Maxine Mackintosh

PhD Student - The Alan Turing Institute

What is your role at work?

On a day-to-day basis, I’m doing a full-time PhD – mining medical records to find early predictors for dementia. The others hours are spent running a community called One HealthTech that looks to get more women and diversity into health technology.

What keeps you interested?

I’m looking at the early predictors of dementia so every day that I’ve got a potential signal, or a potential result, it’s so exciting because you feel that you’re making those micro steps towards a fundamentally new cure or a new predictor for dementia.

With my other work, I get to spend a lot of my time meeting amazing people, predominantly women, working in health tech and it’s so fun having a job which requires you to connect people and link people up and solve people’s problems by networking. I’ve got two very dichotomous environments to work in and that variety is good fun.

How do you feel about doing things differently?

I definitely think you have to be a bit brave working in academia because it’s a very hierarchical place to work. There are lots of men and lots of not very extroverted people, so as someone who likes bright clothes and is an extrovert and a female, I’m a bit weird. You have to be secure in your approach and accept that it’s going to be a bit different and for some people, it’ll work and for others, it won’t. You just have to have the self-confidence to do things your way. Sometimes you’ll mispitch it though – I can definitely think of some quite awkward situations when I have totally misread a room. These things happen.

Who inspires you?

In the world of data, my inspirations are the people who are really kind and who go above and beyond to make other people feel warm and welcome. In a professional environment, people can take themselves quite seriously and things can get a bit earnest, so my role models are always the people who are open and kind.

You have to be secure in your approach and accept that it's going to be a bit different - and for some people it’ll work, and for others it won’t.
How do you lean on others to gain strength?

For anyone starting any field, I do think networks are important. It still slightly depends on what type of person you are; if you’re very introverted then you will flourish and grow in different ways from someone who is an extrovert. I certainly get my energy and power from having people around me.  

What really excites you about data and tech?

It totally smashes all structures and solutions and ideas and methods that we currently have right now. It’s got this slightly destructive but rebuilding atmosphere to it. In healthcare, we’re asking brand new questions that we’ve never asked before and we are completely redefining what diseases look like. That’s exciting for me.

What advice would you give to girls and young women interested in a career in data and technology?

I’d highlight that there is something for everyone. On one hand the work is really mathematically complex and on the other hand, it’s really challenging logically. It’s also really exciting from a design and creativity perspective, so I think you can come at data science from lots of different angles. I would say that the variety is the single best thing about working in data science and that’s something that isn’t really communicated very often.

Are role models important to you?

Contrastingly to always having to have female role models, I think it’s important to have non-traditionally alpha male role models. Especially for an industry like data science where actually one of the biggest diversity problems is introverts/extroverts, not necessarily female/male.

Can you tell us about the significant object that you’ve chosen?

My chosen significant object represents my love of fancy dress and is a little reminder that if you are just your weird, wacky wonderful self, you’ll get by.