Industry Leader in Signal Processing and Machine Learning: Midia Yousefi

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Industry Leader in Signal Processing and Machine Learning: Midia Yousefi

Dr. Behnaz Ghoraani

Industry Leader in Signal Processing and Machine Learning: Midia Yousefi

Senior Research Scientist, Cloud and AI Org., Microsoft

Laure Blanc-Féraud Midia Yousefi is a distinguished Senior Research Scientist within the Cloud and AI division at Microsoft, where she is actively engaged in a spectrum of research initiatives pertaining to audio and speech technologies. Her work has been applied to various domains such as Speech-to-Speech Translation, Text-to-Speech Synthesis, Automatic Speech recognition and Speaker Diarization. Prior to joining Microsoft, Midia attained her Doctorate in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Texas at Dallas. Her career commenced with a postdoctoral tenure at the University of Texas at Dallas, under the supervision of Dr. John Hansen. During this period, she made significant contributions to numerous projects, notably in the restoration and digitization of the Apollo corpus, alongside the formulation of benchmarks for the detection, separation, and recognition of overlapped speech. Her research findings have been published in various journals and conference proceedings, focusing on speech processing and language technology.

In the Spotlight: Conversation with Midia Yousefi

1. Why Challenges have you had to face to get to where you are today?

I have faced several challenges on my journey to becoming a Senior Research Scientist at Microsoft. Initially, the transition from academic research to industry posed a significant hurdle, requiring me to adapt to different expectations and project goals. During my Postdoc, I worked on the restoration and digitization of the Apollo corpus and developing benchmarks for detecting and recognizing overlapped speech presented technical challenges that demanded innovative solutions. Additionally, navigating internships at Bosch L.L.C. and Microsoft, each with unique project focuses such as extracting target-speaker speech and recognizing emotion and toxic language, required me to rapidly acquire and apply new skills. These were all valuable experiences that broadened my expertise and skill set to successfully navigate different phases of my career at both academia and Industry.

2. What was the most important factor in your success?

I think, achieving success in career, particularly in a dynamic and evolving field like speech technology, depends on several key factors. One of the most critical elements that I think has contributed to my success, is the ability to adapt and learn across diverse domains relevant to my profession. This adaptability allows me to stay current with new developments and integrate various aspects of my field into our work. A strong academic foundation also provides the essential technical expertise and research skills needed for significant achievements. This background not only supported initial learning for me but also fosters ongoing professional development and innovation. Additionally, I have always been willing to take on challenging projects and internships which plays a significant role in my career progression. Moreover, I am dedicated to staying ahead of the latest research, participating in professional communities, and contributing to innovative projects. By actively engaging in these activities, I have been able to make substantial contributions to my filed and achieve career milestones.

3. How does your work affect society?

Our work in speech technology at Microsoft has profound implications for society, with our research and developments in Speech-to-Speech Translation, Text-to-Speech Synthesis, Automatic Speech Recognition, and Speaker Diarization playing a crucial role in enhancing communication and accessibility. These technologies have a significant impact across various domains, notably in overcoming language barriers and improving accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

One of the most exciting applications of Speech-to-Speech Translation is in the context of global communication, particularly in meetings and educational settings. For instance, Microsoft Teams, a widely used platform for virtual meetings and online classes, integrates advanced speech translation capabilities to bridge language gaps. This technology allows participants from different linguistic backgrounds to understand each other in real-time, fostering more inclusive and productive interactions. In universities, this means that international students and faculty can participate fully in lectures and discussions, irrespective of their native language. By providing real-time translation of speech into multiple languages, Speech-to-Speech Translation ensures that everyone has equal access to information and can engage more effectively.

4. What is the key take-home message you would like readers to remember from this interview?

The key take-home message from this interview, in my opinion, is the importance of adaptability and continuous learning in achieving success in rapidly evolving fields like AI, computer vision, and speech technology. Embracing challenges and leveraging interdisciplinary skills can lead to significant advancements and impactful contributions to both academia and industry. Additionally, volunteering in professional activities, participating in conferences and research societies helps expanding professional network which leads to significant visibility and outreach opportunities.

5. Failures are an inevitable part of everyone’s career journey. What is the most important lesson you have learned from dealing with failures during your career?

One of the most important lessons I have learned from dealing with failures is the value of resilience and persistence. Each setback provided me with valuable insights and opportunities for growth. For example, overcoming technical challenges in my projects, such as the restoration of the Apollo corpus or the development of speech recognition benchmarks, required iterative problem-solving and learning from mistakes. This experience taught me that failures are not endpoints but stepping stones toward achieving greater expertise and innovation.

6. Although novelty and innovation are the most important factors technological advancement, new ideas often face significant resistance until proven effective. What advice would you offer on handling such pushback, particularly for those early in their careers?

One advice that I was given in the early days of my career was to remain confident in my innovative ideas and to persist despite resistance. I would like to pass this advice on to other young professionals. It is crucial to build a solid foundation of evidence through rigorous testing and validation of new concepts. Engaging with the community through presentations, publications, and collaborations can help in gaining support and feedback. Additionally, finding mentors and allies who believe in your vision can provide the necessary encouragement and guidance to navigate challenges and pushbacks.


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