Did you know that women only occupy 25% of jobs in the science and technology fields (STEM)? With this disparity in mind, a collective of Quebec-based organizations formed together to create Les Catalys, a French web series, to drive home the message that the sky’s the limit when it comes to career options for women and girls.
Les Catalys went on a mission to find and feature ten unique and inspiring women in tech in an effort to help socialize and inspire girls and women to look to STEM as a viable career path. One of those inspiring women happens to be Coveo’s own, Marie Beaulieu, one of our Machine Learning Developers. I caught up with Marie to discuss her experience filming her episode, as well as some general advice for women looking to get involved in computer science. You can watch her episode here:
Isaac: What made you pivot from being a math teacher, to a Machine Learning Developer?
Marie: When I was younger my initial ambition was to become a teacher – I followed that path and ultimately became one. Though I found teaching to be fun, it wasn’t enough of a satisfying challenge. While teaching, I signed up for a video game jam with a friend of mine and I found it to be incredibly fun, challenging, and creative. I figured, this is my next move! Computer science was the fit for me.
Isaac: How would you explain your role as a Machine Learning Developer to a five year old?
Marie: I’m still a teacher, except not for humans, but for machines! I feed machines full of information and give them instructions on how to use that information, and in return, they get smarter with every bit of information I feed them… and they’re very hungry!
Isaac: What are some good resources for young women looking to get started in Machine Learning or programming?
Marie: Google is your best friend (even beyond programming!). When I started my internship at Coveo, I knew I’d be using Apache Spark, so I leveraged Google as well as online education platforms like Udemy and LinkedIn Learning. These courses are either free, or very inexpensive and proved to be extremely valuable.
Isaac: How can organizations and society empower young women to pick up STEM skills?
Marie: It comes down to socialization of STEM itself. For young girls, some qualities are more encouraged than others: being kind, being nice, being caring, and these traits fit with jobs in social sciences, health care and others of the like. Whereas in STEM fields, they don’t use these skills as explicitly. And as girls grow into women, it’s important to see STEM as an option. Having more women in those areas of expertise to serve as role models helps tremendously. However, bigger picture, people should learn to be themselves and try new things – even if there is no role model for them! If there isn’t a role model, become the role model.
Furthermore, in TV Shows or movie, we rarely see women in STEM, and when that’s the case, the fact that the protagonist is a women is actually an issue and she’ll most likely end up being challenged about it. I think it presents the wrong idea: working in STEM isn’t harder as a woman than as a man.
Isaac: How was your experience filming with Les Catalys?
Marie: It was so much fun! I’ve always enjoyed seeing film crews work in “Making Of” features for TV or movies, so being on set for once was incredible. The entire crew made me feel comfortable and made sure that my experience, and interview, was personalized to my story. The host, Julie Dionne, was fantastic, she made me feel completely at ease throughout the filming process.
Isaac: What was your initial reaction to being chosen for this project?
Marie: A mix of nervousness and excitement. I felt incredibly honored to be chosen because I’ve never seen myself as a role model. I told my boyfriend about this, and he said that even if I don’t feel like a role model, I am. He’s right – I am a role model because I’m doing what makes me happy and building a career I’m proud of, despite being in a predominantly male field.
Isaac: What is your advice for women who want to start a career in technology?
Marie: Be ready to learn, and to continuously learn. Technology changes every single day and your skills need to evolve with those changes. If you’re a person who loves new challenges every day, then technology might just be the field for you.
If you wish to learn more about the Les Catalys project, be sure to visit their Facebook page to discover more episodes, behind-the-scenes clips, and so much more. Coveo is proud to be partnered with Les Catalys, and we can’t wait to see the rest of the episodes!