As part of the ongoing series, "Women Leading Visual Tech," Abigail Hunter-Syed of LDV Capital interviewed Kavita Bala, Dean of Computing and Information Science and Professor of Computer Science, about "bridging the gap between academia and industry."
In a wide-ranging, yet deep, conversation, the two discuss Bala's earlier life in India, where, she recalls: "When I went to my undergraduate, which was the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, I was the only woman in my class." Some years later, she notes: "When I went to M.I.T. for my Ph.D., I had a study group with three women. They were bemoaning how few women there were, and I was like, 'Well, there's more than one. This is great.'” Skipping to the present, Bala observes the striking changes in gender representation: "At Cornell, our undergraduate population [in Computer Science] is 36% women. I've been a faculty mentor for the Women in Computing group at Cornell, and so we've come a long way from where we were."
Bala also discusses her recent entrepreneurial venture with Sean Bell (M.S. '15, Ph.D., '16), GrokStyle, which was subsequently acquired by Facebook and is currently being implemented as GrokNet (where Bell leads the team). Bala explains: "We had been working on research together the whole time and working on different problems of what is called 'scene understanding.' [...] We started the company based on that idea. In 2015, Sean and I founded the company. We came to the LDV Vision Summit, Sean presented our work and we won."
Bala shares her thoughts on research, which she says is "a fundamental aspect of both my intellectual joy and engagement in my community."