PXL Vision represents an extremely diverse group of people who have joined forces to work in deep tech in order to build trust online. In this series, we meet with various colleagues from Team PXL to find out a little bit more about what makes them so special.
This month's interview took place remotely. We digitally met Najeeb Aqel while he was in Nablus, Palestine working remotely and visiting his family.
Getting to know: Najeeb
1. A report from IAESTE, Switzerland (link to pdf) says that you are from Palestine. Can you tell us more about that?
Hi yes, I’m actually calling in from Palestine right now, from my hometown of Nablus. I consider myself Palestinian but also as an international. I’ve lived in Germany, Switzerland, Spain and the US for various periods of my life. While attending college in Palestine, I was able to travel a lot – I went to about 25 different countries.
Growing up in Palestine actually affected my personality a lot. Life is much more complex in Palestine then these other places. You handle risks differently. In Switzerland, for example, risk might be characterized as missing a work meeting or being late to a friend’s wedding. In Palestine handling risk was more about avoiding immediate danger.
Even today, when moving around Palestine, you have to consider whether or not the way is safe or which cities might not currently be visitable. Of course, when you grow up there you learn how to handle these risky situations. This has actually helped me greatly in my business life when you think about risk in this way.
I’m happy to be in Palestine right now and I can see that it is experiencing a sort of tech boom right now which is great for the country.
2. Are you living in Palestine now?
No, I’m just visiting my family and working remotely from here. I’m currently living in Berlin, Germany.
3. Do you plan on staying in Berlin? What do you like/dislike about Berlin? Any comparisons to Switzerland?
Yes, for now. It’s possible that I will go back to Zurich at some point. I’m currently living in Germany, in Berlin and I love Berlin! Berlin is like the NY of Europe. It is becoming more and more attractive to live and work there. One thing I don’t like, however, are the slow application processes. I’ve been waiting for about a year now for my driver’s license!
I was living in Zurich while I was in Switzerland. That’s where the PXL Vision headquarters are. I actually think that Berlin and Zurich are complimentary cities. Berlin has the opportunities where you can take risks and scale yourself professionally. While Zurich is the opposite, where everything is quite nice and comfortable - it’s great for energizing oneself.
I think I would like to live in Berlin in the Summers with all the outdoor festivities the city has to offer and then maybe Zurich in the winters, for its clear skies and hiking and skiing opportunities. Berlin’s also great in the Summer for running exercises and outdoor swimming.
4. What’s something you’re planning on doing in the next year that you’ve never done before?
I really want to speak fluently in German. I’m always speaking English at PXL Vision. I’m also working on a few side projects in order to expand my knowledge of machine learning operations. It’s a new field that specializes on the software side of ML.
Photo: Najeeb in Switzerland - the Italian-speaking part
Strengthening connections: Najeeb @ PXL Vision
5. How long have you been at PXL Vision?
About 2 years and 9 months now.
6. So you have been with PXL during the transition from a small startup into the medium-sized company that it is today. What has that been like?
Overall It’s been interesting to see how processes changed and also how people changed over time. When I joined, we were 9-10 people. We had a really small office by the lake in Zurich. Some of us worked from home because it was too small. Now we have a much larger office in Zurich with plans to expand abroad. We currently have about 50 full-time employees and many more contractors. More people on staff has allowed us to scale our product and integrate new functionality into it. It has also led to a really great core tech team. It’s really a pleasure to work with my team.
7. What do you enjoy most about working at PXL Vision?
Being able to be myself and being able to follow my gut feelings and have people supporting me all the way. If there is a problem to tackle, you have the flexibility and support to figure it out for yourself. This has really allowed me to build out my problem-solving skills. I really enjoy the wider team at PXL. Everyone is unique in their own way, and I think we complement one another quite well. Also, the flexibility is great - being able to work remotely from wherever and whenever.
8. What interests you the most about PXL Vision’s product?
The idea of becoming the number one digital identity provider worldwide; adding trust to the online world. Also, I might add, to put an end to slow, manual processes – especially in Germany, ha! I envision a future where individuals will be able to store their ID on a blockchain and essentially always have it with them. There is lots of room for research and development in all things digital identity. And we are really pushing the boundaries of that at PXL Vision and that is really exciting!
9. Your title is Core Tech Engineer? What does that mean? What exactly is it that you do at PXL Vision?
Of course, as a startup, one has to wear many hats. So, I am involved in all things related to developing the technology of our identity verification platform. I especially worked a lot on the ID document scanning. I also worked on data driven tasks. So, instead of telling a computer what something is, I train the computer to decide what it is for itself. My focus is to help build scalable, user-friendly, and easy to integrate digital identity solutions.
10. You are also involved in computer vision and machine learning at PXL Vision. Can you describe what this means in simple terms?
Yes, of course, I can explain it quite simply actually. Computer vision is a field of computer science where you teach computers to see in order to get computers to interpret the world around them. Whereas, machine learning, is where instead of telling a computer how to figure out a problem, you train it to learn for itself.
11. There was an article published to our blog last year about PXL Vision’s new supercomputer, which is quite rare for a startup to have. Do you work with this computer at all? Is it noticeably super?
Yes, it is noticeably super! It’s a great article by the way. But no, I don’t directly work with the supercomputer yet (we call it Valhalla), but I will in the future. I do however currently depend on its output from other team members. The computer is noticeably faster, and it allows us to run numerous experiences at the same time. These machines are specifically calibrated to handle machine learning and deep learning tasks.
12. What are you most excited about for the future of PXL Vision? New directions or major accomplishments on the horizon? Don’t mention anything top secret of course!
It’s hard to say if I can’t mention anything top secret! Ha-ha! Overall, I’m very excited about continuing to build the most user-friendly and scalable identity verification product on the market. One that is easily integrated into whichever use case and adds trust to the online world.