Larissa Suzuki, 35, is this year’s winner of the Royal Academy of Engineering Rooke Award for the public promotion of engineering. His work covers smart cities, AI, emerging technologies, and medical computing.
What was your childhood or your first ambition?
Becoming an engineer. I was taking radios and computers apart to see how they worked and if I could improve them, so computing was a natural fit. I was sure that a career in engineering would allow me to imagine amazing inventions and develop them for public use.
Private school or public school? University or directly at work?
Growing up in SÃ£o Paulo, I went to the public [state] school, then in private universities. When I was 16, I started a music degree at the University of RibeirÃ£o Preto. However, I quickly realized my passion for engineering and moved on to computer science at Centro Universitario Barao de Maua and then at the University of SÃ£o Paulo. Along with my classes, I worked in the engineering industry. I then pursued a master’s degree in electrical engineering, was accepted into 12 doctoral programs and won eight doctoral scholarships before moving to the UK.
Who was or still is your mentor?
A number of exceptional people have guided me. My current mentor is Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google. We regularly collaborate on topics of common interest – for example, the Interplanetary Internet Project with the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory – and discuss the challenges and opportunities I face.
Are you in good physical shape?
I practice yoga every day which gives me physical and mental shape.
Ambition or talent: what matters most to be successful?
A combination of ambition and talent leads to success, as well as passion. The projects that fascinate me the most are the ones that are most likely to succeed. Passion is at the heart of success.
How politically engaged are you?
I am committed to improving diversity, equity and inclusion for all. I believe this needs to be at the top of all political and business agendas, around the world.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently have?
A house in Japan where my husband and I can stay when visiting relatives or when we are in Akihabara shopping for electronics – it’s like a Disneyland for techies.
What’s your biggest extravaganza?
Traveling. I wanted to visit Disneyland on every continent and, three years ago, I managed to tick that off my bucket list!
Where are you the happiest?
Everywhere my husband and our dog, Yoshi are.
What ambitions do you still have?
I hope to become more senior at Google Cloud and continue to drive the development of artificial intelligence products and strategies.
What is it that drives you?
My passion for engineering and technology, and the power both have to increase us. My dream has always been to research how technology can benefit people, which I have successfully done in the work I do every day.
What is the biggest achievement of your life so far?
Definitely receive my doctorate. My PhD thesis supported the design and development of smart city platforms for over 40 EU cities and created the City Data Strategy for the Mayor of London. It has also been published in book form.
What do you find most irritating about other people?
The inability to listen to the point of view of others or to understand that it is okay to disagree and get along anyway.
If your 20 year old self could see you now, what would she think?
She would be proud to see where I am today: leading the AI ââ/ Data Technology practice for Google Cloud UKI and having full professor status at three universities.
What item you lost would you like to have left?
My Tamagotchi from the 90s.
What is the biggest challenge of our time?
Climate change and sustainability. So many people do not fully understand the consequences of climate change and how much we are contributing to it.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
Yes. I believe we are all taken to a special place after we end our life on Earth.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would your score be?
Ten for now! I have managed to get to where I am today through hard work and dedication to excellence.
ThisisEngineering.org.uk is a campaign run by the Royal Academy of Engineering in collaboration with EngineeringUK and industry partners. It’s engineering day, November 3, 2021; https://larissasuzuki.com
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