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Karrie LIU: from Mathematics to Data Scientist & Founder

Social media handle(s): @HypatiaAnalytic (Instagram & X) and @KarrieKaka (X)


A few words about me:

If people who don't know me were to learn more about me, I believe they would find a couple of things most surprising. Firstly, as a Chinese girl who is quite petite and may appear quiet at first glance, they would be surprised to discover that I'm actually an extrovert. I have a naturally bubbly and chatty personality, and I enjoy engaging in conversations and connecting with people on various levels. It's always interesting to challenge the initial assumptions people might have based on appearances.


Another aspect that would surprise those who don't know me is my involvement in charity work as a mathematician. There is a general stereotype or misconception that individuals in technical fields, such as programming or mathematics, are less likely to be actively involved in charitable activities. However, I am passionate about giving back to the community and making a positive impact beyond my professional pursuits. Being able to use my skills and knowledge to contribute to meaningful causes is something that brings me great fulfillment and joy.


Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?


Yes!

Advocacy and Public Speaking:

  • Active advocacy for diversity and equality in the workplace, sharing insights and experiences through interviews and speaking engagements.

  • Engaged speaker at various events, including the Women in Data Science event hosted by Dataiku and the 50:50 Future event, emphasising the crucial importance of equality and inclusivity.

  • Committee member of the 4th Conference on Mathematics of Operational Research, 2023, organised by IMA and OR Society.

  • Chair of the Early Career Mathematicians Committee, successfully orchestrating three national industry conferences.


Charitable Contributions:

  • Participation in panel discussions and ambassadorial role for the #dataDNA dataset challenge by Onyx Data, providing expertise and teaching technical skills related to data visualisation and analysis.

  • Volunteering as an Analytical Advisor for WaterHarvest, leading statistical support for clean water programs in Rajasthan.

  • Active involvement as an ambassador for #dataDNA's monthly challenge, offering knowledge and expertise to the community.

  • Trustee roles for Age UK Wandsworth, contributing to the organisation's technology strategy, and for Maths on Toast, promoting hands-on, creative experiences with mathematics for families.


Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?


STEM - Mathematics.


Where did your professional journey start?


Following the passing of my grandmother in an ambulance due to a heart attack during my first year at university, I decided to pursue a career in the healthcare sector to gain further understanding of what had occurred on that day and seek ways to improve the quality of life for others by using mathematics/numbers/data, which is the way I understanding the world.


Obtaining a Masters degree, I became an analyst in the National Health Service (NHS) located in northern England for nearly 10 years, where I was usually the only female and minority present on the team. I then moved to London to work as a healthcare analytics consultant. Through my experience here I was able to effectively communicate data-oriented knowledge that proved particularly useful for decision making and policy setting.


In 2019, I set up Hypatia Analytics with hopes of combining data science opportunities within corporates and pro bono projects in charitable reasons. I feel it is important to apply insights regarding mathematics and data into decision-making processes for overall greater effective planning.


How did you get into tech and what motivated you?


Growing up with Chinese parents in Hong Kong and "adoptive" English parents in the UK, I experienced firsthand the gender biases that exist within different cultures. In many Asian households, girls are not encouraged to pursue higher education and are often expected to focus on marriage and family instead. As a result, I have made it my mission to be a role model for younger generations, particularly girls, so they can be inspired and empowered to follow their dreams.

My ultimate goal is to improve the world through data science and technology, which led me to found Hypatia Analytics Ltd. This allows me to dedicate more time to various charitable works and initiatives that help break down barriers to access for women and underrepresented groups in tech.

However, achieving success as a woman in tech hasn't been easy, especially given the cultural biases that exist in many societies. When I won the "Top 100 Women in Tech 2019" award, my father's initial reaction was that it was pointless since there was no financial reward. While disappointed, I understood that success is not only measured in monetary terms, and I remain committed to pursuing my passions and doing what I enjoy.

I hope my story can empower others to reflect on their experiences and find ways to build their own networks of support, even if it means going against cultural prejudices and biases. I am determined to continue advocating for equality and accessibility in data science and to inspire and empower more young people, especially girls, to pursue their passions and dreams.


Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?


As someone who came to the UK at the age of 17 on my own, without any connections or support, to pursue my studies, the biggest challenge I have had to overcome is the preconceived notions and biases that people have towards me based on my ethnicity, gender, and visa status.


Being a young Chinese girl, I have often encountered the stereotype that I must be naturally good at math or science simply because of my cultural background. This assumption diminishes my individual achievements and disregards the hard work and dedication I put into my studies.


Furthermore, as a girl, I have experienced the invisible ceiling that limits my opportunities for growth and success. Society's expectations and biases often undermine my abilities and make it harder for me to be taken seriously in professional settings. These challenges are compounded by the fact that I am a work visa holder, which adds an extra layer of difficulty in finding employment and navigating the job market.


One of the most frustrating aspects of these challenges is the lack of awareness and understanding from others. Many people and companies fail to recognize or acknowledge the unique obstacles I face as an international student and a minority. The difficulties I encounter are often dismissed or overlooked, making it even more crucial for me to work harder and prove myself in order to be considered for employment opportunities.


Overcoming these challenges has required immense resilience, determination, and a refusal to be defined by stereotypes or limitations. I have had to push myself to excel academically and professionally, proving that my skills and capabilities go beyond cultural expectations. I have sought out opportunities to showcase my talents, network with like-minded individuals, and create my own path despite the barriers that exist.


While these challenges have been difficult, they have also fuelled my drive to succeed. I am committed to breaking down barriers and creating a more inclusive and equitable environment where individuals are recognised for their abilities, regardless of their background. I strive to be a role model and inspire others who face similar challenges to persevere, work hard, and pursue their dreams, regardless of the biases and obstacles they may encounter.


"Embrace your unique qualities and perspective. Diversity in the tech industry is crucial for innovation ... Be confident in your abilities and let your authentic self shine."


What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?


Winning the SheInspired Award which I find myself utterly speechless and profoundly grateful for this recognition, especially since it stems from a nomination by one of my students. I am genuinely touched by this gesture.


What do you like / not like about working in tech?


As a female mathematician working in the tech industry, there are aspects that I find particularly appealing and others that pose challenges.


What I Like:

Intellectual Stimulation: Working in tech allows me to apply my mathematical skills in solving complex problems. The constant need for innovative solutions keeps me intellectually engaged and challenged.

Innovation: The tech industry is at the forefront of innovation. Being part of this dynamic field provides opportunities to contribute to cutting-edge technologies and advancements.

Diversity of Projects: Tech offers a diverse range of projects and applications. This variety allows me to explore different areas and apply mathematical concepts to various real-world problems.

Collaboration: Many tech projects involve collaboration with interdisciplinary teams. This collaborative environment fosters creativity and provides a platform to learn from professionals with diverse expertise.

Career Opportunities: The tech industry often offers excellent career growth opportunities. Continuous learning and skill development are valued, allowing for a rewarding and progressive career path.


What I Don't Like:

Gender Disparity: Unfortunately, gender disparity persists in the tech industry, including mathematics-related roles. Breaking through stereotypes and biases can be challenging.

Work-Life Balance: The fast-paced nature of the tech industry can sometimes lead to demanding work schedules, impacting work-life balance. Striking a healthy equilibrium can be a constant effort.

Isolation: In some cases, being one of the few women in a technical role may lead to feelings of isolation. Building a strong support network is crucial to overcoming this challenge.

Unconscious Bias: Unconscious biases may affect how my contributions are perceived. Overcoming these biases and ensuring fair recognition for achievements can be a hurdle.

Representation: The lack of visible representation of women in leadership positions within tech companies is a concern. More efforts are needed to promote diversity at all levels.


"In the dynamic world of tech, there is always something new to learn. Don't hesitate to ask questions, seek guidance, and continuously expand your knowledge. Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness, and it demonstrates a commitment to personal and professional growth."

What's been your favourite / most memorable / funniest 'career in tech' moment so far?


When I said I worked for NHS, people normally assume me as a project manger or nurse.


And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?


Do not be afraid to be yourself:

Embrace your unique qualities and perspective. Diversity in the tech industry is crucial for innovation, and your background as a female mathematician brings valuable skills to the table. Be confident in your abilities and let your authentic self shine.


Do not be afraid to ask:

In the dynamic world of tech, there is always something new to learn. Don't hesitate to ask questions, seek guidance, and continuously expand your knowledge. Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness, and it demonstrates a commitment to personal and professional growth.


Do not be afraid to speak out:

Your voice matters. If you encounter challenges or have ideas to contribute, speak up. Addressing concerns and sharing insights can foster positive change and contribute to a more inclusive and diverse tech environment. Be an advocate for yourself and others.


Build a Support Network:

Connect with mentors, colleagues, and communities that support women in tech. Having a network of individuals who understand your experiences and challenges can provide valuable guidance and encouragement throughout your career.


Invest in Continuous Learning:

The tech industry evolves rapidly. Stay curious and committed to continuous learning. Whether it's mastering new programming languages or staying updated on industry trends, a proactive approach to education will keep you adaptable and competitive.


Challenge Gender Stereotypes:

Challenge and break down gender stereotypes within the tech industry. Showcase your expertise and skills, proving that gender is not a determinant of capability. Advocate for equality and diversity, both in your workplace and the broader industry.


Persist and Persevere:

Resilience is key in any career, especially in tech. Acknowledge that challenges may arise, but view them as opportunities to learn and grow. Persistence and perseverance can lead to long-term success and pave the way for future generations of women in tech.

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