Spotlight Member - Larissa Suzuki

We talk to Larissa about her passion for machine learning, improving female representation in computer science and engineering, and what sisterhood means to her.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career background

I have always been fascinated with things that move or change state, like machines, cars, electronics equipment. I have a degree in computer science and an M.Phil in electrical engineering. My thesis contributed to researchon the early detection of breast cancer in both older and younger women and advanced research on the reduction of X-ray exposure in cancer screeningAfter lecturing and working in industry for over seven years, I started a Ph.D. in computer science at UCL I have written a book based on my research, which was published earlier this year. 

My work has pioneered data infrastructures and platforms for smart cities, creating designs for smart cities platforms for more than 40 global cities, and the first smart cities data strategy in the world, for London. Throughout my 11+ years career as a computer scientist I have created my own start-up, aged 21, and worked for IBM, Bank of Brazil, ARUP, and the UK Government, F4S, and now Oracle as a product manager leading the work on Automatic Machine Learning for AI Apps. 

Your career has seen you work across many varied industries, how have you tackled the challenge of change? 

From phone to cars and movies, technology touches every area of our lives. 

It influences how we do business and communicate with other people, and it solves some of the worlds biggest problems, like creating clean energy or detecting cancer. My computer science degree was full of fun, and after becoming a computer scientist, I have to say that my problem-solving skills have improved immensely. I realised I was not restricted to a field of expertise, and that as a computer scientist I could work on solving any kind of problems that interested me. I think that one must have is passion for learning, not being afraid of being vulnerable (saying you don’t know things and ask for help!), and be a true believer that everything we design has to mirror the users we are building the technologies for. 

 What has been your highlight as an AllBright member? 

 I am very glad I joined AllBright. Being in this network means I am surrounded by powerful and amazing women, who teach me so much. I can watch how they run their own businesses, develop as leaders, and disseminate their ideas. Being among successful professionals and researchers gives me the chance to have fruitful discussions about my career, learn more, get confidence and faith on my results.  

Since 2006 you’ve been actively working towards increasing the representation of women in Computer Science and Engineering, what has this work involved and what further work needs to be done?   

Volunteering, teaching and mentoring within the community are things I’ve done for many years. I am regularly speak at schools events, where I talk to young people about the realities of being an engineer, and how important the work we do is.. I was the founder of UCLWE and UCLWE Lean IN, a student society dedicated to supporting the professional, personal and academic development of all female engineers at UCL. I co-organize the London Hopper Colloquium, served a member of the Diversity and Leadership group at the Royal Academy of Engineering, and served as a member of the Athena Swan Committee (UCL/Computer Science), which aims at setting policies and initiatives to attract and retain women in the field. I am currently a committee member of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. 

 You founded your first business aged 21, what advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs? 

Never feel afraid of asking for help nor recognising you may not know everything.  

 Throughout your career you have published numerous research papers, academic journals and even written a book. How do you find what’s next? 

I am very driven by the current advancements in machine learning (ML) and smart cities. The latest advancements in pervasive computing, big data and ML and their intersection with society has raised a lot of concerns, especially in terms of inclusion and fairness.  

What does sisterhood mean to you, and who’s in yours? 

Sisterhood means a lot to me. The support of women in our journey in life and career is paramount. I think one of the best things about sisterhood is knowing that your sisters will be there for you anytime you need advice or to celebrate an achievement.