Women in Tech

Believe in yourself, and anything is possible

6th April 2023
Sheryl Miles

It was whilst interning as an assistant teacher in a STEM school that Mengmeng Shi, AI Customer Solutions Architect at GrAI Matter Labs, first realised how accessible programming and robotics were to everyone. It was a realisation that changed the trajectory of her career.

This article originally appeared in the March'23 magazine issue of Electronic Specifier Design – see ES's Magazine Archives for more featured publications.

The passion

Mengmeng always knew she had an interest in technology, but she didn’t have an area she felt she wanted to specialise in. She gained a Batchelors degree in Educational Technology from China. But there were barriers to entry to the world of tech, and instead a career as a teacher was laid out before her.

However, the road to becoming a teacher was not one that resonated with Mengmeng and after she completed her internships, she realised that AI and robotics were something she felt passionate about.

It was here, at the age of 23, Mengmeng made the decision to leave her home in China and move to France to pursue her passion, and to start a new chapter in her life.

The journey

Although Mengmeng already had a Batchelors Degree under her belt, she couldn’t go straight into a Masters Degree. Instead, she had to complete a second undergraduate degree in France – this time she chose electronics and computer science. She finished her studies with an internship at the famous French computer science lab, Inria, as a Machine Learning Intern, before finally receiving her Masters in robotics and intelligent systems.

And she achieved all of this whilst learning to speak French, and exploring a new and different lifestyle in a country where she didn’t know anyone. It was a big culture shock, but one she is proud she stuck with: “I feel a great sense of achievement.”

Nowadays, Mengmeng likes to wake up to a cup of coffee before cycling to work and spends her evenings enjoying her hobbies and talking with friends…in fluent French.

“I see friends in the evenings and we have drinks and dinner…and there’s always free time [after work] to do my hobbies. A typical working day is enjoyable.”

The infinite possibilities of AI

“AI today is the most talked about topic. It represents the most cutting-edge technologies. I was excited when I started learning about AI. My first impressions of AI were, ‘I can create a learning system based on simple mathematics, and this system seems to do anything I want with object detection, regulation, and creation.’ I mean, today AI can draw, speak, and write. The exciting part about AI is the infinite possibilities.”

This interest spurred Mengmeng to push herself further, and as a person who not only has the passion for the technology, but who also has a way to clearly translate what that technology is and what it can do, an AI Customer Solutions Architect was the perfect role for her, despite being a self-confessed introvert.

This is a point she is keen to share, that no matter who you are, or what your personality is, there are infinite possibilities out there for you.

“When you’re working for a company that encourages and supports you, because you’re all striving towards the same goal, then you can do more than you ever thought you were capable of.”

Speaking of her role, Mengmeng comments that the AI solutions side is to “provide customers with solutions for integrating our products into their product and to provide any technical support. And the reason we add AI to the title is because we are an AI chip company, so we build AI processors.

“Working for GrAI Matter Labs has also introduced me to the world of semiconductors. I now consider semiconductors to be ‘where the magic happens on the ground.’ If AI is the magic, then the semiconductor is the placeholder to hold the AI.

“My job requires me to talk to people in the industry because I’m also on the customer side. So, I get to see and enjoy how AI is being used in different industries and how creative those companies are.”

Believe in yourself, and anything is possible

“I think some of my experiences and challenges [resonate] with both men and women [in terms of confidence]. But for me personally, breaking into a male dominated industry, like engineering, I do feel a lack of confidence to speak up and to be heard. But it is possible that this has as much to do with the environment I grew up in [than it does with the industry].”

Growing up in China, women’s working conditions weren’t the same as they were in Europe, and so Mengmeng was raised to be modest with the expectation that she would become a teacher. But the call of the women who inspired her, combined with her love of science and maths, were too strong to hold her back.

“When I was young, I was inspired by the group of women who programmed the first modern computer. The first people who worked in programming were not men, they were women. I’ve also been inspired by many people around me. I feel supported by my colleagues, and I have learnt so many new skills from them. Not just technical, but social skills as well, and I’ve learnt how to be more confident because of them. I also had an inspiring professor who supported me, who helped me look for internships and even helped me choose my career path. That’s why I chose AI and robotics.”

Despite a gentle and introverted nature, Mengmeng exudes intelligence, courage, and self-belief, and she hopes that her story and her journey will be an inspiration for anyone who has a passion for what they want in life to go out there and achieve it.

“I feel that I’m an important part of changing people's perceptions of the industry. I want to be a role model. When I tell people I work in tech, they are impressed. I think all women should be aware that they are important in whatever field they are working in, not just tech.

“I would be honoured if I could help and encourage bringing some different perspectives and influences to the field. I’m looking forward to growing into a competent and influential person.”

Entering the world of STEM

Mengmeng hopes that her journey and experiences will inspire others who are considering entering the world of STEM to do it, if it is what makes them happy.

“Be confident. Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams. You’re capable of achieving great things. And speak, speak your truth, speak your reality, because your voice and your perspective matters. And don’t forget that your femininity is a source of strength and empowerment. Use it.”


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