Artificial intelligence

Unlocking Potential: Afshin Beheshti’s Guide to Navigating a World of Endless Possibilities

Afshin Beheshti’s Blueprint: Bridging Diverse Skills & Powering Tomorrow through Networking

In the bustling realm of technology and research, it’s rare to encounter an individual who effortlessly straddles multiple disciplines. Such is the case with Mr. Afshin Beheshti, the President of Kwaai, whose expansive work stretches from space biology to AI democratization.

We recently sat down with Beheshti during “Bright Founders Talk” at Temy where he shared insights into his latest ventures. From helming crucial research on the challenges posed by COVID-19 to diving deep into the enigmatic domain of lung cancer mutations, Beheshti’s endeavors are as eclectic as they are profound. Particularly intriguing is his movement with Kwaai, aimed at democratizing AI in a manner reminiscent of the early Linux days.

His vision? A personal AI assistant for everyone, challenging existing monopolies and ushering in a new era of technological accessibility. As our conversation with Beheshti unfolded, it was clear that for him, stagnation isn’t an option. Join us as we dive into the mind of a man who, by his own admission, simply cannot say no to challenges.

Afshin Beheshti's Blueprint: Bridging Diverse Skills & Powering Tomorrow through Networking
Afshin’s Universe: From Space Biology to Shaking Up AI – A Glimpse into a Multifaceted Journey

Rusana kicked off the chat with the ever-engaging Afshin, a whirlwind of passion and innovation. Picture this: You’re diving deep into space biology one moment, exploring the mysteries of our universe, and then you pivot to confronting the urgent, terrestrial challenges of COVID-19. Afshin’s versatility in science is no accident. His commitment? To not “sit still.” A sentiment echoed when he said, “I do many different things.”

Speaking of not sitting still, let’s talk about Kwaai. It’s not just another techie initiative. Imagine the Linux movement, but for AI. Kwaai’s ambition is to democratize AI, breaking free from the shackles of monopoly and ensuring everyone gets a personal AI assistant. And when Afshin says ‘everyone,’ he means it! From aiding life sciences with lab assistants to helping an average Joe or Jane decipher a doctor’s med-talk, Kwaai seems poised to revolutionize how we interact with technology.

But wait, the plot thickens! Afshin’s endeavors also spotlight a particularly enigmatic lung cancer mutation, exon 20. Imagine being a fit, young individual, unaware of the ticking time bomb of a rare mutation within, only to discover it when it’s alarmingly advanced. There’s an urgency in his voice when discussing the collaboration with patient advocacy groups, striving to tackle this elusive challenge head-on. His drive? A simple philosophy, and perhaps our favorite takeaway from the conversation: “I don’t say no, that’s my problem.” And in this context, what a fantastic problem to have!

I don’t say no, that’s my problem

Afshin’s Symphony: A Confluence of Science, Music, and Limitless Curiosity

In a backdrop of youthful exuberance, Afshin’s inclination towards science was evident. But, hold on, did you know about his musical rendezvous? Thanks to his parents’ nudge towards music, Afshin dabbled in playing instruments and even had a stint with jazz bands. His school days? Picture this: A lad part of the chess team, dabbling in debates, all while maintaining a presence in the music scene. You’d think that’s a full plate, but Afshin was only warming up!

Enter college, and our protagonist is magnetically drawn to physics. However, in a twist that might baffle some, he pivots to biology post-PhD. Why? In his words, “It’s more interesting, and I could learn it.” Ever felt stuck in your niche? Afshin’s career mantra is golden: “Don’t pigeonhole yourself.” He’s a testament to the magic that can unfold when you open up to diverse opportunities.

Don’t pigeonhole yourself

But here’s the million-dollar question: How does he juggle it all? Afshin’s secret sauce is his impeccable time management skills, sprinkled with an insatiable curiosity. And let’s not forget his vibrant social nature. When you’re this enthusiastic, collaborations aren’t just welcome; they’re inevitable! His advice for the curious souls? Dive deep into your passions, clock in those hours, and above all, cherish the journey.

Afshin: Mastering the Art of Virtual Collaboration

There’s a golden nugget of wisdom in the world of managing collaborations – how do you get a group of diverse, senior professionals to work together seamlessly? Afshin likens it to herding cats, a task as tricky as it sounds. Yet for him, the secret lies in the art of persuasion, in being a “good used car salesman” as he playfully puts it. “You have to believe in what you’re doing and be good at selling it. If you don’t believe what you’re doing, it shows,” he shares. In a world where face-to-face meetings are becoming rarer, Afshin found his light bulb moment in virtual collaboration, a step ahead even before the world pivoted to remote work. For him, this wasn’t just a necessity but a game-changer. “The key that switched everything for me was taking advantage of the virtual workspace,” he elaborates.

You have to believe in what you’re doing and be good at selling it

The beauty of virtual work, as Afshin paints it, is the vast expanse of opportunities it brings. By transcending geographical limitations, he’s managed to weave a network that stretches from Japan to Europe, South America to India. Yet, with a network so broad and tasks so diverse, how does one strike the balance between work and personal life, especially when the lines start to blur? His answer is simple and refreshing: “Work is fun.” Afshin chuckles as he shares his wife’s observation, “You just go play at work.” For him, a day spent unraveling the mysteries of science or delving into the exciting realms of AI is as thrilling as playing a tune with his band.

But the musician-scientist does admit that the balance isn’t always easy. “There are times, of course, when work creeps into vacations, when emails pull you back from a serene getaway,” he mentions. Yet, Afshin’s approach to work, his genuine love for it, makes these intrusions less burdensome. After all, as he aptly puts it, “If you enjoy your work, if you find a career path that doesn’t seem like work, then it’s not work.” And that might just be the secret sauce to mastering the delicate dance between work and leisure.

Afshin on Fusing Passions and Fostering the Next Gen: Navigating the Crossroads of Curiosity

It’s an age-old challenge – young minds flooded with ideas, with passions dancing in different directions. It’s like standing at a crossroads with multiple pathways stretching out, each enticing in its own right. Afshin too remembers standing at such junctures. With an encouraging smile, he delves into a rather simple yet profound piece of advice: “No matter what field you’re in, what you’re doing can easily be plug and play to other methods.”

But how do you begin? Afshin gets this a lot, and his answer is unwavering. “Learn your background in your specific career path, but then start looking,” he emphasizes. He suggests thinking creatively and keeping that child-like wonder alive. Not to forget networking, which he asserts is the bridge between isolated genius and collaborative innovation. Drawing from his experience, Afshin candidly shares, “I support the younger generation because they might have a fresh idea that I would have never thought of.”

Don’t lose your inner child and creativity. What you’re doing can be applied to many different paths

The beauty lies in embracing our multifaceted selves, Afshin seems to suggest. It’s about viewing each skill not as a limiting label but as a versatile tool in a swiss-army knife of potential. The horizons are broad, but the map is within, and networking can serve as the compass. As our conversation drew to a close, it was clear that Afshin’s journey is not just about reaching a destination, but also about inspiring others to embark on their own. The future seems bright, and with mentors like Afshin paving the way, it’s bound to be an exciting ride!

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