Sometimes we forget the humans behind the tech in our ever busy world. DSF is fortunate enough to know some incredible tech leaders across the world and has the privilege of hearing them present at our events. That being said, our Speaker Spotlight sets the stage to get to know our speakers on a more personal level and connect them with our growing community. Read the mini interview below!

A bit about Marie

Dr Marie Oldfield, CStat, CSci, FIScT, is the CEO of Oldfield Consultancy and Senior Lecturer at LSE.

Marie is a recognised, published AI and Ethics Expert with a background in Mathematics and Philosophy. Marie is a trusted advisor to Government, Defence, and the Legal Sector amongst others. Marie works at the forefront of Ethical AI, driving improvement and development.

Marie is Founder of the IST Interdisciplinary Artificial Intelligence Group and Founder of the IST Women in Tech group. Marie was invited to the Executive Board of the Institute of Science & Technology, to be an Expert Fellow for Sprite+ and a member of the College of Peer Reviewers for Rephrain.

Marie is frequently invited to speak on popular podcasts, panels and at conferences about her experience and research on the development of Ethics in AI. Marie was recently invited to speak at Chatham House on AI and Ethics issues.

Marie is passionate about giving back to the global community through extensive pro bono work, with a focus on ethical AI, education, poverty, children and mental health.

How did you start out in your career?

I started out by choosing a Maths degree. I chose this because I was told I couldn’t do Maths at A Level and set out to prove my teacher wrong. I am glad that I chose to do this because I felt challenged by my degree and had a huge sense of satisfaction gaining it. I went on to do an MSc in Applied Statistics and one in Philosophy and then a PhD in Human Centred Ethical AI.

I did a lot of contracting for the first part of my career and this enable me to get a good overview of the industry and build up my skills base of both technical and soft skills. Later on, I founded my own company because I saw too much going on in the industry that was unethical. I built my company on ethical analysis. Today my customers range from private clients to media, medicine, public bodies, governments, and we also advise in court cases. The pro bono work I do gives me a sense of satisfaction that I can help the most vulnerable in society. My career is very varied, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What are the signs of success in your field?

A willingness to understand context, to look deeper into problems and to work in an interdisciplinary manner. Being able to work with wide teams of diverse people. To understand that the technical part of our work isn’t the whole. Understanding what you don’t know and admitting when you don’t. It takes a lot of maturity to be able to do these things and a lot of soft skills. It would be good to see more of it in the industry. Too many people think they can understand statistics from Wikipedia and build solutions that work. If this was the case, I wouldn’t be called in to fix them when they went very wrong. Ditching the ego is the first step to success when working in this field.

What is the best and worst thing about your job role?

The best part is being able to prevent harms on society from faulty software and to be able to work with ethical design.

The worst is seeing deaths and suicides as a consequence of poorly implemented technology and processes.

What can you advise someone just starting out to be successful?

Be open minded. Programming is not the start and end of your role. Society and individuals will be impacted by your work so imagine your family at the end of your work and make sure you design accordingly. Work with interdisciplinary experts. Take some philosophy courses so you can really understand what ethics means and how to apply it to your work. Never underestimate the power of context and challenge assumptions.

How do you switch off?

I enjoy long walks, eating out and painting.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Keep on doing what you are doing. Even when things look like they are going wrong it is a lesson you must learn to take you to where you are meant to go.

What is next for you, career wise, personally or any else you may want to share?

The development of software for ethical AI design based on my own processes and best practise that I have developed over the past few years.

What are your top 5 predictions in tech for the next 10 years?

Technology will become embedded in everyday life but at some point there will be a backlash to the amount of control technology takes. This will potentially reduce technological involvement in our daily lives.

Watch Marie’s session at the Data Science Festival here.

Thank you to all our wonderful speakers for taking part in our Speaker Spotlight!

Want to become a DSF Speaker? Apply here!