[STEM] is for everyone who likes to work on cool things with smart people.
What do you do?
I am a Senior Engineering Manager for Uber Advanced Technologies Group in Toronto. I manage a team of software engineers and research engineers. We work closely with the research team and take new innovative prototypes into production, enabling them to run on self driving vehicles.
Why did you choose this field?
"Rather than study the human brain, I decided to work on building machines with brain like intelligence."
In high school, I was fascinated with the human brain and the fact we don't know enough about how it works. I wanted to be a neuroscientist. After high school, since I'm Israeli, I went to the army and trained as a software developer and learned to enjoy writing code and building systems. In university, I learned about Machine Learning, a form of Artificial Intelligence. At that point I decided I wanted to combine the two.
I did graduate research in that area, and over time became more attracted to the prospect of taking research ideas into the real world, especially on robotic systems that have to physically interact with the environment. That led me to several exciting job opportunities, including my current position.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
Asking for a wall to be broken down in my graduate studies research lab to allow easier access to a room where we can all brainstorm, hold meetings, collaborate, and socialize. My supervisor went along with it, it was a big success and it proved my intuition was correct - that sometimes things like the spaces we work in are just as important for driving success as how intelligent or capable people are. But more importantly, that one can ask even for seemingly strange things outside of their official 'scope', and sometimes it works really well. And if it doesn't - no harm in asking.
Why do you love working in STEM?
"We're creating complex things that didn't exist before."
We are always problem solving. We work with really smart people, who are very talented, knowledgable, and who like to learn and explore. We are driven by rational and scientific thought process. We work with the coolest technologies, and often invent them ourselves.
Best advice for the next generation
There are lots of things to do in STEM. There are a lot of ways to be creative and collaborative. There are many misconceptions around it, including things like "it's boring" or "it's not for girls". The fact there aren't enough women there is just a matter of time, and up to all of us to change.
I really love octopuses, they are highly intelligent, fascinating animals that can do a variety of amazing things. If you have 5 minutes, go read up on them! (and don't eat them!)