe that's part of it, you know, you're afraid that you're gonna fail. That's maybe part of it, too, you know, because I was always like, this is not gonna work. And I should figure out a different way to do it. Like you're thinking about all the different ways to do it, you waste time googling player four ways to do it, you do nothing, right? I think just stepping in, and even failing and realizing this might not be the best way to do it. And starting over from scratch, that's happened to me so many times, you know, having the tenacity to fail so many times for you succeed. That's what getting good at computer science is all about when I was doing my first class in undergrad, and it was the infamous cs 107. at Stanford. I don't know if any Stanford undergrads listen to this podcast. But that class is known as the leader class, right? There's always a leader class in every computer science program. And that was that class. And the scariest thing for me to see was read on the terminal, meaning my code had not compiled, right. And sifting through compilation errors for payout wise is not working, I would cry literally, like when I was a junior, I think sophomore junior taking that class, seriously, like, I cannot do this, how am I going to pass I'm literally not going to graduate. If I can't figure this out, you know, because you have to pass that class to graduate with that degree, you know, there's no partitioning out of it. So figuring out how to see the errors, and just, okay, I have a problem. Let me figure out how to solve it. And even though you solve one thing, another thing pops up, that's computer science.

Even when it works, there will be something that somebody finds, and then roast you to death for it and millions of dollars and the trust of people, because you thought you have figured out everything is tested everything and somebody use it in a way you didn't think about, you know that that is literally computer sciences, it's never going to be infallible because humans ourselves are writing and we're not perfect. And I think that realizing that people who wrote write production level code are also imperfect. They're just successful because they have lots of people in system supporting them. And if you can just leverage the people and systems that you have in your life, whether it be Google and your professor, you know, and that's it, you know, you can leverage those systems and still be successful and end up in those spaces that you didn't think that you could be before.

Kimmiko James  42:18  
I thought you were talking to me for a minute, that column. Yeah, I know my imposter syndrome stems from laziness, you need to tell that to people people, like Same for

Ifueko Igbinedion  42:30  
computer scientists are the laziest breed right? Like you sudo apt versus apt get? What is the true difference? Please, somebody tell me?

Kimmiko James  42:39  
I don't know. I don't know. You just.

Ifueko Igbinedion  42:43  
So let me let me sweat a little bit on Linux computers to install packages, you say? apt get install package name, right? You can also say apt install package name. They do the same thing. Yeah. But they created apt to replace apt get, because apt get has four more characters to type. This laziness, right? You you wanted a shortcut for something. So So now it's three characters instead of seven. You know, I think computer scientists are just always by nature, trying to find the simplest and fastest way to do things. And that's why computers are so fast, though. Because if you can find a fast way to do something, you can optimize something else, you know.

Kimmiko James  43:26  
So and that's exactly why my code has looked busted for probably my entire coding career. because like you said, once you get one thing working, it's still busted. And at least when you work in industry, it's not like a personal project, where it's like, Oh, I got it, got it working. That's it, that's done. And with classes, you can get away with it. But then history, it's just protocol. But for me, it's kind of annoying of like I did this thing. It works. I tested it, it works. Also I get shredded to pieces and code reviews. So that's fine. So it happens. It's just a part of it. So you're currently the CTO and founding engineer haertel agents. Could you just briefly talk about what haertel agents is and kind of just talk about how it works from engineering perspective? Because I think it's pretty cool.

Ifueko Igbinedion  44:12  
Yeah, so her intelligence, were really trying to let me let me roll back a little bit. Talk about how hard telogen s was founded. Okay, so my sister and I, so she's the co founder and CEO of haematologists. I think she called me one day and she was like, I'm just she was pissed off. Like, just like venting, and she's talking about her hair likes the situation that happened with her wing. She's like, why can't they just mail me something that just fits right? And just like I was talking about this experience, and she was like, Can you can you code that for me, like you think? And you know, everybody calls it their CEUs for like, Can

Unknown Speaker  44:47  
you make this?

Ifueko Igbinedion  44:48  
Right? And I was like, actually, probably, I can probably do something. And she was like, I think she wasn't really serious at first about it. And then she started actually developing a business plan. And when I saw the business plan, I was like, oh, Okay, so then I kind of like, what it's a high gear into trying to like, what can I do in a computer vision side. And so we created this like little demo where I was able to kind of like draw out my hairline on my head, and like, you know, using sizing and like print out and like, like cut my wig using that applications, like we could probably customize hairlines, you know, customize wigs remotely and send them to people, right, and this is before COVID-19 happened. And so we didn't even realize what was going to happen in terms of hair access, and all that, I think that you're kind of working slowly, you know, we didn't incorporate it for a long time, just kind of like talking to people about it, seeing if we could build a team around it. And it was really just me and her for the most part of it. But we do currently is we have an application in which you are able to put your hairline measurements, and as well as use an AI app and kind of customize what your wig is going to look like. And then do a recreation based on your customization options to see what is this wig gonna look like on me. And then you can purchase it, right. So that's what we're doing. We're launching quite soon. And we're really just trying to bring computer vision to the hair beauty space, right. And so we're not using heavy, heavy computer vision algorithms at this point, mainly because, you know, it's not really possible to do at a production level.

Kimmiko James  46:21  
Kind of taking a step back. What is computer vision?

Ifueko Igbinedion  46:24  
Oh, yes, yeah. So computer vision is using images and writing code that analyzes the pixels and the colors in the image to just understand something. Okay, right. So the canonical example of this is detecting a cat in a picture, right? Cat recognition. That's what every computer scientist loves puppies with a cat, can they follow the cat? Right? So, for us, computer vision involves taking pictures so we can get sizing information about you so we can get skin tone information about you. So we can, you know, have you see what it's going to look like, even though you don't have the wig at home. So you know, do I want to buy this style or not, you know. And so computer vision is really any sort of manipulation of images in order to provide a new or interesting result. And that can be another visual result, it can be a data base result can be some analysis of it. But computer vision is anything computer science images, oftentimes, it uses artificial intelligence. Oftentimes, it's just you know, pixel processing and understanding that cut the way colors work, you know. And so we really saw that there's so many spaces of artificial intelligence that can solve every single one of the problems that are required to customize a wig. And so he really developed a very interesting system on how to actually get the hair line cut, right to get the density. So like, it looks like a natural hairline. So you don't have to actually glue it down all the time. So that when you do glue it down, you don't clearly see that the lace is not your skin, you know, like we want to bring that joy of putting on hair that, you know, I just want to protect my hair while in the winter, and I don't want to have it out, it's going to dry out and break and I want my hair to grow. Right? Let's comment and you want somebody that looks like your natural hair. Why can't we have that? You know, why can't we have it your right hair texture, you know, the same color, as you know your your scalp, the careline matches your natural hairline and matches your the natural shape of your face. That's not something that people of color, black people, black women, that's not something black women have access to, in without going to a salon and paying a lot of money for it. And so not only are you paying for this hair, but you're paying for a stylist to put it on you over and over and over again. And yes, stylists are amazing for their skill. Because when you have a special occasion, you want to look your best, you go to somebody who can do it. But for the everyday woman who they're not even going to stylists that often they just want to look good. They're not feeling good about their hair, because they don't have access to affordable, high quality, customized hair pieces. And even people with you know, medical conditions that actually require them to wear hair pieces and who like really struggle with just wanting to not stand out in a negative way and wanting to feel confident about themselves. You know, every single day, they want access to this type of thing that's customized for them. And so we're really, we're really trying to do is leverage the power of very simple computer vision algorithms to really revolutionize a space and allow people to customize, you know, visualize and like fall in love with their hair every single day. Whether it's their natural hair that they're wearing out or whether it's a wig that they're wearing to protect their hair, just try something new.

Kimmiko James  49:39  
You know, it's just interesting to see the problems that can be solved with tech, which is probably why you're super interested in why I'm into it might not be an engineer, but that's why I'm into it. I don't know it's it's just certain problems that black people go through that aren't really thought of like with the black travel box. I I interviewed Orion a few months ago, there are no soaps or shampoos or travel products for black people at whatsoever at hotels and airports. Why has nobody thought about this?

Ifueko Igbinedion  50:12  
Yeah, because I was think about the last time I went to a hotel for some summit for PhD students, the soap like you don't leave your house without your own soap and lotion. No, you don't the lotions there and the soaps, they're just dry your skin out. They just, I don't know if this is just not for black people are just really bad products. But I was like, that's so true.

Unknown Speaker  50:35  
True.

Kimmiko James  50:37  
Oh, yeah, they solved that problem. So you should check them. Yeah, because the same for this. I know, especially my mom, my sister and a few other family members, they don't go to hairstylist because that's just really expensive. So my mom does hair and my sister does hair. And she like puts in sew ins and extensions and stuff, but never wigs because like you said, there are a good arrangement of wigs for black women to find. And if there are the quality isn't that great. And also, the prices are just ridiculous. And kind of like your sister's problem. It's just gonna come in perfect. So happy to hear you guys are trying to solve that problem. I think it's a big, big problem. I've seen your pitch deck. Oh, fake. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  51:16  
thank you.

Kimmiko James  51:17  
But this is a this is kind of a big one. For me. I don't think I've asked anybody this question yet. So what what is it like for you to be a founding engineer at a startup in comparison to being an engineer in the industry? Because there there's not as much structure, you know, testing and all these other crazy things we had to go through as interns probably isn't a thing, right, right. Now, I would say so. Well, what's it like? What's your experience? Like, in comparison to the two? Yeah,

Ifueko Igbinedion  51:43  
it's interesting, cuz haertel this is not the first startup I've technically worked for, um,

I had some experiences with other startups won't save the names of the startup. Yeah, you don't have whatever happened with that. You know, I think this being like my third ish startup. But the first one that I've actually gotten to the point of incorporation and preseed, you know, like, actually pitching to people, and being in meetings and trying to get investments that I didn't even think were like, you know, possible people's write you checks like this, you know, like, so this, this is a world that I is interesting to be in, but to be an engineer at the founding level is much different than just building a product, you know, I've started to realize that the skill that I have, and like being able to understand systems at a high level and understand how the pieces should fit together, that's kind of like a requirement for tech startup founders, you know, when you have a system you're creating, you have to identify every piece of technology and how they will integrate in a seamless way for your business run smoothly, you don't want manual intervention at any point in time, if you can avoid it, you know. And so, here challenges, obviously, there is a human aspect and that the humans are taking the measurements from our app, and then putting it in real life. But if I was an engineer, that was just like a, you know, a first engineer and system, that perspective of the human process wouldn't necessarily be needed for me to understand because the person that is communicating the development needs is is going to tell me, this is what I need you to develop. Right? So rather than saying, we're creating this whole pipeline, that a human's going to take this and do that, I'm just like, No, I want you to write an API that takes in an image. And these are the standards for the image and outputs this kind of image. And these are the standards for this kind of image. Right? And that's kind of what you do in industry. And so having an experience of working in industry and understanding what do engineers need to run quickly? You know, that's very important from a tech CTO leadership perspective. Because we you can waste a lot of money, when you don't have the right organizational structure, when you don't understand what your goals are, you can waste a lot of money on paying people to figure things out, but you should figure it out yourself. And so understanding that, you know, that waste is your budget going to waste that is affects how much product you can purchase, how many sales you can make, how much you know, interest you can garner from the public. And that affects your pockets, you know, I mean, like this is not just, I am going to be employed at a fixed salary, and I'll do my nine to five, and I'll get paid. This is like, I literally get paid nothing right now. And the only way that I get paid is if I make this happen. That's a very different mindset to happen to have from a computer scientist. And I think that if I was a few years younger and where I was, mentally, I wouldn't be as successful because I would have broken down at many points in time and tried to build this product. I'm actually shocked at how fast we put this together. Our baseline application like seeing, you know, the preliminary front end mocks and like how fast the back end is my engineers I'm just they're so amazing. You know, so grateful for to have all my so grateful to have all of my engineers on the team, but um, you know, understanding who I needed was the most important part in finding them. You know, I think that's the biggest challenge that tech founders have is regardless of how good you code, that's no matter how good you code, you know, you have to be a visionary, you have to communicate a vision to people who are going to give you a lot of money or front your own money, and hire the people to get customers and interest and, you know, support in terms of developing a business model. If you don't have all the skills, you know, what I've really realized is that, no, nobody is really good at everything, you know, I guess they say, a jack of all trades and Master of None, right? Like, that's very true. But like to understand what requires what every trade requires, and to be able to find the people to put in those right positions, that is a very important skill, no matter how good you are at something. So like, I'm getting a PhD. And eventually, I'm going to be a doctor and be the only person who's like, so amazing and good at this one random niche computer vision area, right. And like can be, there can be so many startups that I can turn my thesis from, like, there can be so many startups that I can take my thesis and turn into a company with. But you know, without the knowledge of what it takes to build a startup, that's never going to happen, I'm always going to require somebody else to kind of be the voice in the face and the visionary of that, and just like, say, this is technology, figure out what to do with it. And that's why you see so many PhDs going into government industry research or industry, software engineering, because they don't want to take the tech and turn it into something that helps people turn something that's useful into a product, because let's be real, you don't make money. If it doesn't provide value. That value doesn't have to be like financial, educational, it can be entertainment, right? Like, we see so many dumb social media, things that just entertain you for hours. And I spent hours all the time on social media, distracting myself playing dumb games on my phone, you know, they make money because it provides value to you. And so when you're just having this, this algorithm that lives in the lab that lives on that server, that processes data set, and you won like five contests with this algorithm on this data set, and you patent it, and you decide that I don't want anyone to be able to use this unless I get paid for it, and you're, you know, selective in the areas that it can actually innovate, then that, then then what impact is that really having, you know, when you allow people, that's why I love the open source movement, because it really allows people to really learn how to build things. And in reality, if a piece of code is open source, let's be real, unless somebody has patented that specific process, it is very hard to steal code, you know, these principles and algorithms, these are fundamental to the field. And what you're really doing is you're creating a product using those methods. That's why I think algorithms with papers are so important, because you can just read about, oh, they decided to use these different types of, you know, machine learning components, rather use the convolution or neural network, and they use the LS tm, and the recurrent neural network, right? And they built this whole crazy system that does something really cool for the user, right?

That's not saying, Oh, I, I use algorithms, I was so good. I got 100% accuracy on my data set. You know, when you put that in front of a real world audience, you say, what are the date? What are the users actually going to be inputting? You know? Or what things are they going to mess up? And how do we make sure that bad things don't happen? You know, and so that's what it really takes to go from the research or the application or the algorithm, actually, directly to the algorithm taking that to the product. Not everybody has the desire to do that, to go through the messy process of actually doing that, or even the capacity, you know, they're not thinking about how it is they're just like, I want to just push the boundaries. And I want to just write crazy papers and be the expert in the science and that we need those people, you know, but personally, I don't think that's what I'm supposed to be doing. I think that I'm a very unique person in that there are very few black female, you know, makeup and hair obsessed, and fashion obsessed computer scientists like there are a lot of us, you know, like, shout out to baddies and tech, because that's the organization that's, you know, trying to, you know, bring out all the beautiful black women who are doing technology and killing the game out here. But like, you know, bringing technology to these spaces that, you know, so many industries have benefited from AI. Why can't the black hair industry benefit from AI as well? Why can't we get better products and create more jobs for everybody, like enhance the economic prosperity of our own community by not only bringing products to black people, but bringing those dollars black back into black employees, black communities, black owned companies, you know, why can't our community benefit from Tech as well? And so I think there are a lot People who are already doing that in the sphere, there's so many black tech entrepreneurs who are doing it, I think that there are not enough we're not as represented in the venture capital space. And I really think that it's the courage to actually throw out the ideas that you've created, the visions, you've had as many people as possible that you think can help you make it a reality. And it's like, you know, working through that messy process and making it a reality. And that's how we're really going to progress. And so, personally, I think that for tech founders, and I'm one thing I think you should ask yourself, before you actually go through it is, what value am I adding, you know, like, the The only reason why people invest in something is because there is a value proposition and a pain point in the customer segment that you're addressing that you're going to solve, you know, what value am I adding? And how can my technology change what everybody else is doing? Doesn't matter if there's already competition, I welcome competition, because I enjoy proving that I can beat people with different types of technology, or provide a different experience, you know, there's room for everyone. So I just really think that it takes the desire and courage to bring your input into that problem, that space and your technology, your technological expertise. And it's really transformed problem and improve, you know, the state of that problem.

Unknown Speaker  1:01:14  
So let me stop them. Really.

Kimmiko James  1:01:17  
I mean, it, it seems like, from your perspective, you've always seen that there's more than just what's been put in front of you, whether it's your parents telling you that you should be a doctor, lawyer, whatever, or Google and all these other industry jobs that are as we both know, if you have a way in there's endless possibilities to get a get a job there. Like that's been put in front of you. And yeah, I guess, did you ever at any point, just ever envision yourself becoming a founder, because those are pretty much founder qualities of just not going with the norm and doing what you think is best to me and really competitive about it?

Ifueko Igbinedion  1:01:58  
Yeah, that's that imposter syndrome, right? Because, right, nobody, I never thought I would do that. It's funny, because I have conversations with my mentors. And they're just like,

Unknown Speaker  1:02:08  
do you want to be a CEO? I'm like, no.

Ifueko Igbinedion  1:02:11  
Why would I want to be a CEO? This like, sounds hard. But everything I'm doing is preparing to be a tech CEO. And I'm trying to tell myself, I don't want to be CEO because life is too hard. I can't do it, you know, that's imposter syndrome. Right there. So I think that I did think that this would be what I'd be doing, because I thought I was going to fail. And the reality of it is, regardless, if we fail, you know, regardless, if hair telogen somehow a meteor hits our building, and we're done. That's the only way they are intelligent, will not be successful, right, like manifested. But um, you know, even if that happens, like, I still have the skills to get a really great job, get paid very well, I have a great family, great friends, you know, like my wife, it will be fulfilled in some way. But I have to try to bring value into the spaces that I care about hair and beauty is like one of my biggest hobby, something that really affects every black woman. Like we're so judged on this the way we look like a lot of women can't even go to work and wear braids of different colors because it's considered you know, not professional and this is like our culture and how we project our hair. So why can't we bring technology to it? show people how important this is us not only make the quality of our experience better, and then also have the world see Wow, these people are changing the face of an industry and making a lot of money. Why is that the case? You know, people are going to look at it more so just than just black women, you know? Right so i think it's it's a lot more than just industry I think it's the thought shift of our community and that we can also build systems we can build companies we can build communities ourselves. And I'm not saying like separate us from we're already exists but there is room for economic prosperity across the board. And it's not going to take away from anything that already exists only going to improve what's out there.

Kimmiko James  1:04:05  
Very well said you truly are an entrepreneur at you just tell you can just tell when people really hard.

Ifueko Igbinedion  1:04:14  
Thank you so much for having me.

Kimmiko James  1:04:16  
Yeah, I'm sure people want to follow you in your journey. So where can they follow you? You have any socials YouTube channel?

Ifueko Igbinedion  1:04:23  
Anything? Yeah, so yeah, my personal socials private but I do have a YouTube channel and a public ID and Twitter. My YouTube channel is fancy waco if you google FA n CYK. Oh, two words. Or if you go on my website weyco.com slash YouTube that'll take you to whatever my latest video was. Also on Instagram, it's fancy off waco and Twitter fancy waco if you want to follow me. I'm really not that active on social media. But I do post a lot of videos about technology and grab School imposter syndrome self care on my YouTube channel so you can check that out if you're interested.

Kimmiko James  1:05:05  
Here's your LinkedIn off limits.

Ifueko Igbinedion  1:05:07  
Oh yeah, LinkedIn is great. I love LinkedIn. Very low effort. Yeah so like LinkedIn I think linkedin.com slash n slash tweto. I my handle on LinkedIn Waco, I whatever you know that is, but you're going to Google me it's also like, a pretty sure my website if waco.com has all these links, so just check that out.

Kimmiko James  1:05:27  
Thanks for coming on. Really appreciate it. Yeah, thanks for having thank you again for listening to this episode, black enterprise network podcast. Join me in the next episode in which I'll be joined by Moby how. One of my many mentors from my internship from last summer and an internal communication specialist at slack See you then.