Global Artificial Intelligence Pioneer
Lavina Ramkissoon defines the word ‘multi-talented’. Yoga practitioner, mentor, trend influencer, strategist, keynote speaker, partial artist, dancer, writer, technologist – Lavina is all this and more. A master of many traits, she’s best known on the global stage as an Artificial Intelligence leader and strategist.
Traversing the globe is not new to Lavina. After starting her journey from Monash University in Australia, Lavina became a strategist and output-driven senior executive with 20 years of diverse leadership experience across Europe and Africa.
A future technology lover, today Lavina is renowned as an AI leader and mentor who speaks worldwide about her love for humanity, technology, economics and businesses. She’s a digital psychology speaker and engages in management services and non/executive advisory services to deliver IT and Business strategy programmes. Her focus areas are all new age technologies like robotics, applied AI, and applied blockchain.
Now based in the South African city of Johannesburg, Lavina is the leading AI driver for Africa with a mission to create meaningful innovative solutions to help shape the African continent #shespeaksafrica. She aims to educate, inspire, and drive AI innovations across Africa.
Interestingly, Lavina’s journey in the field of technology be traced with the development of the field itself. In 2000, she graduated in Information systems, South Africa and in 2006, she graduated with Masters in Leadership (MBL, SA). “My biggest passion is learning about human minds and technology. I was fascinated with computers from a young age, so I decided to study Computer Science and I’ve continued in that direction since graduation,” she says.
In 2007, Lavina was Appointed in Exco management while in 2008, she embraced motherhood when she gave birth to twin girls. Yet the challenges she faced were more in the professional sphere than the personal. “My early career sacrifices included chartering into an area in technology when no one understood the impact. Also making sure I was seen for my skills, not just for being the only female in the room,” she reveals.
Lavina’s Artificial Intelligence journey began in 2010, when she graduated in Psychology (British school of Sciences, UK) and Artificial Intelligence (Harvard). In 2012, she was already heading up strategy and project office division for a large telco. “Having started in technology over 20 years ago when it was not even a thing, I was privy to most, if not all, the barriers to leadership for women. These included structural barriers, institutional mindsets, individual mindsets and lifestyle choices. From early 2000’s of simple after-work drinks to being seen as equal at boardrooms. Thus one had to constantly reinforce one’s skills, one’s abilities, one’s presence and one’s self,” she shares.
Then came 2015 which was a turning point for Lavina. She started her own organisations in fields of Artificial Intelligence, and was appointed as non-executive director on a few boards.
For her path-breaking work, Lavina was Awarded as the Top 20 African Trailblazers (SAWIL) in 2020 and Top 100 Global Women in Leadership (GCPIT), 2021. Yet she depicts the girl next door: “I still have friends that I made when I was four years old. And I still escape it all by retreating to my house-office, which houses my vintage and modern technologies amongst which lies some of my paintings.”
When she’s home amidst her busy schedule, Lavina ensures her me-time. She adds, “Things that help unleash my free spirit include playing in nature, running out in the ocean at the first chance I get, practising meditation/yoga, lending a helpinghand in neighbourhood, upgrading my knowledge base and bonding with my girls.” Only those close to her are aware that Lavina is an enthusiast health freak, known to be a geek, and a passionate dancer, all this, with an adventurous streak. By the age 25, she had sand surfed in Dubai, Jet ski, cannoning and surf boarded in South Africa, Mauritius, hiked a small part of the mighty Himalayan mountains, travelled to 15 cities, abseiling and rock climbing in South Africa, and more.
On her journey both professional and personal, Lavina says the key things she has learned are: “Play to your strengths, prioritise your time, plot some personal time.” While her weakness is, “Sometimes having trouble saying no to requests and end up taking on more than I can handle. I now use apps so I can see how much work I have at any moment and understand when I have time to help others.” Nevertheless, Lavina finds time to support many NGO’s as well as mentor various groups.
Lavina most inspired by her grandparents and ordinary citizens like Malala Yousafzai including other men and women across the globe converging for good with real attempts at solving social inequalities, diversity, giving a voice to the voiceless, and enabling power through compassion as humanity. #shespeaksafrica #buildafrica