My college experience was unique because I had a different major every single year I attended. From neuroscience to chemistry to physics, it wasn’t until I spent a summer working at a particle collider that I found computer science, and my passion. When I was a senior, I was hired for an internship with CAI. That was an important training ground for me. I had been classically trained in computer science, but nothing can replace the experience of being in the enterprise working with experts in the field on software that people count on to do their jobs.
I started on CAI’s newly established innovation team, CAI Labs, and it was the perfect job for me. I had the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of technology, as well as having the responsibility of rapidly implementing those technologies into new software products that actually solved real-world problems.
One of the first things I worked on was building an app called SafeTransport to help a local school district track the real-time location of school buses. I spent two years in that transportation office – learning about their day-to-day struggles, their worst-case scenarios – and then building a robust solution. It is really rewarding to see how the app makes their lives so much better now. To me, the most impactful outcome from our work was the Transportation Director telling us that now he doesn’t have to stay in the office all hours of the night waiting for the sports teams and other after-school activities to arrive back at school. He can go home and be with his family.
I am a now technical consultant for cognitive platforms in our Intelligent Automation team. I have always been a learner at heart and two years ago, I decided I wanted to learn everything I could about machine learning and the state of artificial intelligence. In my free time, I embarked on a six-month self-guided journey into the very depths of the technology. For me, it wasn’t enough to just learn how to implement machine learning, I wanted to know its history and understand exactly how it worked – even going as far as reaching out to my college professors when I needed help deriving the underlying mathematics. When I finally told my team I wanted to work with machine learning and artificial intelligence, they completely supported me and moved me to position that could leverage everything I had worked so hard to learn. I consider myself lucky to get to integrate my passion into what we’re doing in the field, and to be working with a technology that is constantly changing and innovating and requires me to keep learning to keep up with the curve.
The thing about emerging technologies is that they always create an enormous buzz in the market. Everyone is talking about them, but they’re usually doing it from a very high level – sometimes even spreading misconceptions – so most companies don’t even know what is possible. They know the technology exists, they know they should implement it, but they have no idea what to do with it or where to get started. Part of what I do is dismantle the idea that technologies like blockchain and machine learning are magic potions. Sure, we can use blockchain to improve security and machine learning to increase efficiency – but it's not just “poof” and then it works. My first goal with any customer is to get to know their environment and work to understand what problems they really need to solve – then figure out what technology will help solve them.
At CAI, I have freedom to pursue the next big thing. We compete with big firms, but our customers go with us because we are right there helping people on the ground solve real problems.
CAI has an incredible company culture. It’s fun – we take road trips together, we go to concerts, we know each other’s families. Even though I was just out of college coming onto a brand-new team, CAI trusted that I would bring my best self to work every day. Plus, CAI makes it part of the culture to give back to the community. When I was an intern, I helped teach a class once a week about electronic circuits and introductory coding. It is such a great feeling to see a student light up when they’re learning a new concept and suddenly understand it. And now I work with local high schools and universities to encourage young women to find their own passion in computer science. Not a lot of people can claim real community service as part of their job, but I can, and that’s important to me.