Jamal Madni recipient of the 2021 UCLA Samueli Rising Professional Achievement Award

A conversation with this year’s recipient of the
UCLA Samueli Rising Professional Achievement Award,
Jamal Madni M.S. ’08, M.S. ’12

Jamal Madni obtained his Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from UCLA Samueli in 2008 as well as his Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering in 2012. He is this year’s recipient of the Rising Professional Achievement Award. Madni is Co-Founder & CEO of Ingage, an organization intersecting artificial intelligence and human connection by creating a behavioral analytics-videoconferencing platform to assist people higher learn and react to the digital boardroom, examination room and classroom. Before Ingage, Madni was Managing Director of Enterprise Technology Strategy for Boeing. As a social entrepreneur, Madni created a university software preparatory program, which has helped over 50 underrepresented minority college students pursue STEM-based increased training. This recognition is particularly meaningful because Jamal is the son of distinguished adjunct professor Asad Madni, who is also a multiple Samueli Award recipient—making them the first father-son, multiple Samueli Award winners in UCLA Samueli history.

“I was fortunate enough to win the outstanding master’s student award ten years ago, and to see ten years later, my career come full circle with this first chapter bookended with the UCLA Samueli Awards was really special.”


Q: How did you feel when Dean Murthy called you to share with you that you had won the UCLA Samueli Rising Professional Achievement Award?
My first reaction when Dean Murthy called me was, “Are you sure you have the right person?” I was really shocked to find out I had been selected and we had a great laugh over that. However, a sense of humility quickly overcame me because of the history of UCLA engineering—the birthplace of the internet and a research power in the world. To be a part of that legacy and tradition of such excellence in engineering and technology was really humbling. I was fortunate enough to win the outstanding master’s student award ten years ago, and to see ten years later, my career come full circle with this first chapter bookended with the UCLA Samueli Awards was really special. Coupling that with my dad [Professor Asad Madni] having won multiple UCLA Samueli awards, you just couldn’t help but feel the father-son history, and he and I doing something that hadn’t really been done before in the history of UCLA engineering.

Professor Asad Madni, distinguished adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering, has received two UCLA Samueli Awards himself. He won the Samueli Alumnus of the Year Award in 2004 and the Samueli Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. He shared his thoughts about Jamal receiving this recognition:
“It is a proud and most gratifying moment for me to see my son being honored by our alma mater. For Taj, Jamal and I, UCLA Samueli is a very important part of our family and our lives. When Jamal joined UCLA Samueli to pursue his graduate studies in engineering (MSEE and MSBME), I was thrilled. To see him walk the same corridors as I did and visit the same classrooms and labs as I did, was an experience that is very hard to describe. They were very special moments for me. When he received the Edward K. Rice Outstanding Master’s Student Award, my wife Taj and I were proud parents with a great sense of gratitude for the school in recognizing our son with such distinction among the most outstanding group of graduate students. When it was announced that Jamal had been selected to receive the Samueli Rising Professional Achievement Award, we were once again filled with pride and a deep sense of gratitude for the school for having provided him with an incomparable education which was the basis of his professional accomplishments.”

Jamal went on to share with us about his professional achievement thus far, and how his UCLA Samueli experience helped him get there.


Q: How did your UCLA Samueli experience help shape or inspire your current trajectory and career path?
I can attribute a lot of my success to my time at UCLA, but there are three specific skills that have impacted my life and trajectory that originate from my time there. Data-storytelling is the first. So much of my research experience through my two masters in bioengineering and electrical engineering was delving into data and analysis and synthesis and simulation, but then ultimately distilling it in a way that can be communicated and applied. The second piece is systems thinking and understanding where different disciplines converge at the interface level. And the last piece is social consciousness and that, to me, is the differentiator between UCLA and other schools I’ve been to since then. What meaningfully complemented my experience with my double masters was being Graduate Student Body President for two years. That sense of social consciousness has informed my career, centering my focus on people.

In my professional experience, I’ve found that what you learn is not as important as learning how to learn because technology changes so quickly. So, when you are able to find an environment like UCLA where you can learn how to learn in the most effective way—that’s special.


Q: You’re being recognized for your wide-reaching professional achievements – what are you the proudest of, or most excited by, when looking towards the future of your career?
I spent ten years in aerospace and biotech right after graduation. I worked on software design and development, the testing of satellites, classified space assets, missiles, and airplanes. I knew even then I had this desire to go and be entrepreneurial at some point in my life. Founding Ingage was the perfect inflection point to customize the impact I wanted to have on the world that is emblematic of who I am.

For me, what’s exciting is helping professionals read the virtual room through behavioral intelligence. The larger mission and vision I have for Ingage, but that is also sort of my professional thesis, is this notion of the Internet of Us. We started with an Internet 1.0 with the packet-switch and ARPANET. I think we’re living in Internet 2.0 right now where we’ve got smart devices, televisions, refrigerators and air conditioning units. But, I ultimately see a vision of the Internet of Us, which goes from the Internet of Things to what I might call Internet 3.0—where we ask how can we use behavioral intelligence and signals to help enhance human connection, not replace it? How can I use behavioral intelligence to be a better friend, a better spouse, a better parent and just a better citizen in the world?

I think as a society we’re still searching for the right identity and place for A.I. and machine learning in the world today. What’s unique about Ingage is that we are using the technology to collect patterns, count those patterns and then describe the world, as opposed to prescribe the world. Some of the algorithms today can be very prescriptive in nature. We want to be descriptive in nature because context in these interactions are so unique to one another. By sharing the data in its true essence, and allowing the individual the agency to interpret the data informed by their individual contexts, I think what makes this product special.


Q: What do you think is the importance of having this type of formal awarding ceremony?
One of the things I find so special about the UCLA Samueli Awards is that a place as transcendent as UCLA has the room to recognize and celebrate the importance of individuals with such a diversity of background and experiences—exemplified by the very different approaches both my father and I have had to our careers. His focus was much more on the research side, and my experiences were very much more in the applied and extracurricular side, shining a light on the importance of engineering to the larger campus community.

Professor Madni echoed Jamal’s thoughts. He shared his feelings about the UCLA Samueli Awards:
“By recognizing the achievements of our current students and alumni, we establish the excellence of our Samueli education, we provide confidence to prospective students and their parents that their educational experience at Samueli will be most worthwhile and their career opportunities will be second to none; we give them the confidence that, like their predecessors, they will have the opportunity to make transformational contributions that will positively impact our society, our world, and humanity in as yet unimagined ways.”


Jamal’s favorite UCLA Samueli memory speaks to the unique relationship this father-son pair has.
I remember in my first weeks of graduate school at UCLA as I was walking around getting introduced to the dean or different professors and advisors, one of the first things I always got asked was, “Oh, are you Asad’s son?”. That was kind of my initial identity at UCLA from the beginning. Years later at graduation, after going through 2 degrees and having been Graduate Student Body President, I distinctly remember Chancellor Block meeting my father and asking: “Oh, you’re Jamal’s father?” Over the five-year period of being at UCLA, that moment was a really special memory.