Woman in Tech of the Week – Jade Abbott

April 23, 2018 in Engineering, Profiles, Software, Woman of the Week

Woman in Tech of the Week – Jade Abbott

Name: Jade Abbott
Designation: Senior Software Engineer and Data Scientist
Company: Retro Rabbit

What do you do every day? Developing software and analysing data. I mostly develop backend systems, in a variety of languages, for a variety of sectors – golang is my current favourite programming language. In the past couple of years, I’ve been able to focus on machine learning – my true passion. I’ve been lucky enough to take a machine learning project from beginning to end – from wrangling data, to building machine models, analysing data, to building the scalable infrastructure. I love seeing my work in use! It’s the best feeling ever. When I’m not doing that I’m trying to teach people about machine learning – whether doing guest lectures, showing a CEO the impact it can make or sometimes helping enthusiasts get their hands dirty.

How did you get into the tech space? My dad, as a musician and general nerd, always had computer parts lying around. I was very young when he built me my first computer. I remember puzzling over the registry and wondering why my dad told me not to touch it and fiddling in hex editors to make the cat in that one game extra fluffy and pink. He also introduced me to science-fiction – everything from Star Trek to Isaac Asimov. My mother was a software developer before I was born so she always encouraged me to go into software anyways. I think I was 12 and I knew that I wanted to build my own artificial intelligence friend. I’d say I am one of the lucky ones

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? I was at an Anita Borg Retreat at Google a couple of years back and I was stressing about whether to pursue a career in academia or to carry on in industry. So I asked a Google developer a panel about which to do and she said “Don’t stress when making a decision between two good choices”. I can’t remember her name, but I’ll always remember what she said.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? In software development at least, the philosophy is to fail early and fail often. Try many things (ALL the things). Don’t be afraid if you don’t get it right the first time. Failure is part of the journey.
Surround yourself with people in tech. Go to meetups, hackathons and join the ZaTech slack. They are fun and friendly and there is loads of opportunity to learn
It’s possible to begin a degree in technology part-time while you’re working. Do it! If a degree is not an option – pick up a couple of courses.
Blog about your learnings: https://medium.com/@racheltho/why-you-yes-you-should-blog-7d2544ac1045

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? The opportunity to learn something new and the opportunity to build something cool.

Who do you want to be when you grow up? AAAH! hard question. These 3: Grace Hopper, Rachel Thomas, Patti Smith

Twitter: @alienelf
Blog: https://medium.com/@alienelf/
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/jade-abbott-5b3a692a/

 

Continue reading »

Bernelle Verster

April 18, 2018 in Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Engineering, Profiles, Research, Woman of the Week

Woman in Tech of the Week – Bernelle Verster

Name: Bernelle Verster
Designation: Water Maverick, Shit Stirrer
Company: indiebio
What do you do every day?
Writing, mostly. Sometimes growing things – bacteria, algae, plants, fungi, animals (like flies, worms). I am trying to learn how to play with hardware like Arduino and getting better at data driven visualization to help communicate my work.

I work in beneficiation of diffuse pollution through biology. This includes wastewater treatment, but I’m also moving into urban waterbodies like urban estuaries. I like interfaces, connecting the dots to fill in the gaps. So much of my time is spent translating between what, for example, engineers say and what ecologists say and try to find a way that both can be accommodated. Or, what the public perceives and try to communicate all the trade-offs and complexities. At the moment I am trying to see how to coordinate bottom-up, DIY type behavior with the efficiency and economy of scale that engineers prefer but that comes with environmental trade-offs.

How did you get into the tech space?
I wanted to become a vet, but then fell in love with biochemistry in first year of university and stuck with that. Then I realized the cost of biotech is way too high and needed to learn some tech and engineering to make the biology work better. I’ve sortof just stumbled along with things, there wasn’t ever much direction or specific support.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Do what you can with what you have; and you will always be someone’s dog (in other words, don’t expect to come out ‘on top’ and then all your issues are over. That just doesn’t happen). The advice I never listened to was ‘it’s time you stop dreaming and get a proper job’.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? Dream. Big, small, doesn’t matter, but don’t lose sight of reality. Prototype, play, fail fast. Look at what is – the current reality, even if it is uncomfortable. Ask the tough questions, listen to what people say. You don’t have to believe them, but they are coming from somewhere, interrogate what they say. Don’t underestimate the value of incremental change.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday?
Frustration. Having a big goal is nice, but really it’s the frustration of ‘if only this small thing can work better!’ Generally I wake up thinking, I’m going to go at it from this angle, maybe that works today. I think the real value I add to society isn’t through my big dreams and passions, but the little itches and irritations I try to smooth out along the way. Connecting people who can help scratch 😉

Who do you want to be when you grow up?
A whole person. Not a whitewashed darling on a pedestal.

Twitter handle @indiebio
Website: indiebio.co.za
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/indiebio/

Continue reading »