On the run up to Women’s Day on the 8th March, we are paying homage to 7 women who have made a name for themselves in the world of technology. The names behind the women we are honoring might not be commonly known, but there is no denying that they are quietly making a difference in their field. In this series, the women personally share their experiences and challenges whilst also giving us a glimpse into the lessons that they have learnt along the way. In her own words, Maria Mestre shares her story.
My journey began at university. I picked all the projects with healthcare or biological applications. This in turn, led me to undertake a PhD using signal processing to study brain signals. Upon completing that I knew I wanted to work in industry rather than academia, so I mainly looked for jobs in tech startups.
Driven by recent developments in the fields of artificial intelligence, I quickly came to realise that the advancements were being used in advertising or financial startups. I wanted to apply the same methods and algorithms for a more visibly good cause: to improve people’s health.
Looking back on how I have got to where I am, I noticed a pattern. Every single job and internship, I’ve ever had, I had to learn new programming languages from scratch. Doing this always gave me an impostor syndrome feeling at the very beginning, when there were so many unknown and uncertain parts in my job. However, you always find your way out of that as things settle down and you start to get familiar with the tools.
When it comes to my role, I am the data science and artificial intelligence lead at HealthUnlocked. I am responsible for creating a more personalised experience on the site, by helping users find the health information they’re looking for, and recommending new content to them read. I do this through developing specific artificial intelligence for the platform. This is a position that comes with challenges, and the main one is the amount of new pieces of technology that I have to learn. Honestly, it can feel quite overwhelming at times, but I do respect that when you start a job in a new organisation, you have to get used not only to the technology, but to their processes, the way they communicate, and the way they work alongside other teams. It’s a whole new world!
This new world has taught me some lessons. I have come to realise that it is very important to be surrounded by intelligent and supportive colleagues, who spend time sharing their knowledge with you when you start a job. Without that, the whole learning experience would be much slower and more painful. The other important lesson is that it’s very natural to feel like an impostor. When you start a job, everybody needs to learn the ropes, you are not alone in feeling that way.
Being in an industry that is so demanding, I find myself inspired by my colleagues. It’s the first time I have had the opportunity to work with such a balanced mix of talent and humility. Unlike many other startups, HealthUnlocked attracts people whose main drive is to have a good impact in people’s lives.