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Culture

Osedea portraits: AI, adventure and culture with Isabelle Bouchard

Marie-Pier Houle
Marie-Pier Houle
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As part of our Osedea Portraits series, meet Isabelle Bouchard, senior developer and machine learning specialist. Driven by an insatiable curiosity, Isabelle passionately explores the world of AI and its applications for the well-being of all. Beyond her sharp expertise, discover a sparkling and inspiring woman who will share with us her passions and the many facets of her personality.

Where does your interest in science and artificial intelligence come from?

It was a bit by chance (or luck!) that I decided to pursue a career in artificial intelligence. Initially, I studied biomedical engineering. At the end of my studies, although I had an interest, I had very little experience in software development, and even less in artificial intelligence. In truth, I'd never even heard of the concept of machine learning (ML) until I explored its techniques in my first job.

I immediately liked the fact that it required both mathematical and software development skills, as well as a good ability to break down a problem. I did a bit of self-study, supported by colleagues who helped me progress a lot. I then decided to do a master's degree to formalize my learning and develop research experience.

Choto of a typewriter with "machine learning" paper
The typewriter, many years before the advent of machine learning

What are you most passionate about in AI?

I particularly appreciate the dynamism of this field, which evolves very quickly. I am constantly challenged and I have to learn continuously to be able to stay up to date with the technologies.

Moreover, the applications of AI are endless, which allows me to explore new application domains. In recent years, I have worked on projects in health, agriculture, urban planning, and many other areas. It is extremely stimulating.

In cutting-edge sectors such as artificial intelligence, women represent only 22% of professionals. In addition, women represent only 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of computer science graduates. What do you think explains the low number of women in technology, engineering, and artificial intelligence?

There are many reasons why women choose fields other than technology, but it is clear to me that the lack of female role models is one that weighs heavily in the balance. This also explains why many women choose to leave the field, where they do not always feel at home. We naturally develop affinities with people who resemble us, so it can sometimes be more difficult to find allies or mentors when you are a woman in an environment that is predominantly male. We also have a fairly well-defined preconceived idea of the typical developer, and it can be scary when you don't identify with it. Personally, it affected me for a long time, but I learned over time to recognize that, clearly, I will never fit that profile, but that it is more often seen as a strength than a weakness.

How do you see the impact of AI and machine learning on industries in the years to come, especially in areas such as healthcare, finance, and technology?

I hope to see AI assist humans, rather than replace them, especially in healthcare. Our systems are increasingly lacking in humanity, and I hope that our leaders will be able to understand how to use technologies to make us more efficient, but without losing sight of the importance of human relationships. You will understand that I am not necessarily the optimistic type! AI and technology in general offer endless possibilities, but we still need to know how to use them wisely.

How does the AI team at Osedea integrate ethical principles into the design and deployment of AI-based solutions?

The ethics of AI projects still largely depends on the people who develop them. So I would spontaneously say that it all starts with hiring people who have these issues at heart. Then, in our process of analyzing the needs of a project, we have several checkpoints to ensure that we raise and mitigate the main ethical risks. For example, we analyze the datasets used to train our AI models to ensure that we do not favor one segment of users over an underrepresented group in the data.

What would be your ideal retirement?

A healthy one! I love the outdoors. I would like to have a retirement filled with adventures that would allow me to continue to push myself physically and mentally, and to marvel at nature. All this accompanied by my favorite adventure partner, our family and friends... and of course, interspersed with good moments of relaxation!

Rainbow, camping in nature
Camping memories

Do you have a favorite movie or book to recommend, and why?

Fresh from the Oscars, I can't recommend the sublime film "Poor Things" highly enough, starring the incredible Emma Stone. Like all of Yorgos Lanthimos' films, it stands out for its intricate screenplay and utterly unsettling characters. A true gem!

I also highly recommend reading the classic American novel "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. Published in 1939, this novel tells with great accuracy and enduring relevance the human experience of those who lose the life lottery and find themselves in poverty. A deeply moving story.

What is your best and worst habit?

My best habit is to be active. It's a constant effort, but it's so beneficial to me that I make it a daily priority. My worst habit...procrastinating, without a doubt, but I'm working on it!

Photo of Isabelle Bouchard cross-country skiing
Isabelle's best habit: physical activity

What's your best trip and why?

It was a trip to Turkey, in 2015, when I had just finished my university degree. I loved the rich culture, the grandiose landscapes and the absolutely vibrant cities, but above all, the incredible sense of freedom I was lucky enough to experience while traveling in my early twenties. With no money and no time constraints, we really let ourselves be carried along by the encounters and opportunities that came our way. I know I'll never be able to do that again - it was magical!

Photo of Isabelle Bouchard smiling during a trip to Turkey
Travel to Turkey

If you could instantly possess one skill, what would it be and how would you use it in your daily life?

I would love to have the ability to speak fluently and confidently on the spot, in a clear and concise manner. I truly admire people who can do this naturally! I would apply this skill in all areas of my life, both personally and professionally. Communication is so important in all of the relationships we have. It would be magical to be able to do this in multiple languages!

Did this article start to give you some ideas? We’d love to work with you! Get in touch and let’s discover what we can do together.

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