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From Theory to Practice: Why Dr. Shaila Pervin went from PhD research to joining our BINGE team

Senior Data & Machine Learning Operations Engineer Shaila Pervin could have secured a role at any company she dreamed of.

Having completed a PhD in query processing optimisation on a full scholarship at Monash University and with expertise in the real-world application of artificial intelligence, Shaila has the types of skills that will shape the next exciting tech revolution.

In fact, her work has already had a huge impact on the lives of many Australians. After graduating with her doctorate, Shaila joined IBM as a Research Scientist where she had the opportunity to address big problems for important organisations including the Australian Red Cross and a government agency handling disability insurance.

“During a natural disaster, people tweet a lot like ‘I’m stuck here or there is a road closure there’”, she says when explaining how her team assisted the Red Cross. “But it can take a lot of time for the team to read all of those tweets,” she continues.

By semi-automating the processing of all that user-generated information, Shaila and her colleagues were able to identify the most critical issues on a map. This could then be used by mission control to divert rescue efforts to the most vital locations.

This is just one of her many exciting career achievements. Other highlights have included co-organising a workshop on Ethics in AI at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, co-inventing 22 US patents during her time at IBM, and working as a Strategic Data Consultant at Capgemini.

However, one of the notable challenges of research and strategic consultancy can be the general lag between conducting the work and seeing it in market. Despite her many accolades, after nearly a decade, Shaila needed a new challenge and decided to seek work where she could have a direct impact on consumer facing products.

That’s why when the opportunity came up to join The Foxtel Group in our disruptive BINGE engineering team, she jumped at the chance.

With over 1.5 million subscribers across Australia, BINGE is a household brand for entertainment fans thanks to runaway hit shows such as House of the Dragon, Succession and The White Lotus. Using AI, UX and great UI design, Shaila and her team are working on the platform’s recommendation engine, helping customers discover the most engaging content, personalised to the user’s taste.

From a technical perspective, the engineering challenge excites Shaila. Designing for BINGE also means designing for other products across the Foxtel Group portfolio, such as sports streaming brand Kayo Sports and news streaming brand Flash.

“Whatever we do, we can make it in a way that we can scale it. Designing in that way is challenging but it’s impactful because it can save cost and manpower”, Shaila says.

While there are obvious ways to personalise content such as based on previously watched shows, Shaila is most excited by the possibilities of the unknown.

At a theoretical level, there is still a huge opportunity to improve the breadth and diversity of the things we watch, in ways we may not expect. Shaila gives the example of recommending movies with strong female protagonists to young adult females.

“Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you know your possibilities”, she says.

It’s a poignant example given Shaila’s position as a senior leader in STEM.

Although she counts herself lucky not to have faced any personal setbacks due to her gender, she acknowledges that there is a long way to go across all industries when it comes to achieving equality for female engineers.

Having come from a rural town in Bangladesh, Shaila knows how difficult it can be for women to get an education and travel to other cities for work, let alone find roles internationally.

That’s why she’s so passionate about being a great role model and mentor for young women and using her work at BINGE to help others imagine bright and exciting futures. She’s also grateful to have had lots of empowering mentors throughout her career, which she says have been crucial to her success today.

So next time you click and enjoy an entertaining or inspiring recommended title on BINGE, you can be sure that it is thanks to the hard work of Dr. Shaila Pervin, her team, and a long list of predecessors who have come before her.

When asked what she’s most looking forward to for the year ahead, Shaila replies optimistically, “There’s endless opportunity!”

We couldn’t agree more. Thank you for sharing your story Shaila!


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