Changemakers: Women in tech

Changemakers: Women in Tech graphic with a photo of Ariadna, a machine learning developer

Meet Ariadna, a rockstar Machine Learning Developer from Latvia and a contemporary arts lover.

What is your role at Emergn, and how long have you been with the company?

I am a Machine Learning Developer and I joined Emergn in early 2018, so it’s been about three and a half years now. Every day we are exploring our clients’ pain points and looking for the best ways to minimize them. We do it by experimenting on clients’ data and building PoCs in order to try out the hypotheses. It’s truly an exciting experience to be a part of the research and development team.

Can you tell me a bit about your backstory?

Sure. I was a second-year student of computer science at the University of Latvia and had to apply for an internship in an IT company. Emergn offered various internship roles back then, including JavaScript, Java, DevOps, and others. However, an ML position caught my interest. I spent six exciting and educating months as an intern and received a job offer afterwards. And, so, here I am.

Did you always know you wanted to work in IT?

When I was a kid, I always took a great pleasure in problem-solving, whether it be tightening a screw or setting up a printer connection. I took a “computer ambulance” role in the family, doing all the technical tasks around the house. As well as that, I’ve always loved numbers and data-related tasks – figuring out how things are linked, comparing the data across different time periods, making conclusions.

What do you love about your current position?

My work is highly analytical. You get to brainstorm and explore so many possibilities – does this hypothesis work? Is my assumption correct? Will this bring value to others? My favorite moments are when the team is doing check-ins with the client and we receive feedback along the lines of: “Yes, that’s exactly what we were thinking!”, or: “That’s super interesting, we didn’t even realize it works that way!” It makes me understand that our work is meaningful and impacts our clients’ success.

What essential skills did you develop, and how did you figure out which were the most effective?

I believe the most important part of any successful project is getting a deeper business understanding, and figuring out which of the elements will bring the most value to the client. Therefore, the ability to analyze and ask the right questions is truly essential.

Also, recently I’ve realized that sometimes “working and usable” is really better than “nearly perfect”. Taking account of the invested time and resources, the difference between the two might not be meaningful enough in the application stage. I’ve learned that through trial and error.

Which are the projects you’ve worked on throughout your career that you’re the proudest of?

The one that I’m most proud of is the text anonymization task for one government organization. Our client had to publish their documents in an open data portal, but there’s a catch – these documents have highly confidential information. So, at the time when the client turned to Emergn, they had a complicated, labor-intensive process, which we attempted to partly automate. Our team achieved good results in classifying objects in the text that must be anonymized. I believe this project serves as proof that AI is not some scary thing that will replace all human workers (yes, this certain stigma is still being heard a lot), as it still requires a human in the loop for the result verification to achieve the needed goal.

What’s the one thing we should know about you? Any interesting passion, or hobby?

I’ve always had a passion for arts and creativity. I used to paint and do freelance graphic design, but now I mostly enjoy being on the observer side – I keep an eye on contemporary art events in my city and I try to attend whenever possible. My favorite ones are exhibitions held in abandoned places because I really enjoy the atmosphere. It leaves you thinking about the memories people had in there – what were their lives like? Why is the place no longer used? One of my favorites was an exhibition “Točka”, held last year in a rubber factory that was abandoned many years ago. I enjoyed both the art pieces and the fact that the modern world somewhat overlapped with “what was” before. It’s really fascinating to me.

What would you recommend to anyone planning to start their career in tech?

Remember, it doesn’t get easier, you just get better! It felt overwhelming to me in the beginning, and I was afraid I couldn’t handle it because I wouldn’t be able to learn everything. And I was right in a way, as no one can do the impossible and learn everything. You learn as you go, and your mistakes will give you valuable experience and takeaways. Just do it one day at a time, and I’m sure you can make it if you try!