Get Inspired Series: 100 Sexy Roles Women can Take in the Tech Industry: No. 2, Ciara Byrne
Ciara Byrne is a software business polymath. She has worked on every aspect of software: defining technical standards, creating new product concepts, developing the software and explaining it to customers. Currently she is a Director of DRM Standards at SafeNet, and in her spare time she writes for The NextWomen.
Who inspired you to get into tech?
When I was growing up in Ireland there were only two TV channels, both from the national broadcaster RTE. RTE has a science correspondent who used to do reports on NASA's Voyager space probes which were making their way slowly through the solar system at the time. Those probes were sending back all kinds of amazing pictures of the planets in the solar system and this got me really interested in Physics which accidentally led to Computer Science when I sent to University. So in a way you could say I was inspired by that Science correspondent....
How were you educated in tech?
One of the major characteristics you need to be successful in the technology world is the ability to keep learning all the time and curiosity about how things work. Fortunately, I was the kind of kid who read encyclopedias (when they still existed) for fun. As I write in my blog CEO SEEKS STARTUP, my Dad bought one of the early home computers in the 1980s and I used to program BASIC on it and play games. When I went to university I wanted to do Astrophysics - try telling your career guidance teacher that in rural Ireland in the 1980s - but my maths turned out to not be strong enough. So I accidentally ended up in Computer Science which I'd been doing as a minor subject. What really captured my imagination was Machine Learning (the design and development of algorithms that allow programs to improve their performance over time) which I ended up doing research in that for a couple of years. But really when it comes to building software I learnt most from actually creating a product from start to finish in a commercial software company.
How is your experience in the tech world?
IT is a youthful industry so there are opportunities to do interesting work when you are still very young. When I was only 23 I was in Japan talking to Hitachi engineers about how to use machine learning in their steel plant software. At 27 I was managing a Eurescom project where multiple European Telco operators were working together on automated techniques to combat fraud in Telecommunications services. Everyone else on the project was male and much older than me. It's possible to work in all kinds of domains and on all kinds of problems since software is used in pretty much every industry these days. People think of software development as a boring job but at its best it can be very creative since you are making something from nothing every day. Not many jobs can offer that.
(Ciara Byrne, Twitter: @ceoseekstartup)
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