Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the advancements in machine learning, create contradictory feelings. On the one hand, exciting AI developments bring innovation, such as autonomous vehicles, facial recognition, and improved medical diagnostics. On the other hand, there is a fear of AI, famously expressed by Elon Musk. AI may soon become so advanced that human beings are redundant.
“In 2014, Musk said that AI is “potentially more dangerous than nuclear weapons.””
One consideration for making AI and machine learning less frightening is increasing the diversity of the programmers working on the projects. A vital effort is necessary to bring more women into this career path for a surprising reason: some of the top talented female programmers are better than men. Not equal to, but better.
That is a bold statement; however, there is research to back it up. A study published in 2017 looked at gender bias in open-source coding. The study analyzed the acceptance rates in the GitHub open source community of software coding done by women compared to men. Only about 11% of GitHub programmers are female.
Software code created by women had a higher approval rate (78.6%) compared to software code developed by men (74.6%). However, this was true only if the gender of the person was not easily recognizable or otherwise known. For contributors outside of a project team, where the programmer’s gender was known to the team, the acceptance rate of code written by men is higher.
In a fair test, where gender bias was eliminated, women programmers performed better. Nevertheless, females are severely underrepresented in this field. PWC reports that only 3% of females say a career in technology is their first choice, and females hold only 5% of the leadership positions in technology.
It is clear that we need more female technology leaders and female AI engineers.
Let’s find out what it is like to work in this field from one of the top female AI engineers at MobiDev, Liubov Zatolokina, and see what she thinks.
Here are the questions discussed with Liubov Zatolokina about her motivation to be an AI engineer and what her career is like:
When did you first become interested in AI technology?
Math was one of my favourite subjects at school, but I didn’t take this passion of mine seriously enough as I planned to commit to becoming good at sports. In my class, we had advanced Computer Science learning. All of my classmates dreamed of becoming senior software engineers. We studied different programming languages from Pascal to C++, which is a universal programming language. I was good at Computer Science but felt no burning desire to succeed at it, at first. But life had a different plan for me, and I had to retire from playing sports.
When I attended university, I mastered new programming languages. I fell in love with the concepts taught in the Data Mining course. This field of study combined math, which I already loved from my previous schoolwork, and programming, which I was good at creating. I did some research and quickly understood that this field is where I wanted to grow and evolve my professional expertise. That is how I got started.
Did your family and friends support your choice to become an AI engineer?
Fortunately, 80% of my inner circle supported my choice and believed in me. As for the remaining 20%, they tried to convince me that the subject of AI was too unknown and complicated, and I’d better choose instead to study mobile and web development, where everything seemed more straightforward. But I was confident enough to follow my chosen career path. So now, when people see my enthusiasm for my work, nobody doubts the career choice I made.
I was lucky enough to become a part of MobiDev and to immerse myself in the friendly atmosphere. Everyone was there to help and support me in whatever challenges came up. Such a warm, welcoming, working environment enabled me to grow and achieve more.
How do you usually spend your typical workday?
My day at work is always full of extraordinary moments. Although the days may be completely different, I always wake up with a passion for learning and a dedication to my job. Each day there is a team meeting, where we discuss some tech and share our experiences and feelings. I love being involved in the pre-sales process as it often encourages mastering new technology and innovation. Working on projects always helps me to overcome challenges and inspires me to share my experience in blog posts, keynotes on conferences and webinars. I am obsessed with researching new topics as they often relate to Artificial Intelligence and involve machine learning (ML) and Deep Learning. This gets me out of my comfort zone and helps expand my expertise.
What advice would you give to women who want to start a tech career in AI?
Be true to yourself and follow your passion. Believe in yourself and remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. If you want to achieve a big goal, start with a simple task and take on more each subsequent time. Let every new challenge drive you, and never let this enthusiasm stop. Nothing is impossible for those who work on their dreams.