Speaker Spotlight: Q&A with Joanna Chwastowska, Engineering Lead @ Google DeepMind Health

Women of Silicon Roundabout

Joanna Chwastowska speaks to us about her role in the technology sector and shares her thoughts on London's Women of Silicon Roundabout, taking place 25-26th June.

Joanna Chwastowska graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the Academy of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland. She then joined the newly-opened Google Krakow office, and worked as a Software Engineer, growing from an individual contributor to Tech Lead Manager across the following 8 years. In her next adventure, she was an Engineering Site Lead for a fashion startup from New York (shopspring.com). In summer 2017, Joanna then moved to London to work as an Engineering Lead for Google's DeepMind Health team.

Engineer at heart, manager by choice – she loves to explore human nature and build strong engineering teams. By doing so, she hopes to help others (and herself) to grow, and have a greater, positive impact on the world.

Joanna will be sharing her wisdom in a session entitled 'How Will Coding be Relevant in the Future?' at 16:50 on 25th June. Her talk will delve into everything from semantic computing, to artificial intelligence. Does the future herald the end for human coders with the advent of AI-enabled self-coding?


We caught up with Joanna ahead of the conference, here's what she had to say. 

Women in Tech London

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the field of software engineering.

Both of my parents are engineers, so our home was always full of technical diagrams and various material samples that we were encouraged to play with. We loved spending time on construction sites and in garages, doing activities that required creativity from building lego blocks, to assembling shelves. I think this was my early engineering playground. I’ve always enjoyed solving problems and learning maths and physics  selecting computer science as my major was a natural consequence of all that. I've never regretted it, not even for a day!

What’s a typical day like for you?

I’m an Engineering Manager, which means that I’m responsible for making sure my teams are working on the right thing, in the best possible way, and that everyone is happy and supported. This means that my days are full of meetings  with my teams, with individuals, and with people from other teams and groups. It’s all about communication, collaboration, and delivery. An amazing part of my job is supporting a fast-growing organisation. In the last three years, our team has grown to well over 100 people. Navigating such rapid growth is both challenging and rewarding  by pushing me out of my comfort zone, it enables me to grow every day.

Who is your female tech inspiration? What have they done and why do they inspire you?

I really admire Susan Wojcicki (not only because she has Polish roots, same as me).

She’s a very strong leader, who has built, and runs, one of the biggest and most challenging organisations at Google. From personal experience, she’s also a great manager and an ally. She invests in early STEM education for girls, and promotes diversity in the workplace. Finally, she’s also a mum of five, proving it’s possible to care about both  career, as well as family.

Are you working on anything exciting at the moment that you’d like to share with our readers?

I’m proud to be a part of the team that’s building Streams – a secure mobile app that aims to address what clinicians call “failure to rescue” – when the right nurse or doctor doesn’t get to the right patient in time. Each year, many thousands of people in UK hospitals die preventably from conditions like sepsis and acute kidney injury, because the warning signs aren't picked up and acted on in time. We built Streams in close collaboration with nurses and doctors to help address this problem.

It’s really amazing to work on such an important and impactful project, with such a great team and partners, collaborating with research teams across our organisation. You may have seen our work last year with Moorfields Eye Hospital where we applied machine learning technology to detect eye disease, or our work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to look at predicting patient deterioration.


Why have you decided to get involved with Women of Silicon Roundabout?

Tech is at the forefront of change in the world. As it is present in each and every aspect of our lives, it’s important for tech to be representative of our society  to reflect different preferences, needs, and opinions. I believe that diversity is our strength. I always feel empowered by other women in tech  simply seeing how many there are (and how many will be joining us in the coming years!), but also listening to all their inspiring stories and learning from them. I think Women of Silicon Roundabout is a great event for all of us to meet, network, share experiences, and grow.

What is your Women of Silicon Roundabout talk about?

Technology is constantly evolving and changing. New ideas and approaches appear almost everyday, which means that the role of a software engineer and a programmer is also evolving. We are now entering a new epoch of big data, semantic computing, machine learning, AI and 5G. During my session I’ll explore what does this means for all of us and how can we make sure we keep ourselves relevant in this fast-changing environment.

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?

To everyone who’s thinking of getting into tech I’d say  give it a try! Tech is such a broad field and there’s so many different roles  from software engineers and data scientists, to designers, user researchers and product managers. It’s not only for people who want to code all day long  there’s space for everyone.

And there’s also the area of applied tech  where you can combine your expertise in a non-technical domain (such as medicine, law, or finance) with technology to innovate and change the world. The project I’m working on is a great example of that.

As with everything else  start small, learn new things, have fun and never doubt you can do it if you want!

Drive your digital economy at Women of Silicon Roundabout

Join Joanna at London's top women in tech conference. Be inspired by the ecosystem's most influential women in technology, network with like-minded female founders, liaise with top Silicon Roundabout tech companies and enhance your skills portfolio in a passion-charged atmosphere.


Women in Tech London