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  • Writer's pictureThiago Assuncao de Faria

Anouk Wolters - Responsible AI and what comes next

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Introducing Anouk Wolters, a trailblazer in the realm of Responsible AI from Rotterdam. With a solid foundation in Complex Systems Engineering and Management from Delft University of Technology, Anouk's academic pursuits led her to explore the profound impact of AI on the workforce. This exploration ignited a passion: to harness AI's potential in a responsible manner.

Anouk Wolters smiling in front of a rocky wall with cactus behind her.
The one and only, Anouk Wolters!

In this installment of the Lovelace Series, Anouk delves into her transition from a student organizing AI conferences to her role at Deeploy, an MLOps platform championing responsible AI deployment. At Deeploy, she bridges the gap between intricate AI technology and its real-world applications, ensuring businesses deploy AI models that are both effective and ethical.


Anouk's insights shed light on the importance of viewing AI models within a broader societal context. She emphasizes the need for AI transparency, traceability, and governance, especially as the tech landscape rapidly evolves.


Anouk's journey serves as a beacon for those aspiring to make a mark in the tech world. Dive into the full interview to uncover Anouk Wolters' vision for a more responsible and inclusive AI-driven future.

 

Q) Can you share a bit about your background and your current role?


I grew up in Rotterdam and studied Complex Systems Engineering and Management at Delft University of Technology, focusing on IT systems. During my master's program, I organized a conference that explored the impact of AI on the workforce.


During that time, I became really interested in the world of AI, especially how we can responsibly use AI technology in our society. I wanted to understand how we could harness the potential of AI responsibly while safeguarding against any potential harm to individuals and society.

It became clear to me that seeing AI models within the broader context of people, organizations, regulations, and processes was crucial.

I decided to develop myself in bridging the gap between AI technology and people. I've found that sweet spot at Deeploy as a Design and implementation Engineer.


Deeploy is an MLOps platform that focuses on responsible AI deployment and management. It empowers organizations to deploy AI models and maintain control over them over time. We strongly emphasize crucial aspects like explainability, feedback loops, traceability, AI model monitoring, and AI governance.


In my role at Deeploy, I guide our customers through implementing our platform and the associated best practices. This includes deep dives into their entire MLOps setup, explainability, and governance of their AI models.


Q) How did you first become interested in technology, and what led you to your current role?


I've always had a wide range of interests, so when choosing a study program, my options ranged from psychology to economics to engineering. I realized that problem-solving at the intersection of technology and society was where my passion lay. This led me to choose a Complex Systems Engineering and Management program, which blended my diverse interests.

As my interest in AI was sparked during my master's, I wanted to apply my developed 'sociotechnical' perspective to AI systems in my master's thesis.

Also, I understand what it would be like to work for a startup. I was introduced to Deeploy by my thesis supervisor. During the conversations, I realized that my viewpoint and Deeploy's pioneering work in responsible AI fit well, and I got offered the internship position. After my internship, I decided to stay for a full-time job, which I luckily got offered.


Q) What main challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?


My main challenge in my career so far was actually the question of where to start my career. Since I have a broad interest and many possible directions I could take, I needed to make the right decision for my first job.


I took some time after my graduation from university to talk with many people and figure out what I found noteworthy.

I considered the products/services the company offers, the company's size, the company's industry, the possibility of taking responsibility for the opportunities to develop myself quickly, and, of course, the people.

During this search, I was convinced that starting full-time at Deeploy was my right decision.


Q) Who or what has been the most significant influence or support in your tech journey?


Having inspiring and supportive people around you is incredibly important. I'm lucky to have several people who've been a big help on my tech journey. First, my master's thesis supervisor pushed me to develop my perspective in the world of AI and connected me with the company I now work for.


Also, my coworkers at Deeploy have supported my growth and made work fun.

Lastly, I've had a female mentor outside my company for a few months.

Talking to her helps me step back and see the big picture regarding my goals and what matters to me.

Anouk with a beautiful hilly scenery on a trip to Mexico.
Anouk loves to explore new places and cultures, like this Mexico trip. And yes, Mexico has more than beaches :-D

Q) How have you seen diversity and inclusion evolve in the tech industry throughout your career?


My career is relatively short, so I can't say much about how it evolved. Diversity and inclusion are super essential and challenging to realize in practice. I've found myself in the minority as a woman in the tech industry, often sitting in rooms dominated by men.

While achieving a more equal distribution would be positive, I'm also deeply motivated by the opportunity to be that one woman who actually is part of these meetings.

It allows me to demonstrate firsthand the value women bring to a team or project.

Q) How do you manage the work-life balance in the tech industry?


It is about finding a balance between work, doing fun things in my free time, and taking some time to actually rest and process everything that is going on. Sometimes, it is challenging, and I constantly try to see what balance works best for me.


One big step that I recently took is moving to Utrecht to live close to work. I enjoy not having to plan every minute of my days and exploring a new city!


Q) What skills are most important in today's tech world?


Learning and adapting quickly in such a fast-evolving world is really important. Also, creative thinking to solve complex problems is crucial. Lastly, effective communication with people with technical and non-technical backgrounds is vital.

Q) Can you share a project or accomplishment you consider the most significant in your career?

One of the reasons I really like working at a startup is the impact you can make as an individual from the start.

I have worked on several cool, impactful projects so far, of which I will highlight one. This project was focused on implementing the explainability of a fraud detection model for one of our customers. Together with many different stakeholders, we designed and developed an explainer to help their fraud analysts more efficiently and effectively assess the model's output.


The model and explainer were deployed on Deeploy, and the explainer output is shown in the frontend the fraud analysts use. During the delivery of the project, we showed the fraud analysts how they can use the improved system with explainability, and hearing from them that it's really helping them in their work is very fulfilling.


Q) What are your future goals, and where do you see the tech industry heading in the next few years?


We have some fascinating years ahead. One big game changer will be the EU AI Act. It will force companies to prioritize responsible AI development and implementation. I am really curious to see how companies will deal with that.


I am dedicated to bringing a positive impact to the world through the use of technology. I would like to inspire and guide others to do so as well by leading a team or a company in the future.


Q) What advice would you give other women considering a tech career?


If you are passionate about tech, go for it! The tech world needs more women :)


Q) Let's continue the flow... who would you like to read on the Lovelace Series?


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