Tiffany Ceasor works for Microsoft in Seattle, where she is in the process of transitioning from a data scientist role to becoming a software development engineer with a focus on data science. She is a student at Florida Atlantic University, working towards her PhD in computer science with a specialism in applied artificial intelligence. Tiffany also studied at Florida Atlantic for her bachelor’s degree in international public health and public health before taking her master of science in management information systems and business analytics there too.
“Diversity in thought, culture, personality, life experiences and beliefs are what make the world an incredible, dynamic and beautiful place. In technology it is especially important because, as artificial intelligence advances, it is imperative to prevent eminent biases from being trained into models that will in turn potentially determine the future of the way we do things.”
Making the big switch!
Hi, I’m Tiffany and this is the story of my education and career journey! I started my bachelor’s whilst I was at Florida Atlantic University High School studying health sciences. I graduated when I just turned 18 and then I took a brief break to pursue non-profit work related to my faith. I then went back to do my master’s of science in a joint programme in computer science and business, (and I graduated when I was 20 years old). Now, at 23 years old, I am a PhD candidate in Computer Science (Applied Artificial Intelligence) at the same university.
I’m currently in the process of transitioning from being a data scientist at Microsoft to a software development engineer, also at Microsoft, with a focus on data science, to learn and further my exploration in the vast field of technology. It is a big switch, but I’m so happy and grateful to God for the support of my peers and mentors.
Combining soft skills with technical skills
Being a data scientist involves a little bit of everything! On the softer side of it, my day-to-day involves meeting with my direct team and providing status updates on projects, researching statistical/modelling methodologies, seeking help and advice from team members meeting and understanding the needs of the partners I work with.
On the technical side, I spend a lot of my time coding using mostly a form of SQL (structured query language — for gathering the data), Python (a high-level programming language for creating functions for data processing or visual/graphic analysis), and PySpark (the Python application programming interface [API] for analysing, modelling and manipulating large data). The work I do is dealing with ‘big data’, so knowledge of distributive programming languages is a necessity.
Technological innovation that is making lives better
There are so many tech innovations, particularly in the healthcare space, that it’s so hard to say which I’m most intrigued by. I’m so amazed my so many advancements in the industry, but one that is most dear to my heart is innovations revolving around type 1 diabetes management.
My husband has type one diabetes and he is the absolute love of my life! All of the innovations around the artificial pancreas, continuous blood glucose monitoring, needless injections, etc. are the most fascinating to me because I have such close exposure to them. These innovations have greatly changed my husband’s, and therefore my life indirectly.
I hope to be able to contribute to the field of biotechnology in my future research and make it more accessible to all despite race, socio-economic status, and gender.
Finding balance, despite life getting tipped upside down
COVID changed everything for me. Some for the worse, but actually a lot for the better… I think. I started at Microsft as a full time employee two months before COVID and before I knew it, everything was turned upside down.
At first, it was extremely difficult for me to learn and understand how to do the basic things because no one was prepared, but then it worked out great in many ways. It allows me time to travel, spend time with my loved ones, as well as have more time to be involved with the AnitaB.org. It also allowed me to be able to work flexibly on my own time, which is extremely important to me because I don’t do well concentrating and being as productive with conventional work schedules.
Finding my community at AnitaB.org
I love AnitaB.org! What more is there to say? On a more serious note, I am really and tremendously grateful to AnitaB for the opportunity it gave me to meet and be inspired by incredible women of all backgrounds in technology around the world. I’m actually a relative newcomer to the organisation.
The first time I heard and attended the conference it was their first virtual conference in 2020. I was nominated and sponsored by my organisation at Microsoft to represent the company at the event and it changed my life! I then asked to be a part of it in any way I could. I would have done literally any role happily as long as I was able to be a part of their community.
I was subsequently invited to be a Data Science Committee member for the international AnitaB community, and then, to my surprise, in 2022 I was asked to then be the chair of the same international Data Science Committee, which has been one of the greatest honours. I’m so grateful for the inclusivity and support of women to allow me to go from a new attendee to the Committee chair.
Making the world a more incredible, dynamic and beautiful place
I think diversity in everything is important. Diversity in thought, culture, personality, life experiences and beliefs are what makes the world an incredible, dynamic and beautiful place. In technology, it is especially important because, as artificial intelligence advances, it is imperative to prevent eminent biases from being trained into models that will in turn potentially determine the future of the way we do things.
Also, having diversity of thought in science is vitally important because we also have to create medicine and advancement that cater to all people, regardless of their backgrounds, in a considerate, accurate and responsible way. If we’re humble and we’re attuned to it, having differences can be the greatest gift to help us fill gaps in our way of thinking, making our work whole.
Helping other girls and women find their niche in technology
I want to personally do a better job of helping other women learn about technology careers myself… I can get caught up in all of the things to do that I can forget to reach out, speak at a local school in an underfunded community and just tell them about my job.
With many women, and people in general, life gets busy and maybe we can’t visit schools and ask to speak with a class, but we can write an article online (like this one!), make videos explaining our work and why we like it and the importance of women in our roles. Or we can support other women who have more free time or capability to do so.
Something I will be starting as a part of the AnitaB Committee’s initiatives is arranging a virtual series of video workshops on YouTube to discuss different careers in technology and how to attain them. I want to call them Tiff Talks and I will discuss personal life and obstacles, technology, careers, salary, investments, and more!
Coming up next
I feel so grateful that there are so many things I’m excited about, like the Tiff Talks series this year. There are also lots of exciting new things ahead in my new role at Microsoft, including attending the AnitaB conference in person this year (and in my home state, Florida too!). I will also be finalising my dissertation and research this year.
My career only makes up part of who I am and the things I’m passionate about, and so I’m really looking forward to spending time with my family and friends/making new ones, travelling and seeing a few of my church family/best friends all around the world this year and having fun in my day to day life….
I am also starting a gig as a part time Row House coach (which I know is super random, but a lot of fun!), which I’m very excited about. I don’t want to talk your ears off, so if you’ll have me again, maybe next time we can talk about some of the other stuff..?