Shari Benko, User Experience Design Lead at Intel, joined us last week at Facebook Global Security HQ for the two-day Child Safety Hackathon. Employees from Intel, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Domino Data Lab, and more, came together for the second year in a row to help develop cutting edge solutions in the fight against child sexual exploitation. Taking two days away from her work, Shari shares her motivation to combine her skills, empathy and passion to help move our projects forward.

My education started with the study of human communication, and my early career was focused in live television production. It was my dream to work in live television production, until I realized that being a part of television news broadcasting meant reporting not only the good in humanity but more often, the negative.

The negative reporting began to overwhelm me and I realized that I couldn’t succeed in the industry I loved. My empathy for others kept me from being able to take a desensitized attitude toward my work, which is necessary when confronted with negative stories every day.

I left television news broadcasting and have since become a user experience interaction designer. UX interaction design brings together the study of human communication and creative design. The empathy that held me back in television production, is now an advantage. I am able to put myself in my user’s shoes to ensure that my designs are what they need, not what I think they need. After being hired to a team at Intel focused on machine learning and AI, I found my true calling: designing interfaces that present the endless promise of machine learning to the world.

It was during my work at Intel that I became involved with Thorn. My sense of empathy again became an advantage, it motivated me to do something useful to help the missing and exploited children that Thorn works so hard to find. I am now working on implementing a facial recognition algorithm to search thousands of images in the hopes of finding a missing or exploited child.

The work I continue to do for Thorn is the most rewarding project I have worked on. The idea that my work could help find a missing or exploited child provides me with so much hope, it strengthens me when dealing with the gravity of the topic. The ability to take action is the reason that I am not struggling as I did in television news broadcasting.

I am taking action and building tools that will enable others take action. That’s why I donate my time to Thorn.


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