Yuliia Hladka

2020-06-23

How Erasmus led Radix girls to a career in Artificial Intelligence

Working in the technology field means facilitating some of the world’s most spectacular transformations. Now that our life is becoming more digitised than ever, many consider following a professional path in this industry.

For example, Artificial Intelligence is a field that has provoked an increased interest due to its capabilities to analyse profound data just like a human intelligence would. It serves as an augmentation of people’s abilities and helps them to be more efficient, while enjoying their work more. AI uses various techniques like Machine Learning to study given data and make valuable assumptions, predictions and choices.

How hard is it to get in and what initiatives can facilitate your career in this field? The gender gap in technology is well known, and many organisations are now dedicated to giving equal opportunities to people. Now, 41% of employees in the tech industry in Europe are women. At Radix, a Belgian Artificial Intelligence agency, this trend is well respected. After just 2 years on the market, already 24% of employees are women and interestingly, all of them are Erasmus alumnae! When we noticed this, we decided to analyse our career paths and compare our Erasmus experiences, to see how they helped us land a job in the field of AI. 

Meet the AI girls at Radix:

Kristien Verreydt
Client Partner at Radix
Erasmus @ Sorbonne University
Linguistics

Shoera Sels
Project Lead at Radix
Erasmus @ The University of Bristol
Mathematical Engineering

Ludmila Tydlitatova
Machine Learning Engineer at Radix
Erasmus @ Saarland University and University of Groningen
Language and Communication technologies

Margot Deryckere
Office Manager at Radix
Erasmus @ Montpellier Business School
Management

Alice Rizzi
Marketing Manager at Radix
Erasmus @ Universite de Nantes
International Relations and Diplomacy

Yuliia Hladka
Marketing Executive at Radix
Erasmus @ The Hague University of Applied Sciences
European Studies

We asked them about their Erasmus experience and how it helped them become the women they are today. Read on to get inspired for a career in Artificial Intelligence!


What you’ll read:

No technical degree? No problem

Skills we acquired during Erasmus

How we discovered our passion for AI

Valuable life lessons learnt

No technical degree? No problem

The innovation field can accommodate people from all backgrounds, as long as there is passion and commitment. At Radix, 50% of female employees have pursued a technical degree and work closely with the creation of AI solutions. But the other 50% of Radix girls do not have a technical background, which allows them to contribute to company’s development via different fields, such as communication, marketing, client management and others. The variety in backgrounds here facilitates the employees to learn from one another and to incorporate a multi-disciplinary perspective on promoting AI solutions into the company’s strategy.

“You don’t have to be a programmer to be in this field! You just need an interest in innovation and AI, and there are so many roles you can do to make a difference.” – Alice

You will have plenty of room for personal development and succeed in this field if you have a clear, far-reaching goal in mind.

“If you commit to making the world a better place, the innovation field will definitely be a great space to realise your goals.” – Yuliia

Keep in mind that the diversity of your knowledge is key

Kristien: “When I was 18, I didn’t think technology was a career for me, because I thought a degree in Computer Science was the only way to get there. I really think that having a diverse background is helpful, because innovation comes from combining different points of view. There are so many sources of information, like books, courses or podcasts, that can help you get started and discover new interests.

“If you’re unsure whether to enter a new field, find a friend, mentor or community in it first! Probably relevant for just about anyone, not only girls and women.” – Ludmila

Today, Alice, Yuliia, Kristien, Margot, Ludmila and Shoera are pursuing an exciting path of working with Artificial Intelligence. It is an innovation in the technology field that helps people make their work more efficient. AI is freeing people of boring and repetitive tasks through automation. This gives a lot more room for creativity and fulfilment, which directly impacts people’s daily life and enjoyment they take in performing their job. 


Skills we acquired during Erasmus

Going abroad opens a wide array of opportunities for growth. You can acquire valuable knowledge during the Erasmus, such as learning a new foreign language, understanding a different culture and gaining unique academic experience that differs from that of your home country. Exciting, challenging and fulfilling – each experience in its own way shapes the person who undertakes this path. 

How are these skills helping us while working in an AI agency? 

Diversified worldview

When working in Artificial Intelligence, one has to be able to approach challenges from different angles, be open to various ways of thinking and really work on understanding them. When going on Erasmus, a diverse environment and constant challenging of oneself is what facilitates a person to acquire necessary skills to strive in the field of AI.

“It was the first time I actually got in touch with other cultures, both exploring them and discovering barriers between us; the first time I encountered such a vast difference and solidity of opinions; the first meeting of such a dense concentration of talented young people. It was essentially my first step towards seeing how big the world actually is.” – Yuliia

Competitiveness and determination

As the competition is fierce, all the girls had to invest a lot of time and effort in order to get the spot. But for Shoera, things got even more difficult. When she applied to the University of Bristol, there were only 2 available places with the preference for those who’d go for 1 full year. As she was only going for 6 months, she had to choose another institution. But everything comes to those who fight, and after personally contacting the Erasmus coordinator on this and ensuring this doesn’t get lost in the operational processes, she was able to go to the university that was one of the few that offered Mathematical Engineering. Determination beats luck!

It is a mix of determination with competitiveness that fuels you to work more and harder to reach your goals. In a competitive technology industry, full of genius minds working to be the first and the best, those skills are particularly necessary to stand out.

Language skills

Though English is a working language at Radix, there are a variety of clients who speak other languages professionally. Like in any other company, it is important to speak the same language with your clients in order to communicate in a more effective way. Erasmus is a great time to enhance your level of language of your choice! Alice and Margot wanted to work on their French. Kristien too wanted to improve her language skills and immerse herself into a new culture. “Ever since I decided that I wanted to study languages, I knew that I wanted to take part in the Erasmus program because it fits best to what I needed to learn”Kristien. 

So here’s what we have: independence and a high sense of responsibility, skills in several languages, determination and curiosity – a perfect mix of competencies and traits highly impacts the future chances of landing your dream technology job. How do you make the best choice of Erasmus destination to ensure you are setting yourself up for career success?

Here’s a tip: to select where you want to go, think of the skills and competencies you’d like to acquire for your future technology career. If you lean more towards technical skills, aim for top-ranked technical universities; if you aim for better language skills – choose by country. It is also important to research extracurricular activities that the universities offer to give you more room to develop.


How we discovered our passion for AI

When going abroad, it isn’t always that you already know who exactly you want to be as a professional. Let’s see how Erasmus impacted the career choice for girls at Radix and what to do if you’re not yet sure in what’s your thing.

From linguistics to computation

Kristien began her studies in Linguistics, because of her interest in languages and communication. During the Erasmus program, there was a lot of freedom in building their own curriculum, which is how Kristien enrolled in a course in Computational Linguistics – still linguistics, but already within computer science! She enjoyed the course and decided to pursue a Master’s degree to learn more about Computational Linguistics, and related to that, Artificial Intelligence. 

Margot was also inspired by AI during several encounters with the technology during her courses. She found it interesting and as a result wrote a thesis on the topic of AI and human resources. And when Alice was writing her dissertation, she discovered her passion for marketing and communication was very profound. This led her to undertake a Master in the UK specifically in this field and eventually meeting technology as she was working with innovation and thematic funds in London. 

Diversity in learning backgrounds and approaches

During Shoera’s engineering studies, she took part in a lot of different projects, which sparked her interest in engineering innovation in general. But real out-of-the-box thinking, she learnt in  Bristol. The classes were smaller, the professors often had both academic and professional experience. The contact between the student and the professor is also much closer. “As a result, I came back from Bristol with a completely different view on my field of study and how it can impact the world. During my time in Bristol, I was not yet busy with AI specifically, this interest only came in my second master year after doing a master thesis in AI.” – Shoera

Ludmila always saw computer science, working with data, machine learning and more generally AI as a wonderful opportunity for multi-disciplinary projects. “This was visible during my studies, where half of the students came from a purely linguistic background and a half from a more technical computer science background. We learned from each other and helped each other out throughout the studies. In my job I don’t only learn about machine learning – I also learn about whatever domain I am working with.”

As you see, while some are confident in their career aspirations from the beginning, some continue to explore themselves during Erasmus and acquire necessary qualifications and perspectives to make their choice.

Tip: think which of your interests could be a good contribution to the field of Artificial Intelligence or technology in general. Maybe you love being creative and always have to move – then you can engage in social or volunteering activities during your Erasmus. It can also be debates in the field of innovation, participation in discussion panels, defending your own project or helping someone promote their own. If you’re the person of logic and preciseness – try going for exact sciences or technology-related initiatives, like working on creating a new AI model, solving a vivid math problem etc. There’s plenty of room to address your interests – just inquire at your host institution what there is!


Valuable life lessons learnt

In addition to a passion for Artificial Intelligence and professionally applicable skills acquired during Erasmus, there are yet many other positive aspects to this journey. What have the girls learnt during their exchange and what did they bring back with them? 

New skills, new friendships and aspirations

“It definitely helped me grow up and understand what I want better. I’ve also developed a lot of leadership skills and became more hard-working.”
Yuliia

“I think my experience of living abroad both gave me the confidence and the joy in discovering new environments.” – Kristien

Conquering fear of the unknown

“ I learned to be brave and take risks, which definitely helped in my career. It was one of the best experiences of my life, I realised what I wanted and also met some of my best friends there.” – Alice

Confidence

“In general I think Erasmus is the perfect opportunity to take some time for yourself and really invest in yourself. It really teaches you to be independent. Also, people on Erasmus often have high ambitions and they can teach you to really aim high in life.” – Shoera

Clear career choices

“After two years in two different countries abroad, it felt totally natural to consider work opportunities abroad as well. It opened my eyes to the advantages I have as an EU citizen in terms of studying, living and working in the EU.” – Ludmila


Final word

The Radix girls have learnt a lot during their Erasmus journey. That knowledge is now constantly helping them to grow within their current job in Artificial Intelligence, reach new goals and develop themselves further every day. 

Challenging as it may sound to go on exchange, you too, don’t be afraid to immerse yourself into a new environment. What you get out of challenging yourself is invaluable: you broaden your personal and academic horizons, you master a language, make new friends and find what it is that sparks your interest in the field of technology.