Rashida Hodge: a woman in STEM: a day in the life of an IBM Watson Engineer.

AuthorLynn, Samara

IF MOVIE TICKET SALES ARE AN INDICATOR, people are interested in learning more about accomplished women of color in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. Hidden Figures is a box-office anomaly; a hit movie with an intellectual storyline starring three black women. The picture has already grossed more than $100 million at the domestic box office.

While the success of Hidden Figures is laudable, there are black women making great strides in STEM who are still unheralded today. Some, such as Rashida Hodge, are working on the most transformative and important science and technology projects in the world.

The Power of Artificial Intelligence

"Watson is a stunning example of the growing ability of computers to successfully invade this supposedly unique attribute of human intelligence," wrote Ray Kurzweil, a renowned computer scientist and futurist.

IBM's Watson is a marvel in artificial intelligence (AI). Actually, it's a platform, comprised of several technologies: machine learning, data analytics, neural networking, speech recognition, and more. Unlike its predecessors, it can understand nuances in human language. This capability makes it easier for people to interact with Watson, too. Additionally, Watson can sift through and analyze a vast amount of data--the platform can read 800 million pages per second.

IBM is transforming many industries with Watson. In healthcare, Watson has proven better at detecting cancer than doctors. According to Samuel Nussbaum of WellPoint, Watson's diagnostic accuracy rate for lung cancer is 90%. In comparison, the average diagnostic accuracy rate for lung cancer for human physicians is only 50%, reports Qmed.com.

"Watson's portfolio goes across all industries. IBM is known for working with very large enterprises like in the financial sector, but we are seeing industries using it across the board: small companies, startups, developers," says Hodge, the director of Worldwide Client Delivery at IBM Watson.

Hodge, who holds both a bachelor's and a master's degree in industrial engineering, runs a global team across the Americas and Asia Pacific. She and the team implement and train customers in using Watson solutions.

An Early Love of Science

Starting off as a summer intern, Hodge began working with IBM in 2002. "I actually started out while I was getting my master's, and I started transitioning to part time, while I finished my degree. Once I graduated, I joined full time. I received my M.B.A. from...

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