Hadi Harb is a qualified Engineer, research scientist, consultant, and business owner. He lends his invaluable knowledge to the Engineering Institute of Technology as a lecturer too. His typical subjects are Programming (C++), Process Control, and sometimes he covers modules relating to data communication, and to anything involving data analysis and signal analysis. He also lectures on topics which touch on research and practice, and practical project management.
Originating from Lebanon, Hadi now lives in Barcelona with his wife and two daughters and enjoys a challenging work life. Apart from lecturing EIT student cohorts based around the world, he consults to a tech company in Japan on artificial intelligence and also runs a family business.
But how and where did Hadi start his journey in the engineering world? And how did he get the itch to forge his specific path forward in engineering?
School, university and beyond
“As a young boy I always liked math and physics. When I got to university, I really had no choice but engineering. Dealing with more technical aspects - it was natural to me,” Hadi recalls. “My school was in Lebanon in a city called Baalbek, an old Roman city. I was there until I was 18, then I went to the capital of Lebanon, Beirut, to study engineering for five years, equivalent to a Masters in engineering. The first three years there you study general engineering. After that, I specialized as an electrical electronics engineer.”
However, whilst Hadi was studying, he came to a fork in the road - he wasn’t sure what career steps to take next. Then he saw a television program where engineers were talking to a robot, and the robot was talking back. That was his ‘aha moment’, Hadi explains.
“So I decided that my final year project would be to control a robot using my voice. I built everything, and it worked, it really worked. It opened opportunities for me to continue my education in France,” he reflects.
He went on to do his Masters and PhD in computer science and was blown away by the capacity of computers. He became particularly interested in artificial intelligence. His focus was on classifying sound signals and detecting the gender of a speaker and the mood of a speaker with artificial intelligence as well.
After finishing his PhD, Hadi worked for a year as a research engineer. He worked with teams whose goal was to classify music signals. Detecting if two songs are similar or not is referred to as ‘music and audio classification’. Basically genre specific music is cross-referenced with other genres and songs in an effort to find similarities with the source music.
“I co-founded a startup called Ghanni. It was about selling technology related to music, similar to the app Shazam. It was really early for this kind of technology so didn’t work extremely well, but it worked. We had some clients - some radio stations used our technology to provide smart radio services to their listeners. The business remained good and acceptable.”
But then Hadi experienced a devastating blow, to the company and personally. One of his colleagues died of cancer. As a result Hadi decided to dissolve the business. “It was sad, really. He was a great guy; 25 years old, he was working on his PhD, but died three years later. And since the business was struggling, I decided to reorganize and go to Barcelona,” he laments.
Hadi went back to basics in order to continue growing his career. He concentrated on the technical aspects of engineering and began to do consultancy in artificial intelligence. One of the companies he consults to is a Japanese company working on intelligent chatbots, similar to Amazon’s Alexa.
At a similar time he joined the Engineering Institute of Technology where he is involved in the education of their students in engineering. He says, “I am trying to share some of my experiences from the past as an engineer, as a research scientist, and as a business owner. I believe there are interesting things to share.”
Resilient entrepreneurial flair
Amazingly there is more: Hadi, together with his family, run Harb Farms in Lebanon. They create and supply several types of cheeses within the country. When asked, “Why cheese?” He explained that the agricultural region he and his family are from inspired their decision to set up a cheese making business. But he did add that they love cheese, “especially Mozzarella!”
Naturally it is interesting to wonder if his engineering background has assisted him with the family business. He believes it has had a significant impact. It allowed him to better organize the cheese making process, all the way from milk production through to the manufacturing of the cheese. He also felt that his research background helped him set up the early R & D and subsequently to improve traditional cheese recipes and adapt them to the market.
We at the Engineering Institute of Technology are very grateful to have Hadi Harb – an educator, entrepreneur and highly qualified engineer - sharing some of his hard wrought experience and knowledge with our students. And obviously we thank Hadi for allowing us to share a little of his life - a successful engineering life.