KETL and WTH getting women into Tech

Here in Bristol we are very lucky with a thriving tech community and fantastic universities. In order to maintain the region’s growth in the tech sector we are going to have to focus on building a wider pool of talent. WomensTechHubBristol (WTH) have been working hard to promote and encourage tech companies to be more creative in the ways that they attract and retain top female technologists into the sector.

So when WTH created their Introduction to Machine Learning and AI course KETL were delighted to sponsor places. The course tutor is Chew-Yean Yam, Principal Data and Applied Scientist at Microsoft.Emma-Louise received a KETL bursary for the course and she has written about her impressions so far.

Initial thoughts on the Machine Learning and AI Course:

We are ten women sat in a rainforest. Well, to be clear, it looks like a rainforest but in fact it’s a rather extravagantly decorated meeting room at Desklodge, an award-winning co-working space on Temple Way. It’s a very Bristol space and seems in some way at odds with the reason we are here together on a Friday afternoon in February.

We’re about to start our first session of a course in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. The series is hosted by the Women’s Technology Hub ~ Bristol (WTH), which builds connections between women and the tech industry in Bristol and the Southwest. The course is delivered by Chew-Yeam, who gives her time freely because of her commitment to the aims of the WTH. I’m extraordinarily grateful to have received a funded place, paid for by KETL, a systems integration and data analytics consultancy.

It becomes immediately apparent that I’m going to need to keep my wits about me. Chew-Yean intends to keep us all on our toes over the next six sessions. Her initial question is whether we think we can become an expert during the course; most of us think not. My electronic engineering degree and last coding experience was over a decade ago and I must admit I am worried about my ability to keep up, as well as that of my decrepit laptop, which sure enough gives me a terrifying screen of doom and forced reboot at one point.

We are introduced to GitHub, the platform on which we can collaborate. This is not a lecture but an interactive workshop. Mechanically taking notes to immediately forget them is not an option here. Together we research some basics around machine learning and AI. All of this goes into the GitHub for posterity, thank goodness.

After a quick break, where we finally introduce ourselves to each other (it turns out we’re from quite a diverse range of backgrounds and experience), we explore a tutorial on Microsoft Azure Machine Learning Studio. It’s great to have such an immediately hands on experience with machine learning; something I’d not expected so early on in the course.

By the end of the session my laptop and I are both smoking at the ears a little and I’m relieved to discover I’m not the only one who feels a little overwhelmed. However, we’ve been set some homework for the next session in two weeks and instead of putting it off until the last moment, I’m pleased to discover that I’m keen to get it done straight away. Having not felt intellectually challenged like this for far too long, I find I’m very much enjoying the experience and looking forward to the next session already.

KETL is offering free evening workshops on some of the key software technologies that we work with, such as Talend, to women returning to the tech sector. We are also presenting an Introduction to Data Analytics for the Not for Profit sector via Tech4Good Bristol. For more information please contact hello@ketl.co.uk

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