11 February 2020
Did you know that one of iProov’s talented team was known as ‘Particle Girl’ at school because of her love for science? To be honest, it was news to us too. But it’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and we decided to celebrate by finding out more about some of the extremely talented women that work here at iProov.
Susannah, our Digital Marketing Executive, sat down with Aarti, SVP of Product and Marketing; Gemma, from our Research Science team; and Trupti and Anindita, from our Software Engineering team, to hear about how they got into technology and what advice they would give to girls that are looking to STEM for a future career.
Susannah: What inspired you to start a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)?
Aarti: I was schooled in India, where the education system is focused on STEM subjects. As a child I was fascinated by the history of mathematics and inspired by the lives of the great mathematicians. It was a perfect amalgamation of art, science and philosophy. University was perfect for me to really delve into this subject and explore its various facets. At the time I was advised to pursue a more vocational subject, but I followed my passion, and have never looked back!
Gemma: I was an inquisitive child and wanted to understand ‘why’ to everything. At the age of five, my interest in science stemmed from my father studying Astrophysics. By the age of 11, I had won my schools science trophy and was nicknamed ‘Particle Girl’ because of my love of science. Academically, my whole world was science, which led me to studying physics at the University of Sussex. I learnt to code during my first year of university and loved that it enabled me to automate mathematical and data processing techniques. Whilst at university, I completed numerous internships in engineering and in data analyst roles. During my Masters year, I was looking to be really challenged and I came across iProov. An interview with Andrew Newell (Research Director) confirmed that iProov could offer the challenge that I was looking to sink my teeth into. I joined as a Data Analyst in March 2017 and was soon promoted to Research Scientist.
Trupti: I am inspired by every individual around me. But if I had to choose a role model then it would always be Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, also known as The Missile Man of India and a symbol of positivity for me. He’s a former President of India, and his career in physics and aerospace engineering inspired me to start my journey into STEM.
Anindita: From my childhood I was fascinated by my metallurgist father computing complex metal alloy properties on small paper notepads. Following his footsteps led me towards studying computers and now I can’t remember when I used pen and paper for even small calculations!
Susannah: What is your biggest achievement in STEM and technology so far?
Aarti: To be able to use technology to change how over a billion people interact with their smartphones. Over my career, I have seen mobile phones evolve dramatically. In 2012, I had the opportunity to be involved with a consumer tech startup who made the first predictive text keyboard on a smartphone. I was able to work on a product that enabled people in emerging markets, like India, China and Brazil where English was not their first language, to communicate with one another. It was a challenge to make a predictive keyboard for multiple languages in non Latin script. However, there was a real sense of pride when I was able to launch that product to market and say I helped a billion people to communicate in their own language using their devices, allowing them to maintain their identity. I am now able to create the same power at iProov through a product that allows people to remain safe online.
Gemma: Building iProov for Palms. It was my first opportunity to run a full project and design systems from scratch. I enjoyed working across teams – usability, app design and with the backend team – to produce something really innovative. The skills and relationships I built for this project now enable me to work on other iProov products. That project really prepared the foundation for the passion and drive I have here.
Trupti: I’ve always been fond of sharing knowledge to help others. In 2011, I visited several schools in remote areas of India, who could not afford expensive software tools, in particular JAWS which is a screen reader for visually impaired students. We trained these schools to use ORCA to support the visually impaired students and designed a customised version to be distributed to other schools and colleges. In 2012, I was part of a training program for remote areas in India. The aim of the program was to introduce each community to open source and online education. I cannot claim it as a big achievement, but it was a step in the right direction and making people’s lives better.
Anindita: In my career so far I have been lucky to have the chance to live and work in 4 countries across 3 continents. Though this has meant uprooting oneself from one place to another, this has added to my adaptability. Though every award is a big encouragement, the first Star award I won as part of a team in Citibank Singapore in 2007 is my fondest memory. We all really enjoyed working hard on that project, writing code for adding new equity linked complex financial products for the Hong Kong fixed income business market. I have also been recognized quite a number of times at DXC for leadership and delivery excellence which was very encouraging too.
Susannah: What advice would you share with women and girls looking to pursue a career in STEM and/or technology?
Aarti: I often see young women and girls put off by STEM subjects. There is a lot of ‘I can’t’. But I believe there is nothing you ‘can’t’, there is only “what you can, what I can and what we can”. So please don’t be put off by the supposed ‘norms’ you see in society, because there isn’t a norm. You define the norm. So if you have an interest in STEM and technology, make it your norm and go full steam ahead. You will find willing mentors along the way, who have travelled on this road already, to lift you and support you in your career. You will also very quickly realise that your perspective as a young female adds immense value to a business.
Gemma: My main advice is: you can do it! I encourage you to try new things and do not be afraid to fail. Being a women in STEM/tech is not about being better than everyone else. It is about being unafraid and unapologetic to share your knowledge and skills. Do not let anyone else tell you what you can’t do. There is a place for you in the world of STEM – you just need to find it.
Trupti: My advice to all looking to start a career in STEM and tech is to be yourself and enjoy your work.
Anindita: I received this advice from my mentor and enjoy passing it on to future friends in industry. The key is to keep broadening one’s horizons and keep learning new STEM skills as well as life skills. All future tech advancements are predicted to require more and more interdisciplinary skills, so knowledge in all areas will play an important role in fulfilling a STEM career.
Susannah: What does the next generation have to look forward to in the STEM/tech industry?
Aarti: We are living in the best of times for technology where everything is moving very fast and it’s all very exciting. I don’t believe we can predict what technology will look like in 10 years’ time. But we can predict that it will be nothing short of exciting! If you are looking for the unknown, technology is the industry to be a part of. It can take the shape you want it to take. Young people bring in new perspectives and new skills; they’re the ones who will shape the world of technology. You have the opportunity to make a real dent in the world, more so than ever. You can look forward to bringing a change, and making our world a better place with technology!
Gemma: Machine learning is an emerging field with data scientists and machine learning engineers massively in demand. It is still a young market, so anyone joining the industry and learning from those who are experienced will have equal opportunities to forge ahead. Machine learning has gone from a poorly understood mathematical technique to AI being recognised for the massive role it is going to play in all of our lives. With improvements in technology and infrastructure (GPUs etc.), machine learning has opened up the world of possibility, resulting in more jobs. If done properly, machine learning can change the world for the better and we need smart and driven people to join us.
Trupti: The next generation should know that ‘A swarm in May is worth a load of hay’.
Anindita: Diversity. As life expectancy is increasing, very soon, the age of the workforce may well range between 20 and 80. We need to be prepared and look forward to learning and growing in an even more diverse workforce.