Meet Caroline Bell - a data and AI consultant, STEM advocate, music performer, and Bold Idea mentor. Learn how a website competition in middle school led to a career in machine learning at Microsoft.
What is something many people don't know about you?
When I was 18, I performed in New York at Carnegie Hall with a International Choir. It led me to get a scholarship to do Music Performance in college, which I accepted for the first semester of college before switching major to Business.
How did you become interested in technology and programming?
When I was in 7th grade, my school offered a coding class in HTML. The following year, I helped my science class with a website competition. I was far ahead of the other kids since I already knew HTML. I loved that feeling of typing some lines of code and seeing my work come to life.
What did you study in college?
During undergraduate, I studied Marketing and Healthcare Management. I immediately went to Graduate School for my MBA, specializing in Business Analytics. My MBA gave me the skillset I needed to become more technical and let do my interview at Microsoft.
What are you working on now?
Currently, I am a Data and Artificial Intelligence Consultant at Microsoft. I am working on creating the machine learning behind a bot. I do other small things currently like workshops and helping companies transfer their data to the cloud. I work mainly with SQL, a way to query large databases, and Machine Learning, essentially all the statistics classes I’ve ever had wrapped in code, projects.
What have you gained from being a mentor? What was your most memorable moment while mentoring?
I was roughly these students’ age when I started coding. I wish I had this opportunity at their age. I’ve enjoyed being able to sit with a student and help guide them to the answer. The kids are incredibly smart, and it is amazing watching them solve their own problems. It reminded me about my love of learning and how the simple way of thinking things through can give you a clearer answer.
My most memorable moment was last semester with my students. At the beginning of the semester, some of the boys were new to the whole coding thing. By the end of it, they were putting their favorite things together on Scratch. One made a music video, and another told me a whole story through his project. I can see how these kids will be able to be successful in their future jobs because they tired thinking in a different way.
Is there anything that you wish you could tell your younger self about coding?
Growing up, coding was something my older brother did. I thought I wasn’t as smart as him and couldn’t do it. I had a passion for music, so I followed that instead and focused on theater, music, and foreign languages. As an adult, I would tell myself that ‘yes, I am smart’ and ‘everyone has a variety of skillsets that make them amazing’. I would push myself to curious about technology and to forge my own path without being afraid. The fear of failure kept me from embracing new things, like coding or machine learning. As an adult, the things I was passionate about can easily be applied to the work I do today. My unique perspective as a child allowed me to become a smart and slightly quirky adult.
What is it about Bold Idea's mission that really connects with you?
I have always been a strong supporter of STEM. As someone who grew up loving the arts, I also came from a hometown that was very tech heavy. I love how Bold Idea merges multiple interests into courses with coding and machine learning. There are a multitude of male and female mentors to help all the students be successful. I never had the opportunity to learn in such an environment as a child. This teaches kids far more than coding, it teaches them teamwork, thinking outside the box, and that yes sometimes turning it on and off again will fix the problem.