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Lin Ju and her team were recently announced as IBM’s Internal Winner of the Call for Code Developer Challenge. They worked tirelessly to bring Frida, a solution designed to mitigate earthquake damages to schools, to the world. Lin, as the Senior Development Manager of IBM Hybrid Cloud Division, has always brought passion to her work. She is constantly working to create new ways to apply technology to solve everyday business challenges and encourages the people around her to think and operate differently in today’s fast-paced cognitive era. Through this year’s Call for Code Global initiative, Lin and her team swiftly brought social responsibility to life and used their startup mindset to create business value through the latest AI technology.

She is bringing her Frida team to San Francisco for the Call for Code Grand Prize Celebration on Oct. 29, 2018 and was kind enough to sit down with us as a role model for Women in Technology to share her career path through her global working experience. Below, Lin discusses what led her to her current role in leading the Watson Studio Development Team, and how she leverages her passion to help businesses “get it done” in unique pioneering ways to shape the world for a better tomorrow.

Describe how you came to IBM and your journey since being here

After I got my Ph.D. in civil engineering, instead of pursuing a postdoctoral position, I went into the IT domain and started a career as a software engineer. I have been fascinated by IT’s rapidly evolving nature and how new opportunities open up every day, which allows us to deliver the product that can have an immediate impact on customers and society. I worked as a Chief Engineer with the National Software Test Organization in China, spent seven years as a global development leader in the IBM China development lab, and started my current role as a senior development manager for Watson Studio. My experience at IBM has given me a broad spectrum of career opportunities in terms of facing customers to provide solutions, leading large and global development teams, and working with very talented people every day.

Working with artificial intelligence

I have always looked at intelligence perspectives through my career either in development intelligence or business process intelligence. However, with the latest innovations in cloud computing and the explosion of big data, I got here by working diligently to build the integrated AI platform, Watson Studio, in order to enable and democratize AI for more generalized use.

Contributions to the Watson Studio services team

I am so proud of leading the development of Watson Studio by working closely with product managers, designers, content strategists, development architectures, and support to deliver new AI-infused capabilities. Watson Studio accelerates the machine learning and deep learning workflows required to infuse AI into businesses to drive innovation. Using AI can promote greater human collaboration and innovation. However, skills required for AI are high and you need years of learning and researching. My team’s mission for Watson Studio is to democratize AI and deep learning through a suite of tools for data scientists, application developers, and subject matter experts to collaboratively work with data and develop AI solutions that can help gain insights from data.

We practice IBM Design Thinking and agile development principles where you can see the intuitive design from our designers and the implementation in production through an agile iterative approach. Even though I have been in the IT field for more than 15 years, this design, iterative implementation, and continuous delivery still amazes. They are really game changing and lead us to quickly and successfully deliver the product to market and meet customers’ needs.

Best part of your job, and the least

My current job really wows me every day – how our offering, Watson Studio, is evolving and impacting the world and future. In addition, I have an amazingly talented team to work with, and I learn new things every day. I am inspired by that talent and the wisdom of the people around me.

Most interesting challenge you’ve faced in your career

I think the most interesting challenge is that new terms and new areas come up every day, and there’s a lot of innovation and research results that we need to put into production. Our team has been working closely with the IBM Research team to put their awesome research results as well as the latest and most advanced technology into reality. One initiative that we have driven is Deep Learning as Service within Watson Studio, which is drawing from IBM Research to enable organizations to overcome the common barriers for deep learning training, deployment, and monitoring.

How IBM Watson is changing the way businesses work

I think the most important aspect is that more companies really see the great opportunities to let their developers access Watson APIs to develop their own AI-enabled applications. Watson Studio makes it easier for businesses and developers to use advances in the automation of the key steps of building machine learning workflows and training models with a more visually integrated user experience. It made AI more accessible and a game changer for AI.

Helping change the way businesses work

We have been living in a very agile environment, and we all need to think fast and move fast. We have acted and behaved like a start-up company within our teams and we incorporate the multiple functions within one team, including architects, full stack developers, DevOps, and test automation engineers. It has helped us to speed things up, which is the key to our success. By building an MVP (minimum viable product) and embracing IBM Design Thinking, we are able to push new features to the market quickly and get immediate and first-hand feedback from users – and continue to improve and enhance the features through the next iteration.

Projects outside of IBM

I have worked with and supported a lot of enterprise customers through our offerings. It has given me insight into our users’ use cases and business challenges to help us enhance our product to meet our customers’ requirements and market needs.

Advice for young people who are interested in careers in technology

I was a Women In Technology (WIT) co-chair in the IBM China development team and have talked with many young girls from high school and universities. The advice that I have given to them most often is that working hard is a must. They must become a lifelong learner, have a great passion for what they are doing, and it will bring out the best in them.

How your Ph.D. helped you in your journey

Growing up in an Asian family, I was very fortunate to have a family that was able to give me great support for my education. I have always been driven to achieve the highest goal at every stage and follow my parent’s wishes. Like Steve Jobs said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” Looking back, I have found that my Ph.D in Civil Engineering has helped me to think logically, thoroughly, and methodologically. It has also given me strong research skills and analytics techniques that I use to tackle any problem and challenge presented to me. It helped shape my thinking and dealing with challenges as opportunities. Even with a multidiscipline background, it has given me different viewpoints and experiences and a new way of thinking to create innovative products and value.

Outside interests

I love to travel with my daughter. Travel opens my eyes to the world and gives me new insights. I have traveled around the world because of business needs or personal interests, and working globally in different countries. Travel has broadened my view of the world and helped me see people in new ways to learn about their culture and advancements in their area. I have a large world map on my wall and marked the countries to which I have traveled.

Where AI is going to be within the next twenty years

We are at an exciting moment of the cognitive era, where a major shift in computing from a mobile-first world into an AI-first world will touch every industry and transform the products and services we are using on daily basis. AI is just beginning. In the next few years, AI will drive most customer interactions and engagements. Furthermore, AI will become part of more business applications or services and constantly surprise us with amazing features and conveniences. Additionally, with cheaper sensors in place, IoT initiatives will be supported by AI capabilities to make everything around you smart.