Women in Tech: Doris Li

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Doris Li,  M.Sc. (Statistics) is a data scientist at Technical Safety BC. As part of the Research and Analytics team, Doris analyzes safety data; develops and implements algorithms to guide the inspection process, and assists with compliance and enforcement audits. Doris leverages advanced analytical skill sets, including machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), to help our clients work more safely and help improve safety of all stakeholders in BC.

You’re a citizen of this world – born in China, studied in the US and now you call Vancouver home. Tell us about your journey. How did you get started in tech and what interested you in this field?

When I was younger I was always in awe of the strong and independent women working in the finance industry. At school, math was also my stronger subject. I didn’t want to follow the traditional route into the financial industry by majoring in finance or financial analysis. I wanted to gain a solid mathematics foundation and a thorough understanding of the theories and applications, so I obtained my Bachelor of Science with a major in statistics and a minor in economics at North Carolina State University.

While studying I realized I wanted more than a career that “makes a lot of money” – my dad is a doctor so I guess his passion to help others has been instilled in me too! I went on to get a Master’s degree in Science in statistics. I chose to complete my Master’s degree at Simon Fraser University because my supervisor was a smart, young woman who has been doing research for around 10 years. Her passion and brightness impressed me deeply, and her confidence and remarkable success in this area motivated me to move further.

After graduating, I joined the Technical Safety BC Research and Analytics Team. Here, I had found my place: I am able to apply my skillset and challenge the norm – I am turning data into knowledge to help achieve safer communities in BC.

It sounds like you’re making quite a difference! How have you applied your skill set? What would you say is your most interesting project or discovery?

I’ve been able to transform the data analyst role from a traditional data statistics approach to one where we use the most advanced data skill sets and cutting edge technology to analyze data, introducing machine learning at Technical Safety BC.

Last year I was part of our Structured Resource Allocation Project which introduced data-driven algorithms and expert system rules to direct efforts towards the most high hazard areas. What does that mean? We use various forms of data to set up tags in each safety officer’s daily inspection tasks. Those inspections identified by the algorithms as being highest priority for physical inspection are automatically placed in a task list for the day. I’d say this would be the most interesting project to date! We’ve got a few things stewing in Research and Analytics!

I’ve learned and grown a lot at Technical Safety BC. And I am still learning and growing! You constantly have new challenges. It’s a dynamic role. You will never get bored, your work is different every day.

What advice do you have for other women in tech?

Keep growing. Never feel that you are not as good as men. We are smart and we are strong. I think a contributing factor to the shortage of women in technology could be a lack of self-confidence among women. The lack of self-confidence may have come from the history and the mindset that this is a men’s industry and that men are smarter, which is certainly not the case. Have confidence and keep moving forward. You are the unique one in the team. Embrace the difference and difficulties – seize the opportunities that are presented to you and don’t let go.

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