Women in Artificial Intelligence: Driving AltaML Forward
The gender diversity problem in the tech world is well documented. As of 2022, women accounted for 28% of the tech industry workforce, according to the Women in Tech Network. Ensuring all genders know they are supported and encouraged to flourish is a key part of the culture at AltaML.
Women occupy many roles in every department, from our Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Nicole Janssen, to newly hired interns. We spoke with some of AltaML’s women to hear their thoughts on working here and in AI.
What Gets You Most Excited about Your Role and Working at AltaML?
Celia: People and impact. I have always gravitated towards working with amazing people to build impactful things and I truly feel that at AltaML I get to do just that. I am humbled daily by the brilliant minds I have had a chance to work with and I am grateful for the opportunity to be using technology to tackle incredibly meaningful problems, particularly in sustainability and health care.
Carolynne: As the Vice President of People, I get the most excited about AltaML’s people and culture. There is a unique vibrancy to this organization, the people are energetic, innovative, and driven. We have fun, we celebrate our differences, learn from one another, we get down and gritty, and we perform. What more can I say? Living the dream (at work).
Chantal: The thing that gets me the most excited about my work at AltaML is the speed at which we are delivering solutions that are actually making a difference for our citizens. The focus of my work at AltaML is our public sector practice, and I’ve always been a public servant until now because I am passionately service-oriented. I love the opportunity to deliver against these large-scale problems and to be able to do so at speed!
Jenny: The company truly cares about developing and investing in its employees. At AltaML, I get the opportunity to grow people’s careers. I feel excited and inspired whenever I witness the teams learning and growing in a short period of time. The leaders at AltaML really emphasize diversity and inclusion along with the ethics of AI, which makes the company unique and a dream place to work.
How Would You Describe the Culture at AltaML in One Word?
Celia: Opportunity. During my career, I have been in so many organizations, big and small, and there is something about AltaML, which feels truly different. I would frame it as a real opportunity for anyone to take their career in whatever direction they want it to go, leveraging the platform to elevate themselves.
Jenny: Authenticity. At AltaML, I don’t have to pretend to be anyone else to fit in. I feel I belong here being myself.
What Advice Would You Give to Young Women Entering This Industry?
Celia: Don’t be afraid to be real. As women, I feel sometimes we put this expectation on ourselves that we have to do it all and do it perfectly, otherwise we are not good enough. In my experience, I don’t see that as prevalent in our male counterparts and arguably that slows down our careers or even worse, prevents us from fulfilling our true potential.
Carolynne: Start today by being curious, ask questions, have the courage to show up, be vulnerable, be your authentic self, and always know you are worthy.
Chantal: Find the right organization for you and jump in with both feet! This work is so meaningful, so empowering, and so engaging. I feel like I am learning something new every day, and constantly growing. Find the right organization that you can truly be your authentic self as you take on that meaningful work. There’s nothing better!
Jenny: You can be whatever you dream to be, don’t let anyone stop you or tell you otherwise—not even yourself!
If You Could Dine with One Famous Woman, Dead or Alive, Who Would It Be and Why?
Celia: Not sure if she would count in the “famous” category, but I would love to have dinner with the author of a book which was quite influential in my life at a time when I really needed it, being both a professional with high aspirations but also an immigrant and a mother of young kids. Her name is Tiffany Dufu and the book is Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less.
She says her life’s work is advancing women and girls. But what spoke so strongly to me was the simplicity and authenticity of what she shared about her own life. In some ways, movements like “Lean In” were always focused on a do it all formula, and Tiffany shares her painful journey of finding a different formula because doing it all, doesn’t quite work. She speaks about some very practical examples of how she learned to leverage help from her partner, her family and her community. She also learned how to focus on where to spend her time and effort to achieve success in multiple aspects of life.
Carolynne: I would like to dine with Brené Brown. She a renowned researcher of human behavior, an author, and so much more. Over the past two decades, she has studied and shared her work on the topics of courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Her words and work have inspired me both as a woman and as a leader.
According to Brené Brown, “Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”
Chantal: I would love to have dinner with Sanna Marin for so many reasons. As Finland’s youngest ever Prime Minister (she became PM at just 34!). I have enjoyed watching her political career. She seems so utterly fearless. From her strong stance condemning Chinese human rights violations, or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, arguing for her nation joining NATO, all while being authentically true to herself.
Having grown up in an era where I often felt the need to self-censor how I show up, I find her authenticity refreshing and admirable. And she didn’t come to power from the elite, from an old political dynasty, like we tend to see here. I admire the fact that she faced some challenges but didn’t let those hold her back. Plus, she seems like she’d know all the best places to eat.
Jenny: I would like to meet Martha Salcudean, who was a well-respected, internationally recognized expert in computational fluid dynamics. She was Canada’s very first female head of a university engineering department. Martha survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp before she moved to Canada in 1976. Martha’s story is inspiring, but her bio was previously not on Wikipedia.
In October 2020, I joined an Edit-a-thon event. I did some research and contributed my very first wiki article – Martha Salcudean’s biography. People can now search and find her biography on wiki, or even be a wiki writer and add to her page. Martha passed away in 2019. If I’ve ever met her, I would like to show her this page. I would love to chat with her to learn more about her life. I would thank her for being an inspiration and role model for me and for many young girls.
The Kitchen at AltaML Is Always Stocked with Bubly, Which Flavour Is Best?
Celia: I love sparkling anything! But, I am not a huge fan of flavors that take away from the sparkling experience. Therefore, if I do have to go for something with flavor, lime is the go-to.
Carolynne: Any brand of Prosecco. Wait. Oops….Lime.
Jenny: Lime or Orange.