inspiration · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Keeley Erhardt

“If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” – Dolly Parton

Happy Tuesday Reigners! Meet Keeley Erhardt, a junior at MIT. Read on about her love of sports, the security princess who inspires her, and how she wants to intersect tech with human rights issues. Check out her website here!

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
Hi! My name is Keeley, and I’m a junior at MIT majoring in CS. I’m also a member of the MIT varsity field hockey team! Machine learning and artificial intelligence fascinate me. I’m passionate about exploring the potentials for big data (whether it be metadata, social network information, or other sources), and in particular, in using machine learning to understand and process the data. As far as a fun fact, I’m a co-author on a pharmacology paper published exclusively in Japanese — though I don’t know a word of Japanese — that looks at the effects of tobacco smoking on the body and brain.

What # would define your life journey?

It’s crazy how doable it can be to achieve things you would never imagine possible if you just go out and try. Whether an athletic accomplishment, or building a cool new app, anything is in reach with enough persistence and hard work — just do it!

Favorite website / app:

Inbox. Somehow everything about it just works. I’ve never been so excited to check emails.

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted (if any):
Parisa Tabriz (a.k.a. Google’s Security Princess) is a truly inspirational computer security expert. I was lucky enough to have the privilege of hearing her speak this past summer at Google’s We Are GWE summit, and she imparted knowledge about succeeding in male-dominated fields, and what it means to be a white hat hacker.

Song that makes you want to dance:
Roses by The Chainsmokers

Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
This past summer I worked at the Google on the Chrome infrastructure team. My project was to build a data processing pipeline to detect and flag potentially suspicious commits to the open-source Chromium codebase. As a proof of concept, my partner and I began by working on a small codebase with ~3,000 commits, about three orders of magnitude smaller than Chromium. We encountered many challenges, but the biggest came when we made the jump from processing the prototypical repo, to processing Chromium. Cloud SQL immediately had performance issues, and our first run crashed the entire program.

It took weeks to restructure the entire backbone of the program to minimize bottlenecks, and extensive research into database structures, and the intricacies of how queries are executed, data is read/written, transactions are initiated, and data is validated, to reduce execution time by a factor of eight. Following all tweaks, we were able to cut runtime from two hours to twelve minutes.

Ideal Job:
Human rights issues have always been extremely important to me. My mother directs a clinic for victims of human trafficking, and introduced me to the issue early on. Growing up, I wanted to help but didn’t know how to make a significant impact. MIT introduced me to the wide array of problems that can be tackled with technology. Three anti-trafficking organizations—Polaris in the US, La Strada International in Eastern Europe, and Liberty in Asia—are beginning to use innovative technology provided by Palantir and to tackle the issue of trafficking through data. I want to gain skills in software engineering to attack problems not frequently looked at by those in the tech industry. My ideal job would enable me to use the technical skills I’ve learned to help improve people’s lives.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Having a strong support group, and finding communities where you feel comfortable, is crucial. The people you surround yourself with can make an enormous difference in your success and happiness. Learn from the experienced people around you, interact and engage with your peer group, and mentor younger girls considering a similar path. Help strengthen the community of women in tech!


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