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Olga Liakhovich

Olga Liakhovich did not know what she wanted to be growing up. She had always been passionate about mathematics; however, she thought the only career path in mathematics was to become a professor. She had a hard time deciding between becoming a doctor or pursuing a career in software engineering. Her family had always supported her interest in tech and had emphasized the importance of coding, but she also liked the idea of helping people for a living. Olga ultimately decided to become a software engineer because she saw more opportunities for her to grow and make an impact in the field. She is now a member of the Applied Machine Learning team with Microsoft’s Commercial Software Engineering team, where she uses her expertise to help people around the world.

Graduating from college with a dual degree in mathematics and computer science engineering; a big chunk of her career was mostly focused on software engineering. Although she enjoyed programming, it didn’t satisfy her need to help others. Looking for new opportunities, Olga received a Microsoft lead from a former colleague. Applying for the job, she was invited to her first English interview that summer. Three months pregnant at the time, Olga was having a tough time with morning sickness and had to cancel the meeting. In October of the same year, a Microsoft recruiter invited her to the Microsoft campus in Moscow for another interview where she got the job.

During her time at Microsoft, she discovered her passion for machine learning. While working on shipping Azure Machine Learning Olga got a chance to go deeper into data science and machine learning discipline — a unique area where computer science, mathematics, and statistics are applied. Machine learning tied everything together and helped her solve real-life problems. Her team at the time supported her new interest in data science and helped her find training after hours. After which she moved to the CSE team, where she got the opportunity to start working with customers and discovered her passion for conservation. She found it empowering to use technology in the areas that matter most.

One of her favorite initiatives she started was almost created by accident. She gave a speech on how AI could support conservation efforts, after which she received a note from another Microsoft employee about African rhinos. The mail talked about his recent safari trip, their issues with rhino poaching, and asked if there was anything Microsoft could do to help. Olga did some research into the matter and looked for a company in Africa they could help. She found Peace Parks Foundation and worked with them to create detection software for their wildlife cameras. They had an issue with false alarms from motion-sensitive cameras trying to capture poachers in action. Olga and her team used AI to help the cameras detect people and then regularly alert rangers if they detected people where there shouldn’t be any.

Olga believes there are so many applications for technology to do good in the world. She loves that the CSE team allows her to work on the projects that mean something to her, despite these areas often lacking funding. Most recently, Olga worked with Great Ormond Street Hospital on Project FizzyO. An IoT device that helps children affected with Cystic Fibrosis complete necessary airway clearance techniques (ACT) therapy. The device turns ACT into a game, making a once tedious exercise into something more fun. Project Physio is also creating a vital data pool about patient ACT use and its effects. Learn more about Project Physio here.