Meet Leonor Drummond, Data Scientist

Leonor Drummond

Name: Leonor Drummond
Title: Data Scientist
Education: Veterinary Medicine / BeCode AI Bootcamp

Movie(s): Star Wars, Boyhood, ‘Predestination’

Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I am 33, born on Madeira island, have lived there until I was 17 and then moved to the mainland to study Veterinary Medicine. After having completed 4 years, I moved onto other things. I did quite a lot of different things, traveled here and then. I have been a tour guide, private property investor, airbnb manager...

I love nature, animals, sports and the outdoors… Mountains and sea! Traveling is also nice! I enjoy learning new things and experimenting as much as possible. I am very persistent and I like structure.

I am not into situations that put me under a lot of pressure, like presenting to big groups (+5 people). Although both happen, naturally. I can be insecure, so I doubt myself quite a lot. But life is a work in progress. 😊

What is your job and what does a typical workday look like for you?

Since I work as a Data Scientist, my days revolve around programming. Normally, I have one or two meetings a day to see the progress of my work or to discuss some ideas.

I work in Python and have to use data in order to make some process more independent from human effort.
This often requires creativity to solve problems. Data doesn't have the same quality and characteristics, so to achieve a goal you have to brainstorm quite a lot, discuss it with colleagues, read, and do research.

I'm in the habit of starting the day by reflecting on the day before and getting a good picture of what has to be achieved by the end of the day. After that I start implementing the ideas step by step.

How about when you’re not working? Any hobbies or interests you’d like to tell us about?

Leonor and her Labrador

I am a sports and dog lover, so this takes up most of my free time. I have a very active labrador that asks for a lot of walks. I try to run a minimum 20 km a week and cycle a minimum 60 km a week. I also do pilates daily. When it’s not so cold I go skateboarding or kitesurfing. Also once a week I like bouldering or swimming. The dog follows me in some of these activities like running and skating.

I also love long walks in nature, going on roadtrips, snowboarding, traveling, surfing. I’m looking forward to doing more hikes in the mountains…

One more thing I am passionate about is marine life. I hope to build a marine reef tank again as soon as I have some time on my hands and the necessary budget.

Leonor and her Labrador Leonor on one of her hikes in hilly green enironment A sky filled with kites at the beach

What or who got you initially interested in coding and / or pursuing a career in tech?

I was struggling for a few years trying to find “my thing” again. Nearly 3 years ago, about the time I came to Belgium, I had the money and time to invest in myself.
So I took this opportunity. It was basically two years of full time studying. First, taking career coaching and learning Dutch. After that, I started with Machine Learning.

I was fascinated by how much you can grow inside of this field and how fast things progress. A lot of technologies are still emerging, so a part of it is about trial and discovery. Puzzling concepts and ideas together is a constant. For these reasons I was keen on choosing data science.

Naturally the more I know, the more I realise there is so much more to learn...

If you look back on when you first started out. What advice would you give yourself?

That is a good question! Trust the process of learning, learning is not just about going hardcore and spending a lot of hours trying things.

It’s also a process where you don't have a lot of control. Sure, you have to do your best, step out of your comfort zone and be present, but the outcome of this effort is difficult to have as planned. Also sometimes just being present or trying a little is more than enough. Learning is not a straight line.

There are plateaus, bumps, sprints and hills.. But that is also the fun part! If you can afford it, it’s good to start with a discovery phase and then move over to the actual learning process.

Trust the process of learning, learning is not just about going hardcore and spending a lot of hours trying things.

What kind of project(s) are you currently working on?

I work as a consultant at Brainjar. We are a company with focus on AI projects. So there is the possibility to develop solutions in diverse areas of Machine Learning. Mostly I have done projects related to NLP. Things like entity extraction from text and text similarity. But computer vision projects are also present.

Which technologies do you want to explore more of in the future?

I want to learn as much as possible. I do have a thing for NLP, but first I want to be acquainted with different areas of Machine Learning.

Due to my interest in the environment, I would love to dive deeper into AI and sustainability. Things like helping processes more efficiently, spending less energy, spending less resources. Going smarter with waste! Making better decisions that make the ‘pockets greener’ = not so empty and the planet happier :D.

Which skills did you pick up before moving into data science that are very valuable now?

I would say that having knowledge in how the laboratory science works is very useful in ML.
Leaning different languages is, in some ways, is similar to learning a programming language.
Mostly, the learning process is very transversal and the fases in learning something are common in different areas of knowledge. Once you learn how to learn, it’s becomes easier to learn. Redundant, but true!

If someone would like to move into a data science career, where should they start?

Getting solid knowledge of Python programming. I made a mistake there and took on too much at the same time. It could have been a recipe for failure.

Tackle things one by one.

As someone who works with a lot of data for a living, do you feel that this also reflects on your personal life?

I would answer the same as above. Tackling a problem one by one. I even say that training a dog is like programming. You start with a simple basic command and then you go from there. A good foundation goes a long way.

This might all look very ‘pink’, but it comes with a lot of struggle too. Making a career switch such as mine, has come with a road full of bumps, self doubt, stress and just persisting no matter what.

If I would've known in advance I likely would've second-guessed my choice. Looking back now, I am so happy I made this choice and persevered. It was worth it! Also, I am very grateful to Brainjar for believing in me, and giving me the opportunity to pursue this career.

Are there any particular women in tech who have inspired you?

I didn’t know any women in tech before starting my career. I come from a completely different field.
So the first moment of inspiration came from my job coach, followed by my BeCode coaches, my classmates and my work colleagues at Brainjar.

They inspire me by setting the example in many ways. You can learn so much from others by asking and being open. Listening and being kind. When something got too difficult or too challenging they were there for me. Also seeing that others can achieve something makes me believe I can also achieve it. The greatest tools in your toolbelt to learn from are feedback and the exchange of knowledge.

Do you have any favourite resources or projects you like to follow?

I mostly use twitter and newsletters from linkedin, read a lot of articles on medium or towards data science.

What made you join the women.code(be) community?

Being a foreigner in Belgium, I felt very lonely sometimes and started to look for ways to get to know new people. Also the fact that it is a community from people who code, in this case women. I am not really feminist, but having things in common is nice!

How could the tech industry be more inclusive for women and minorities?

Starting with the young generation, there are still these outdated gender norms such as pink is for girls and blue is for boys. It should be about what the child wants, what they like to do, feel happy about and what they are interested in is the key in all this. Also having programming classes for younger kids is very likely a good start.

Is there anything you might feel that can already be done to make tech more inclusive for people today?

Talking about inclusion and sharing people’s experiences, Organising related events…

We hope you enjoyed Leonor Drummond's story, feel free to share this article with your network. ❤️

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