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Meet the Expert: Ankit Harneja

Published on
February 1, 2023

Every action we take can influence how we live our lives, for Ankit Harneja, reading the book Zero to One by Peter Thiel was the action that led him to a career focused on automotive innovation.

Early Life

From an early age, Ankit had always been interested in technology. Though he was at a different school every year, the one thing that remained consistent was technology. Ankit claims his appreciation grew for this as it “is a great equalizer…constantly evolving to remove barriers that emerge due to a person's social characteristics, geographic location, and physical or sensory abilities.”

Earning a degree in computer science was an ideal choice for Ankit to turn his passion into a career. This was later followed by a master’s in business administration and ScrumMaster certification.

After obtaining his computer science degree, Ankit got his first job as a software engineer for Accenture, which holds significance in his career path. According to Ankit, this made him “realize engineers are a unique breed of humans” and gave him “an insatiable appetite for innovation.” Post master’s, he joined Amazon’s Pathways Leadership Program in Operations. It was this job that Ankit realized he wanted his career to be firmly rooted in innovation.

A Career Fueled by Automotive Innovation

In the spirit of doing exactly what the book Zero to One said, Ankit decided to join Cruise. He joined as a Product Manager to help the self-driving revolution in its early days, or as the book says, a company going from zero to one to create something into existence. While working there, something many of us are still dreaming of doing happened for Ankit. He was able to order his first fully autonomous ride right from his phone! This video shows just how well the ride went. This milestone confirmed automotive was the right industry and the goal set for working at Cruise had been achieved.

Appen and the automotive services we offered became the next logical step in Ankit’s career. It’s allowed him to share his wealth of knowledge with other industries including healthcare, and aerospace.

Working in the automotive sector has brought about experiences not every other industry can offer. “The background of individuals in the automotive industry is vast and diverse. You will find car lovers, technology enablers, and folks like me who believe better and more accessible automotive solutions will allow more societal equity.” Everyone uses some form of transportation in their daily lives, and naturally a significant amount of people want to help make the experience better.

Appen X Ankit

Ankit has leveraged his unique perspective and wealth of automotive knowledge on his current projects at Appen. “Having led 500 people in a warehouse, I operate with the concept of the reverse pyramid and understand that the people on the floor are the most important. The same principle is true for producing good-quality annotations for AI.” His focus is on making sure our data is of high-quality, diverse, and capturing all data points needed to properly train a model.

“Joining Appen was a natural step for me because I want to ensure everyone in the industry can have the data they need to fast-track the development of their AI models to build a safer world for all. At Appen, I get to work with several customers on a wide range of solutions, and I want to be a catalyst for enabling engineers and data scientists to create the future we all want to live in.”

When asked for a reason of why he’s proud to work here, Ankit said it was Appen touching many parts of our daily lives and the wide assortment of use cases we’ve worked on. He also wanted everyone to know how committed we are to providing opportunities to a global workforce, as mentioned in our Crowd Code of Ethics.

After joining Appen, Ankit observed many other industries face similar challenges that he’s seen from his extensive work in automotive. By sharing his best practices with Appenites across various sectors, it helps everyone find solutions and better assist our customers.

Automotive Insight from an Expert

Having gotten a taste of what life is like in a fully autonomous ride, Ankit is eager for everyone else to experience the same. By not having a driver in the car, passengers are free to be themselves, which for Ankit means speaking with his friends in his native language and not having to feel uncomfortable about not speaking in English.

There’s a bright future for the auto industry, and the presence of AI in every aspect is inevitable. From robots constructing vehicles, to full autonomous cars becoming commonplace on the road, our experience with cars will also become safer as humans are no longer operating the wheel. In the US, 94% of all accidents are from human error, less humans driving means less accidents.

An important piece of advice when dealing with AI and automotive is “If AI is provided with insufficient data, it’s garbage in and garbage out. I always recommend quality over quantity. Like a car, at the heart of any AI system is the fuel it is being fed. But rather than gasoline, it’s data and lots of it.” It’s imperative the data used for training purposes teaches the models to mimic how a human would operate a vehicle. If the model is just fed with insufficient data and doesn’t correctly learn how to drive, then autonomous vehicles will be unable to achieve superhuman safety levels and fulfill their promise.

We’re excited to have you as our Senior Product Manager, Ankit Harneja. Your expert insight into all things automotive is invaluable and we look forward to seeing all you’ll accomplish here.

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