Two years ago, we spoke to Katharine, a Machine Learning/AI expert from Ireland who always had plans to help change the world!

Katherine now has two kids and is undertaking a PhD at University College Dublin, with her first paper due for publication soon.

1. Introduce yourself, who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Katharine Beaumont. I am a software developer turned Machine Learning / AI expert. At the moment I’m on extended maternity leave so I’m freelancing part time. I’m actually working on an interesting side project which is how to make a global tech conference carbon neutral, short of blindly offsetting carbon. I am the program lead for the Devoxx UK conference, and I’m on the program committee for a few other conferences. I used to speak at international conferences but I’m semi-retired because babies don’t travel well. Eventually I hope to pick back up on my graduate studies!

2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an author, doctor, pilot, mathematician, prime minister, lawyer… Really I wanted to change the world somehow. I studied maths and Natural Sciences at Durham, then law. I was thinking about life and how much debt I wanted to get into (I graduated at the start of the recession) when I saw an advert for “software engineer, no experience required”. I got the job, and it (the company) was horrendous. But the coding was fun, so I stuck at it and went from there (... and got a job at a better company).

3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

I have a one year old and a puppy so unfortunately if I don’t jump out of bed I get harassed.

4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?

I’ve had my fair share of stress. At university, from being an overweight unfit child, I embraced running. When I couldn’t run anymore due to injuries I cycled and swam. I started bouldering and mountain climbing, and over the years, having the adventures I thought I was too old for, which is stupid. Now I try everything - I don’t want to suddenly get to a certain age and think - I always wanted to do that and never did.

I have nurtured my friendships. I’m careful to say things to people that I think they should know about themselves - how wonderful they are. And I’ve let people nurture me.

Take care of yourself. Start small. Do something that the girl you daydream about being would do. Hold on to positive friendships, be wary of intense ones. And be kind to yourself, you deserve it.

5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

Captain Janeway (Star Trek Voyager), Captain Picard (Enterprise), Gandalf, my Grandad, more of my female colleagues in tech than I’d have time to list like Ana-Maria Mihalceanu and Siren Hofvander.

6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?

Be patient, be kind, you’re doing a good job.

7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  1. Don’t compare yourself to other people

  2. Carve your own path

  3. Do it anyway. You deserve your place at the table/ the lab/ the laptop.

8. How do you measure your success?

This used to really bother me - there is always more you can be doing. I used to obsess about what job I should have.

Having children really did change the way I thought about everything. Now I think - am I happy? Is there anything I’m not doing that I’ll regret? Will my children appreciate my decisions? Am I leaving them a healthy world?

9. Where can we find out more about your work?

Eventually, I’ll make a portfolio and put it on Twitter… eventually. For now, you could look up “Katharine Beaumont Neural Networks: Walkthrough” on the Devoxx Youtube channel.

10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

Yes of course. @katharinecodes is my Twitter.

I’m very happy to talk and I will make time for you.