Hear from Lauren Wardrope - Senior Machine Learning Engineer

How's your commute and are you a podcaster or a music blaster?

My commute is quite a long train journey so it's the perfect chance for me to immerse myself in captivating podcasts and indulge in some self-learning, especially when it comes to AI and ML topics. I enjoy exploring specific ML tools and applications, ensuring I stay up to date in this ever-evolving field. However, what truly captures my curiosity is AI safety and AI alignment. These pressing concerns drive me to dive deep into researching potential solutions and listening to lively debates with leading experts. But life is about balance so to broaden my perspective I also enjoy personal development topics like physical movement, plant-based nutrition, philosophy, and science. All in all, my commute is a mix of learning, inspiration, and good vibes to set the tone for the day ahead.

How does hybrid work impact your everyday role?

Hybrid work has been truly transformational for me, making a significant impact on both my emotional wellbeing and mental health. As someone who once struggled to focus in a bustling office environment, the ability to create my own workspace has been a game-changer, allowing me to optimize my surroundings and improve concentration and efficiency. The added bonus of more time for self-care, whether it's going for a walk, engaging in mindfulness practices, or simply taking breaks when needed, has boosted my energy and motivation while fostering a sense of good work-life balance. Embracing this hybrid work model has brought a newfound sense of fulfillment and contentment to both my personal and professional life.

Do you use any organisational rules/tools to keep your work on track?

As a machine learning engineer, staying organised is essential for the success of my work. Our team follows the agile methodology, working in sprints and conducting regular planning sessions to establish a clear roadmap. Daily stand-up meetings play a crucial role in aligning our efforts, assessing progress, and addressing potential obstacles. Leveraging tools like Bitbucket, Confluence and Jira streamlines collaboration with other teams, optimising our workflows. Personally, I find blocking out dedicated time slots in my calendar for uninterrupted work highly effective in eliminating distractions and maintaining optimal productivity. 

What do you do to maintain your wellbeing while in the office or working from home?

Maintaining a healthy wellbeing has always been a priority for me, and I achieve this through a holistic and balanced lifestyle. Regular exercise plays a crucial role in keeping me focused and motivated during work weeks. To counter the the effects of screen time, I embrace a diverse range of physical movement practices, including running, cycling, swimming, calisthenics, parkour, climbing, and floor-living, all of which promote movement and flexibility. My conscious choice to follow a healthy vegan diet further supports my focus and motivation throughout the day. While I prioritize nutritious eating, I also allow myself occasional indulgences, recognizing the importance of balance. When stress arises, I turn to activities like yoga, ecstatic dance, breathwork, and meditation to manage my mental and emotional well-being effectively. Regularly immersing myself in nature is vital and non-negotiable, as it helps me stay grounded and calm amidst the demands of busy workdays!

What does a normal morning look like for you?

My mornings vary depending on the season and weather. On brighter days, I enjoy taking a morning walk in nature. Rainy days draw me to the gym for an energizing workout, followed by some relaxing sauna and cold therapy. During busy work periods, I wake up early at 7:30 am to maximize productivity and complete important tasks before morning meetings. However, I equally enjoy the more laid back mornings when I can wake-up just in time for my 9am call. It reminds me that flexibility and acceptance of our human nature are essential, even in our busy lives.

How do you beat the afternoon slog? What keeps you motivated?

Thankfully I managed to conquer it a while ago, especially since working from home gives me a significant energy boost. I find that maintaining productivity throughout the day is all about finding the right balance. Remembering to take small breaks can be a challenge when you're in the zone but it's crucial for staying refreshed. I'm typically not a morning person but since I swapped out caffeine for invigorating cold showers, and it has truly transformed my life and has come in particularly helpful when we have early morning stand-ups with the team every day. Additionally, I make it a point to eat fairly healthily and stay active with lots of movement, which definitely helps keep my energy levels up. But I genuinely just love the work I do, and that makes a massive difference and keeps me motivated during those sluggish moments. The hardest part for me is putting the computer down at the end of the day - I guess you could say I'm a bit of a work enthusiast! 

If I wanted to start a career in your field, what are the most important skills that I should be developing right now?

To excel as a machine learning engineer, one must master programming languages like Python and R, possess a strong foundation in mathematics and statistics, and have an in-depth understanding of various machine learning algorithms, frameworks, and the ML lifecycle. Additionally, developing a holistic understanding of approaches such as Reinforcement Learning, Deep Learning, and NLP is beneficial for effectively addressing complex problems in diverse domains. Knowledge of software engineering principles and cloud computing platforms, like AWS, is also crucial for deploying scalable and efficient models. Proficiency in version control, interactive development, and documentation tools is essential for collaborative project management and delivery. Successful ML engineers should cultivate exceptional problem-solving, critical thinking, and strong communication skills to collaborate effectively with stakeholders and businesses. Understanding the business context, domain, and appreciating ethical considerations in AI and data privacy are also valuable. Embracing a continuous learning mindset is vital to stay at the forefront of the ever-evolving machine learning landscape.