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Shonda and Shalisha Witherspoon were featured on the cover of FIU Magazine in 2016. According to Gisela Valencia, the first-generation college students went on to graduate with high GPAs in Florida International University’s College of Engineering & Computing and pursue master’s degrees in information technology degrees at FIU. This February, the twins will receive the Most Promising Engineer in Industry awards at the BEYA STEM Conference.


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Shalisha is currently a software engineer at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, headquarters of IBM Research. While a grad student, she won an internship at the center and contributed to a project researching acoustic analysis for roaming Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Since joining IBM, she has emerged as a valuable contributor. A strong example has been her work on the IBM Federated Learning (FL) framework.

The IBM FL framework was a collaborative effort of several IBM lab locations to develop a learning platform capable of supporting machine learning frameworks. Because of her proficiency, Shalisha was on-boarded to lead the development of Pytorch support. Thanks in part to her contributions, the IBM FL framework was awarded a highly selective IBM A-Level Accomplishment.

“Shalisha has proven herself as a promising engineer, and a future leader in the field,” said Dr. Bijan Davari, an IBM Fellow.

Shonda is also a software engineer at IBM Research, where she is focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT-related projects. She started her career after standing out as a top candidate in the company’s first virtual hackathon. Shonda and her fellow interns competed as the only all-female team from 20 different IBM sites around the United States.  Shonda’s team won first place in the IoT-TJbot category with an IoT device capable of interpreting the manual alphabet using IBM technology. After the victory, Shonda was invited by IBM staff to speak to a group of children enrolled in the IBM Girls and Boys Go Techknow summer camp.

“Shonda will go a long way in encouraging the diverse technical community in IBM and beyond,” said Dr. Nicholas Fuller of IBM Research.


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