Launching Her Career In a New Trajectory

Rawand MadiRawand Madi

Aspiring Machine Learning and Controls System Engineer

Rawand Madi always loved math but wasn’t sure how to transform that passion into a profession. Growing up in Kuwait, her family lived in an area surrounded by petroleum companies, so pursuing a career in chemical engineering seemed like a lucrative path.

But after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Rawand still couldn’t scratch that math itch. She also noticed that opportunities in machine learning were skyrocketing. “I read more about machine learning and fell in love,” said Rawand. “It’s something in mathematics that I was excited about and could do as a career.”

Rawand decided to pivot into the field of machine learning with the help of the UW online Master of Science in Applied & Computational Mathematics. 

In this Q&A, Rawand talks about her experience in the program and how this degree changed her career trajectory.   


What excites you about machine learning?

We’re essentially creating a machine that can mimic the human brain. The lines of code with mathematical formulas and weights are the neurons. The whole system of neurons becomes an artificial neural network. The artificial neural network takes in data, learns about it and then provides an output such as a prediction.

Could you talk about ways you explored machine learning in the UW online Master of Science in Applied & Computational Mathematics?

I coded an artificial neural network from scratch that can identify 10 different images. You can feed it an image of a cat or an airplane and then ask it to identify the picture. It was an incredible experience getting to know what’s under the hood of a machine learning program.

Another artificial neural network I worked on forecasted the weather. I fed it historical weather data and was able to train it to forecast the weather with an accuracy of around 93%.

Why did you choose this program at the UW?

At the time, I lived in Canada, and there weren’t a lot of programs near me that emphasized applied math. My husband lived in Seattle, and one of his friends referred me to this online program. I looked at it and it sounded amazing. I called the applied math department and asked Lauren Lederer, graduate program adviser, a lot of questions.

I enrolled as a non-matriculated student to get a feel for the program while I collected everything I needed to officially apply for the master’s. After my first two courses, I fell in love with the program and was accepted.

What were those two courses?

The first was Scientific Computing and the second was Vector Calculus & Complex Variables. Vector Calculus was one of my favorite courses and covered math theories. Scientific Computing was the course that really sealed the deal for me to pursue a career in machine learning.

What types of jobs are you looking for now?

The program gave me so much experience in coding that I’m eligible for software developer roles. My big focus is for a position as a machine learning engineer, data scientist or applied scientist. I now live in Seattle and am looking for opportunities with companies like Microsoft and Amazon.

One day I’d like to marry my chemical engineering background with my machine learning knowledge and work as a control systems engineer. I’d love to create automatic control systems that can help aircraft and spacecraft navigate. Working for Boeing or SpaceX would be a dream.

Any advice for someone interested in the program?

What I really liked about this program is that you can shape it to your interests. You don’t have to be interested in data science and machine learning like me. You can take it in many directions and use it to study biological or environmental mathematics.