Artificial Intelligence & Robotics Researcher — Meet Yetunde Sanni

CAWSTEM
CAWSTEM Blog
Published in
6 min readJun 16, 2020

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Yetunde is a 2019 Google Women TechMaker Scholar. She is currently undergoing her Master's program in AI & Robotics in Rome. Prior to that, she worked as Technical Team Lead at Andela.

Read more on our #STEMStories interview with Yetunde.

Tell us about yourself

I am Oluwatoyin Yetunde Sanni but loved to be called “Oluwayetty”, I was born in the early 1990s to the most wonderful parent and family on Earth. I formerly worked at Andela as Technical Team Lead before proceeding for my postgraduate studies and also used to be a co-founder of TechInPink, an initiative dedicated to the mentorship of young women who have an interest in technology.

I’m a spoken word and rap addict (the sane ones). I love to dance as well.

What’s your educational background, Where and what did you study?

I had my BSc. in Computer science from the University of Ilorin. Currently, I’m running my postgraduate studies in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.

Can you share the “backstory” on how you got into STEM?

At the beginning of my teenage years when I was around 11 years old, I was lucky enough to have access to a Windows 98 desktop computer at my grandmum’s home. My attraction to this device was simply was magical. I played many games like Commandos (a strategy game modeled after the first world war), the famous Mario, amongst many others.

In my high school, we had a computer lab and as usual, I was always very excited during lab sessions so at the point I was going to select a course for my university degree, everyone already knew computer science-related course was going to be my choice, hence it was effortless. I didn’t know about any field called STEM as there was very little focus back then than it is now.

Even though all I did on the desktop computer back then was play games and use Marvis beacon typing to learn how to type, I was fascinated enough to know I’d love to sit in front of a system all day if I get the chance and that’s how the journey began. Although, I used to secretly wish I had mentors that could tell me it was beyond games during those early days but yet, I’m glad that journey and interest led me further and has been a critical aspect of my journey to technology.

The major breakpoint was during my final year during my undergrad when I saw a crime series where a computer science professor built a machine that could predict the act of terrorism before its occurrence. The machine was built to stop terrorism acts and led to my interest in AI. It was non-fiction but sparked my curiosity to learn more about the world of AI. At the same time, I took an elective course in AI in my final year, and finally, this led me to work on a dental expert system, a system that can predict dental ailment based on symptoms given.

That sounds interesting! How has the journey been so far?

My experience so far has been so rewarding, I am very much content with this choice and I’m always looking forward to learning more, digging into my interest and more importantly, saving humanity through my skills. Of utmost interest, I am keen on providing solutions in the health and agricultural sectors using AI and Robotics.

Yetunde Sanni at work

What does your typical day involve?

Currently, my life is revolved around attending lectures, meeting school deadlines for assignments and projects, preparing for exams, and digesting research papers. Asides this, I recently picked up gardening so it’s an occupation that I freely do out of a hobby and for therapeutic reasons.

I used to work as a student research and development engineer prior to this pandemic but it was temporarily suspended but I look forward to resuming as soon as everything is back to normal.

Have you faced any difficulties so far?

Difficulties are inevitable in every field/sector. Yes, I’ve faced difficulties caused by my own unbelief in myself and also unbelief from people in the industry. However, I’ve learned how to intrinsically and extrinsically motivate myself over time, it’s a necessary survival skill for all humans. A current difficulty which I’m currently learning to swim through is my current studies, and meeting up with the expectations of my professors.

What’s the highlight of your career so far? What lesson did you learn from that?

The highlight of my career is working my way through probation(almost getting fired) at the very beginning of my career to proving myself as a valuable employee of the company. During this period, I was able to conclude that 80% of my life, I had depended on people for motivation on who I am or what I’m capable of. This period taught me the art of self-motivation which was a tool I applied to scale out of probation.

What’s the worst part?

The worst would be at the start of my current school program and I had many back to back failures of exams. At that point, I literally felt dropping out was the best option but as time went by, I found out I just needed more time and it was absolutely fine to take steps back to get my preliminaries right and addressing the reasons for my failures. The quote that’s helping me through this stage is

“Do not be afraid of growing slowly, be afraid of standing still ”— Chinese Proverb

What’s another “Life Lesson Quote” you love and how it’s relevant to you in your life?

Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.

This quote is what I say to the “whispers” in my mind and the “shouts” of situations that tell me there’s a limit to how far I can go concerning my career and goals.

What were you doing the last time you looked at the clock and realized you had lost all track of time?

Digesting a research paper for a school project.

How do you strike a work-life balance? or How do you alleviate stress?

I certainly won’t say I’m a PRO at work-life balance but recently, I try to relax with my new gardening hobby(tendering to my plants) but the best stress relief for me over the years is talking to bae over the phone and watching comedy skits.

Your favorite work tools?

My laptop, some snacks, earpiece, and Spotify.

Your Philosophy/Motivation to work?

I have two of them

A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.

Faith without works is dead!

So So Random: What can’t you do without

  • Hair or heels? Hair
  • Jewelry or make-up? I do without both almost every day, learning to adjust since Geeks/Nerds should also be fashionable right :)
  • Books or movies? Movies

If you enjoyed reading this, feel free to connect with Yetunde on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

CAWSTEM is a community of African women in STEM. We are a female-led crew, on a mission to rewrite the narrative about having few women in STEM and, especially in leadership positions. We share interesting insights, news, and resources to empower women in their STEM careers. Join our community here

Every Tuesday, we publish stories here about African women’s journey in STEM. We know every STEM woman’s story is unique…so we tell these stories to inspire our community. If you would like to share your story with us, send an email to content@cawstem.org, we can’t wait to read from you!

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