Wonder Coder of the month: Beth Carey

Wonder Coder of the month: Beth Carey

Each month at WonderCoders, we meet an inspirational role model for women in tech to get some tips and find out more about her superpower. Meet Beth Carey!

Hi! Tell us about what you do and who you are.

My pleasure. I’m the co-founder and CEO of machine intelligence company Pat Inc. and I love enabling clever technologies for business and personal outcomes. Over my career, I’ve mostly been on the business side of things in technology companies, managing technical teams, big and small. In Pat Inc, we’re a small startup team building a platform for developers and companies to leverage based on the company’s Natural Language Understanding IP.

How long have you been in tech?

Hmm, that’s giving away my age…..:-) I started my tech career in the mid-1980s when I graduated from college and joined IBM.

How did you get into tech?

When I finished my bachelor’s degree in 1985 and was searching for jobs in Sydney, I found this job advertisement for IBM – a company which I had no real reason to be interested in, given my undergrad study, but the advertisement was intriguing. They were looking for people that had 1. A degree – in anything 2. Interpersonal skills and 3. An interest in electronics. I thought ‘oh well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad’! On the way to the interview, I remember thinking ‘oh, I must find out what ‘PC’ stands for’. Remember, this was before Google, before even the internet. After multiple interviews, I got the job as a Customer Service representative, fixing the state-of-the-art IBM mainframes. I was 1 of 3 girls out of about 150 field engineers and I loved the job. They trained me with all I needed to know to fix the mainframes & I/O in customers’ data centres. But I also learnt a lot about customer service because our clients were the big banks and corporations with large data centres that had no tolerance for ‘down time’. Handling many critical situations over the years both as an engineer and a manager gave me more than a few scars on my back.

You studied Occupational Therapy from the beginning. Was it a big step to go from that to where you are today?

Yes! I never ended up practicing my profession although the training wasn’t wasted. From studying physiology, psychology & anatomy to using an oscilloscope, soldering iron and learning a multitude of acronyms like AMD (air movement device or ‘fan’ 😊). After my field engineer role, I moved into management and spent most of my corporate IT career managing technical teams, including managing the business & HR of a service line of 150+. Some of the non-technical parts of my career included a role as a facilitator of IBM’s Leadership Development program in Australia/New Zealand and Asia.This offered fantastic variety, increasing the breadth of my knowledge and experience.

How has your journey in tech been?

Full of variety – a blend of people and machines right from the beginning. Whilst my initial job in corporate IT was very hands-on technical, reading ALDs (Automatic Logic Diagrams, well, as much as I could!) I progressed to senior management but always around technology teams.

What are your daily activities?

My daily activities in Pat In as CEO include preparing for us to raise capital. So, back to a common thread over my career, I am building another team! This time in a high growth company – my own. We have great synergies across the small team in skills and as I like to say, we have ‘no redundant knowledge’.  We are preparing to raise our next round of funding to commercialize the platform so whilst I wear many caps, including the operating officer, I am focused on the next step to create value.

Could you share some of the challenges you’ve faced as a woman in tech? 

Since starting my career as a small percentage of females out of Mainframe customer service field representatives in IBM Australia, I’ve worked most of my career in a male-dominated environment. And one of the most resonating adages I’ve heard is that males tend to go for a job with 60% of the capability, and females wait till they feel they have 100%. What I see as the opportunity now in AI, is for females to step up to leadership roles in this nascent field. It requires as much from the humanities as from tech so there are lots of opportunities to design useful and ethical products for the future.

How did you overcome them?

I found myself consciously pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I don’t think that’s different to anyone who wants to increase their skills and experiences. These days, I see the need and benefit of organizations like Women in AI because they support and drive (push ?? 😊) you to speak, blog and create your profile. Creating a personal brand may not have been the norm last century but it’s pretty essential now & may not be as comfortable for females to embrace.

What’s your aspiration in your tech journey?

To build Pat Inc to the organization of our founder’s vision and impact the future of the human language interface.

Please share with our readers why they should get a career in tech!

Whether a hands-on techie or ‘around’ tech, you can make a huge impact strategically leveraging it as a tool to improve lives. A great quote from a post of Didem Un Ates’ “if women knew how much they could change the world with technology, there would be so many more women in tech.” – Mariana Costa Checa. I would add the word, ’positively’ to that.

Any tips or advice for them?

Call me or reach out on Linkedin – would love to discuss more how we can really make a positive difference in the world with technology to augment.

Could you give us some ideas on how we can overcome the diversity gap in tech?

As I mentioned, Women in AI is just one example of an organization that can help support and drive you in a way that suits your development.

Do you currently practice computer programming and what is your preferred programming language?

I’m actually not a coder 😊! I ‘grew up’ around programmers and mainframe specialists and learnt what I needed in my original hands-on technical role in IBM, but I never learnt how to code. I chose a management path after that in technology and with great technologists. I admire software engineers and I see the benefit of a full suite of skills on any AI team to design ‘useful products in healthy and sustainable ways’(to quote Fast.ai founder, Rachel Thomas).

What are your visions for AI in the future and what are your greatest concerns?

We have a choice to amplify good possibilities from AI just the same as you could for bad AI products. AI requires the full spectrum of involvement – from product leadership to ethics as well as tech. If we don’t have the full spectrum represented, we will get biased products and bad or worse products than we should. We can improve accessibility for people with disabilities, which is or will be most of us at some point in time, immeasurably. And of course, make our lives more productive by releasing us from daily overhead tasks.

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