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  • Writer's pictureLaura Caicedo

Iva Vrtaric, ML Engineer, Akasha Solutions

Meet Iva, a determined technologist and book author whose passion for technology emerged at a young age. Raised in a household filled with cutting-edge gadgetry, she fostered an innate curiosity for computing. Hacking into her father's internet account marked the start of her digital exploration, soon expanding to hands-on hardware tinkering and software design.


Navigating the peaks and valleys of her career, Iva battled self-doubt and impostor syndrome, ultimately conquering adversities with humility and resourcefulness.

With the upcoming launch of Akasha Solutions, Iva aims to provide large-scale system designs and bespoke tech services. Tune in for inspiring tales from exceptional experts shaping the vibrant tech sector.



Blond women with glasses looking to the camara


Q1) Can you share a bit about your background and your current role?


Background: High school dropout, university dropout, entirely self-taught.


I’m a published writer. My novel, ‘Paranoia in New Delhi,’ describes my trip to India—an adventure where I undergo internal change. It serves as a real-time account of my inner monologue, shared with readers. The story revolves around illumination, discovering what truly matters, and returning home to see everything in a new light and from a different perspective.

As you can imagine, writing books was never a viable option for paying bills. That's why, among other factors, I found myself drawn to coding and learning Machine Learning. I never had the confidence or dreamed that I would reach a level where it pays off and I can actually "make things work."


I am currently juggling between 3-4 projects, somehow managing to prioritize my tasks. For example, I am planning to build Akasha Solutions, a company that would gather most of the ongoing ideas that are currently scattered around. Technically, it would be an organization that provides services like system architecture and design of larger systems required by customers. At the same time, when we are not working on concrete solutions, we would develop various tools and automate workflows—all necessary to help us build more ambitious projects more efficiently from the ground up. Akasha will serve as an umbrella for all the solutions I have come up with, involving my friends, colleagues, and all people interested in helping us build better systems.

 


meme - men talking to crucified jesus

I have been exploring & experimenting with vector search for quite some time, and I decided to have my own search engine. The name "Akasha" reflects the astral realm where ideas originate. This concept aligns with my belief that sharpening our senses can enable us to directly download and share ideas for the benefit of humanity.


Q2) How did you first become interested in technology, and what led you to your current role?

 

I was born in 1982, a time when we had a Spectrum computer at home. I wasn't fully aware at the time, my grandfather and father were always keen on having the latest cutting-edge devices and gadgets, which influenced me greatly. Growing up, I was always intrigued by the machines, they were a common item in my family. We got access to the Internet in 1996, but with only an hour of surfing time available, I found it limiting.

So, at 13, I hacked into my father's account with the help of a friend from Mathematical Gymnasium, using a Trojan sent via email.

This experience sparked my love for technology, as it represented power to me—power gained over established authorities. I believe this fascination led me down a path where I delved deeper into technology.


At around 15 or 16, after quitting high school, I worked in computer service for an Arabian gentleman, learning about hardware components and troubleshooting. Later, I transitioned to working with Macintosh computers at a larger company, where I became interested in design. Despite my initial interest in computer animation, I found the programmer community to be less open at that time, with people unwilling to share knowledge. The landscape has since changed, with a more inclusive and helpful community now prevalent.

 

Q3) What main challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?

 

The main challenge I encountered, like many programmers, was grappling with self-doubt and the Imposter syndrome—questioning whether I was truly capable of solving problems and feeling like I could never know enough. Overcoming this initial self-doubt required developing humility in acquiring knowledge.

I always assumed I knew less than others and adopted a silent, ninja-like approach to learning. I mastered the tactic of seeking knowledge from those who held the keys to the technologies I needed to use. I cunningly transformed into someone eager to learn, willing to stroke their egos and pretend fascination with their mastery, all while ensuring I never appeared superior in what they do. (evil laughter)


Seriously, joke aside, on my learning journey, I realized that humility is the key to acquiring knowledge.

There is no learning curve when arrogance is present. While this may seem obvious, you'd be surprised at how many people fall on both sides of the spectrum—either too arrogant to ask for help or too ashamed and self-doubting of their own capabilities. Finding the right balance is crucial for growth & learning.


Q4) Who or what has been the most significant influence or support in your tech journey?

 

There was one event, among many, that stands out as a pivotal moment that changed me forever, and it's related to support. When I was taking my first steps in learning TensorFlow & Keras and preparing for certification, I was studying through ZTM courses. However, after the one-month access expired, I found myself unable to afford the $30 for the next month's subscription. Knowing another month's subscription wouldn't be enough, and I was still at the very beginning of my journey, I felt disheartened.

During this time, I was active on Twitter, sharing what I had learned, with machine learning being one of my favorite topics. There was a Bosnian developer who had started following me just two weeks prior. After briefly chatting, he saw how devastated I was about not being able to afford more courses. Then, out of nowhere, I received a message from him: "Please, check your email." To my surprise, he had paid for the annual access bundle worth $500.


I remember being overwhelmed with gratitude, crying for 45 minutes straight. That Bosnian developer, an amazing person, restored my faith in humanity.

His only condition was that I pay it forward to the community once I started earning from machine learning.


This act of kindness not only showed me the ethical perspective of being a developer but also changed my life and perspective forever.

 

Q5) How have you seen diversity and inclusion evolve in the tech industry throughout your career?

 

To be honest, I haven't seen much evolution in diversity and inclusion in the tech industry throughout my career. I haven't been involved in any projects or working environments where women were present at all.

While I do notice a slight increase in the presence of women in the industry, I'm still predominantly surrounded by men, which has been the case for my entire life. I wish more girls would choose to pursue careers in tech.

Personally, I don't mind the gender imbalance, but I do tend to act more cautiously around women, perhaps because of their underrepresentation and the desire not to inadvertently cause harm. As long as we are "always outnumbered but never outgunned," I'm content.


Q6) How do you manage the work-life balance in the tech industry?

 

Honestly, I don't. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance isn't something I prioritize or can afford. I've been confined to my house since April 2023, and the truth is, I don't feel the need to leave. For me, burnout is just part of the process. Soon-to-be overachievers come to realize that and feel less guilty about neglecting work-life balance. When you're striving to accomplish great things, there's no room for balance. Imagine Ada Lovelace deciding to skip analyzing Babbage's machine for the day to focus on fitness or self-care—absolutely not. Balancing is for normies.

 

Q7) What skills do you believe are most important in today's tech world?

 

Skill 1: Ability to acquire skills on the fly - For instance, I recall simultaneously learning from documentation and teaching by writing courses for Towards AI.

Skill 2: the capability to teach others, means true understanding of a concept, and this is achieved through explaining concepts trough blogging, mentoring, participating in learning groups, and sharing findings.

Skill 3: articulating ideas confidently, which is essential in technology, where the belief that everything is possible drives development.

Skill 4: ‘trust the process’ means accepting errors and trusting the ongoing, never-ending quest of creation, which often begins from chaos.


Q8) Can you share a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career? 

 

Choosing one project or accomplishment as the most significant in my career is challenging because each one has contributed valuable experience points, and if I had to pick, I would highlight Akasha Solutions and my current ongoing project. I

t's not necessarily because of groundbreaking achievements like curing cancer or eradicating poverty,

but rather because of the people I have the pleasure of working with.

Having a trusted Right Hand on the project, being able to speak my mind freely without hesitation or pretence, and being accepted for who you are in the working atmosphere are invaluable experiences that I deeply appreciate and feel grateful for!



Iva, looking at the camara with a black jumper

 

Q9) What are your future goals, and where do you see the tech industry heading in the next few years?

 

My future goal remains unchanged: "We make things work."

Looking ahead, the development of the tech industry must involve more non-tech individuals. We've formed a sort of bubble where we're constantly solving the same set of problems without seeing the bigger picture. It's crucial to include philosophers, thinkers, conceptualists, and artists in the conversation.


The inclusion shouldn't involve forcing them to use the tools we've built; rather, it's about genuinely listening to their thought processes, reasoning, and conclusions after exploring their respective fields extensively. Creating projects that intersect technology with social sciences is essential.


We also need to stop referring to tech product users as "consumers" and cease seeing "content" in everything. Being less money-focused during creation can be incredibly liberating. The industry seems to be moving towards a direction of free energy for all, as suggested by insights from Akasha. Based on my calculations, humanity will continue to overcome its greatest challenges, as life always finds a way.

 

Q10) What advice would you give to other women considering a career in tech?

  1. Own your uniqueness; carve out your own path in this crazy journey of learning.

  2. Chase what sets your soul on fire; dive into the wisdom of books that light up your curiosity.

  3. Forget about society's expectations; set your own standards and live by them.

  4. Get knee-deep in creation; don't be afraid to ditch what doesn't vibe with your vision—because experience is your best teacher.

  5. Break free from your own chains; arm yourself with knowledge, we need you!


Q11) Let's continue the flow... who would you like to read on the Lovelace Series?

 

Gina Romero is your person of interest. She reached me out recently - I’m curious about her path, and I’m sure it’d be an interesting read.

 

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