Devaki Raj: This Techie is One of Forbes’ “30 Under 30”

June 13 - Sarah Ashlock


An artist I love, Katy Long, created a print that says, “If you see something beautiful in someone speak it.” As we fire off emails, wipe baby bottoms, and remind our partners to pick up coffee creamer, we forget that gratitude and compliments aren’t simply good etiquette; they make your life and someone else’s better.

A study recruited 48 adults to perform an activity. Afterwards, they divided participants into three groups: One group received compliments individually, the other would watch someone else receive a compliment, and the third saw their performance on a graph. The next day, they repeated the same activity. Guess who performed significantly better? Group #1, the one who received compliments. Today, take this to heart. If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it.


That third group - the one who had a visual representation to show their performance - might make you want to reevaluate how you use data in your own career. Is that black-and-white Excel spreadsheet really the best way? You tell me. We’re mad data collectors now, with 90 percent of the world’s data being created only in the last couple years. There are these things called “data brokers,” who buy and sell your data like currency, from health records to browsing history to court cases. So tread lightly and use wisely.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Devaki Raj, CEO & Founder at CrowdAI

Now, we aren’t all out there collecting data. Data isn’t necessarily the stuff you learn by scrolling back four years through your new boo’s Twitter feed. (Who is this Stephanie chick?). Devaki Raj is part of a booming industry, one that makes data actually useful. She’s the CEO and founder of a startup called CrowdAI.

It’s 2019 and satellites are everywhere, taking images of every part of the planet. Real life isn’t an episode of Homeland, though, so how can this information be used—for good? There are a few ways. CrowdAI uses machine learning and computer vision algorithms to analyze these satellite images. The result is precise mappings of roads, buildings and so on.

Part of what CrowdAI can do is figure out the size and density of a landmark. It replaces the time, energy, and other resources that might be used to physically go to a destination and pull out the measuring tape. Devaki and her team used the technology to map out the actual damage that a hurricane that struck Florida caused. CrowdAI’s technology helped a telecom service to identify areas of need at rapid speed.

Forbes named Devaki as one of its “30 Under 30” in the science category. Before launching this company straight out of the future, Devaki studied statistics and machine learning at Oxford. After that, she headed to Google’s Maps and Android sector.

It’s hard to pinpoint when Devaki first got into this specific field, but her love of science has been life-long. In the third grade, one of On The Dot’s former Women to Watch by the name of Jane Goodall visited her school. Later, Devaki not only met Jane again at Oxford, but she also became a Henry David Thoreau scholar. What impressed Devaki about Jane is how Jane used her knowledge for good; to help the earth.

Of course, technology can get complicated. Devaki’s nuanced technology could, perhaps, be used for bad. But for now, her hope is to keep CrowdAI in the light, and influence other techies to do the same.


Margaret Wheatley said:

"Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes."

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