Violet Snell | iProov
Uncomfortable thoughts and questions are often the unwelcome visitors in our minds that we try to silence or avoid. There is of course no harm in this avoidance, however in order to learn more about ourselves, sometimes we have to let them in and address them. When it comes to job interviews, we'll probably find these thoughts creeping in and then if we are unsuccessful in the application it seems like these feelings have been validated. But it's how we learn and grow from this, that matters.
Violet Snell, Head of Platform AI at iProov urges us to always ask for feedback when an application is unsuccessful - to get perspective and shape how we can adapt to move forward - especially in the tech industry. A self-proclaimed engineer, Violet thrives on the prospect of building useful things to help others. As a woman in the computer vision space, she hopes for a bigger female candidate pool and thinks this can only be achieved if companies take a more holistic approach to hiring, by involving changes in company culture and recruitment practices.
HI VIOLET! PLEASE COULD YOU START BY TELLING US ABOUT YOUR STORY SO FAR?
I have worked in tech since my teens, first as a programmer, then gradually specialising in image processing algorithms such as compression and eventually moving into computer vision. I have done both academia and industry but continue to self-identify as an engineer whatever my job title. To me, engineers are people who build useful things that ultimately help others. I really enjoy passing on my accumulated knowledge and supporting the next generation in learning how to make their contribution to the world.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE WOMEN STARTING OUT IN TECH?
Do not be afraid. You are perfectly capable of doing this. Just keep practising and the mastery, and its recognition, will come.
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS ON HOW COMPANIES CAN REMOVE BIAS FROM AN INTERVIEW PROCESS TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE HAS A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD?
Ensure that interview panels always include at least one woman and listen to their view. This also provides a great step-up opportunity for less experienced staff.
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED HIRING WOMEN IN COMPUTER VISION?
The very basic challenge of a tiny number of candidates. Their standard may be high, but they often have heavily academic backgrounds which are difficult to transition into industry.
WHY DO YOU BELIEVE THESE CHALLENGES AFFECT COMPUTER VISION MORE SO THAN OTHER AREAS OF DS/ML?
As a guess, it could be the association with more 'nerdy' areas such as optics and robotics, in other words being more closely related to hardware and greasy overalls than the more abstract and mathematical vibe of general ML and DS. This image (ha-ha) is not true: pixels are features like any others, just a bit more strongly correlated. And the visuals are so much better ;-)
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO WOMEN CONSIDERING APPLYING FOR ROLES BUT WHO MIGHT HAVE RESERVATIONS?
If your reservations are about the merits of your prospective employer or their line of business - listen to them most attentively, and make sure to resolve them if you do go ahead.
If, on the other hand, your doubts are about your own merits - there is never harm in trying. By seeking feedback on any unsuccessful application, you can learn highly valuable information about yourself, how your skill set is viewed from different application standpoints, what does or doesn't fit, and what you could do to change things. This information is critical to finding the right direction for you but can only be obtained by evaluating a rich range of options. And this does require making contact with the
enemy potential new friend.
IS THERE A MANTRA OR QUOTE THAT YOU LIVE BY OR JUST LIKE?
I strive for balance, maintaining which is a never-ending task. And the best quote about that is: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein
Thanks, Violet! You rock 🤘
Interview by Jamie Forgan