Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Girls Who Code Visit Microsoft NERD Center for Mentoring Event

Author's note: This blog originally appeared in, and was written for, the Microsoft New England blog.

For the second year in a row, Microsoft hosted 20 girls this summer at the Microsoft Cambridge campus to teach coding in partnership with the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program. The girls apply for this competitive program and spend 7 weeks learning Python and other programming languages, as well as building their business and networking skills. When I participated in a speed mentoring session at the NERD office on July 11th, I had the chance to speak these 20 remarkable young women. They mostly live in Massachusetts, but some attend Girls Who Code from as far away as Virginia. Over 25 women Microsoft employees participated from both sales, marketing, R&D, data science and machine learning, as well as from our intern program.

We started the event with lunch and informal mingling.

The Microsoft mentors and students shared stories about how their interest in technology developed, from whom they drew their inspiration, and what type of projects they were working on.

Through the mentoring program, Girls Who Code aims to provide girls with the invaluable opportunity to interact with strong, powerful, and exemplary female role models. Through mentoring relationships, students gain deeper exposure into the professional world and career opportunities once deemed impossible or unattainable. Mentoring sessions provide a safe and encouraging space for girls to ask questions and get both academic and career advice. Mentors had the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of ambitious and talented girls interested in technology.

I very much enjoyed being able to spend 10-15 minutes individually with nearly a dozen girls. I told them what I liked best about my job, which is that I use technology to make a global impact to improve communication outcomes for neurological patients and improve health screening for women in developing nations. I honestly addressed questions about maintaining work-life balance and coping in a male-dominated environment. Most of my advice revolved around confidence. I explained imposter syndrome and suggested that they read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on body language.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Contribute to Women’s Health Outcomes Via New Data Science Competition

Check out the latest competition I just launched at work!

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report released in 2011, about 820,000 women and men aged 15-24 were newly infected with HIV in developing countries. Over 60% of these were women. Among so many other challenges, developing countries are plagued with serious reproductive health illnesses such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unintended pregnancies, and complications from childbirth. A key priority for policymakers, researchers, and health care providers working in developing nations is to emphasize prevention and distribution of information about STIs and other reproductive tract infections (RTIs). This report on Improving Reproductive Health in Developing Countries from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences contains additional information on the topic.

To achieve the goal of improving women’s reproductive health outcomes in underdeveloped regions, Microsoft has created a competition calling for optimized machine learning solutions to allow a patient to be accurately categorized into different health risk segments and subgroups. Based on the categories that a patient falls in, healthcare providers can offer an appropriate education and training program to patients. Such customized programs have a better chance to help reduce the reproductive health risk of patients.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Game On! Introducing Cortana Intelligence Competitions

Cross-posting an interesting project I spent this winter and spring working on.

Machine Learning algorithms powered by intelligent applications serve useful functions in our daily lives in ways we may not even be aware of. For instance, predictive analytics allow businesses to retain key customers, help assembly lines and buildings to run more efficiently, and help us find movies that we are likely to find intriguing. The ML field has gained tremendous traction and respect over the last decade, prompting Harvard Business Review to name the Data Scientist the sexiest job of the 21st century.

To encourage new ML applications and foster a vibrant online community, we are thrilled to launch Cortana Intelligence Competitions, a gamification feature of Cortana Intelligence Suite, as well as our first competition Decoding Brain Signals. This platform provides an intuitive and fun environment to hone users’ data science and analytics expertise, and our first competition will allow you to have the chance to contribute to the important field of neuroscience to win prizes and recognition.

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