September 26, 2022

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Microsoft distinguished engineer offers insights into the future of women in STEM

2 min read

With science, technology, engineering and math fields being traditionally dominated by men, has gender equality in tech and data science finally arrived?

The Women in Data Science initiative, which works to support gender equality in tech, started as a one-day technical conference at Stanford in 2015. Today, WiDS is a global movement with 200+ regional events worldwide in more than 60 countries.

Rukmini Iyer (pictured) began her journey in tech more than 25 years ago when she developed statistical models of speech and text for DARPA and NSA research projects. Today, she is a distinguished engineer and corporate vice president at Microsoft.

“My background itself is in artificial intelligence, and my Ph.D. was in language modeling and natural language processing, ”Iyer said.That’s how I got into the space. And then I did machine learning. … I’ve basically touched almost all the pieces of the puzzle. ”

Iyer currently juggles a plethora of high-profile responsibilities, including running Microsoft’s advertising engineering arm and spearheading a multi-billion-dollar online advertising ecosystem.

Iyer spoke with Lisa Martin, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio, during the Women in Data Science (WiDS) event. They discussed Iyer’s involvement with WiDS over the years and insights into the future market for women in STEM.

Gifted minds need to solve unique problems

The cognitive and analytical requirements of STEM jobs are indicative of the intricate problems that need to be solved. With contrasting challenges often positioned like an infinite loop, balancing the different team roles within any product or service division can be difficult, according to Iyer.

“If that balance is right, then you get a really ambitious product. If that balance is not right, then you end up with a very small microsystem. And so, my job is to really make sure that the team is really ambitious in their thinking, ”she said.

Iyer initially got in contact with WiDS years ago, when she was trying to link a certain group of students up with Microsoft jobs. Since then, she has appeared as a keynote speaker, panelist, and workshop organizer at WiDS events. She’s also been part of the WiDS High School Outreach Program.

“I want new data scientists to be ambitious. I don’t want them to just read a book and apply the theory. I really want them to think about what problem are they solving and if they could have solved it in the scaled manner that it can be solved, ”Iyer stated.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the Women in Data Science (WiDS) event.

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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