After 3 years of work, the day has finally arrived: my book, Girl Decoded, launches today, and is now available to order at your favorite bookstore or online retailer. Girl Decoded is the story of my personal journey and that of Affectiva and Emotion AI. From Egypt to Cambridge (UK and MA), Ph.D. to CEO, and fantasy to reality, we have commercialized cutting edge Emotion AI to humanize technology and transform the way we connect with one another in a digital world. Along the way, I’ve often had to defy what was expected of me, breaking boundaries, both as a Muslim woman and female tech founder…but I’ve found my voice.
A number of years ago, I had an “a-ha” moment: what if our technology could understand us in the same way that we understand one another? That set me on a mission to humanize technology, co-found Affectiva and pioneer the new category of Emotion AI. I decided to write Girl Decoded to evangelize a human-centric approach to AI, but as I reflected, I realized that I have an unconventional personal story to tell. So, while this book is a memoir, I also view it as a point in time. It has given me the opportunity to reflect on my personal journey and how this journey intertwines with the history of Affectiva.
The book talks about self discovery and growth, and for me writing it was in itself a growth experience. By sharing my story, my goal is to inspire other technologists, leaders and entrepreneurs, women and young people of diverse backgrounds, and anyone who has ever struggled to find their own voice. I truly hope this book will help other people in their growth journeys, while helping to realize a world in which technology interacts with humans the way we interact with each other.
It has certainly been a challenge launching a book during a global pandemic. I feel fortunate that at Affectiva, we are able to work virtually, from home, while balancing our personal needs and caring for our families. While ultimately, our collective well being is the most important thing, this time is teaching us to be flexible and creative in how we are working. For example, with the launch of Girl Decoded, I had months of book tour travel planned—all of which was rightfully cancelled. A lot of events have moved online in the form of social media livestreaming and Zoom fireside chats. We are also hosting Virtual Book Tour events, which have been so engaging and a great way to connect with thousands of people online!
I always say it takes a village; and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, the Affectiva Team, and my publisher at Penguin Random House just to name a few. Thank you all for your guidance, encouragement and support these last few years. I am extremely grateful, and am excited to share my story with you all today.