Q: Who are you? Where are you from?
A: I’m Rachel (she/her/hers), a research software engineer at Modulate. I grew up north of Boston, migrated about 10 miles to go to university in Boston,and... I’m still here! Right now, I live near Kenmore Square.
Q: What’s your background? What did you do before Modulate?
A: I studied computer engineering at Boston University, where I focused on machine learning. During my studies, I combined my passions for music and computing by using deep learning to generate music. After I graduated, I joined a small startup called Marlo, where I worked on developing ML infrastructure as well as novel audio methods to solve various problems in the remote coworking space.
Q: How did you get into machine learning? Can you tell us about an early project?
A: In 2016, I was beginning to learn a bit about mixing and producing music. This same year, a peer introduced me to WaveNet, a new deep learning model that could generate long samples of speech (and by extension, music). We thought it’d be really neat if that same model could produce more structured music of different styles via input sequences of musical notes, analogous to a text-to-speech algorithm. Having no idea how this model worked, we then approached a professor; we were adopted into a research lab, given a crash course on machine learning, and off we went! 2 years later, we’d published (twice), traveled around the world to present our work, and created some cool music along the way.
Q: Why are you joining Modulate?
A: The combination of machine learning and audio has always held a special place in my heart, which is something I have in common with most (if not all) of the team members at Modulate. I’m joining Modulate to not only contribute to the fascinating area of research where these two passions of mine cross, but also to help unlock the power and freedom of voice in online experiences. I’m proud to join a team so passionate about these immersive experiences as well as the ethics behind them.
Q: What’s the voice skin you’re most excited to use, and how do you plan to use it?
A: I’m definitely most excited about voice skins that sound polarly opposite from my own voice, since the wondrous complexity of voice technology really shines in those situations. Since I don’t have much experience in the gaming world (besides Animal Crossing), I’d like to try out voice skins in other spaces, such as virtual meetings and voice chat systems.
Q: What’s your ideal work environment? Any special strategies you use to stay effective?
A: I’m known for my ability to work anywhere. I used to carry my open laptop around campus, training a model or tweaking code on my way to class. With that said, if I were to choose an ideal work environment, it would be a bustling coffee shop; there’s a lot going on around me in this situation, but everyone who passes by is on a mission of their own, which minimizes interruptions. Of course, a constant source of caffeine is always a plus. When it comes to staying effective, I like to take short active breaks often, loosely following somewhat of a Pomodoro technique (https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique).
Q: Tell us about something you must have in any culture you join?
A: I believe transparency, open communication, and inclusivity are must-haves in any team culture. The tradeoff between autonomy and collaboration can sometimes become tricky when it comes to productivity, but I believe it’s extremely important to always have an available touchpoint as well as the comfort and confidence to reach out to coworkers, whether it be to debug a problem or talk about what we’re having for lunch.
Q: Who are you outside of work?
A: I’m a distance runner, a dancer, and a hiker. I also attempt to DJ sometimes... but I’m better at listening to music than mixing tracks. I’m a learner; I am always attempting new hobbies and learning how to do new things. I wouldn’t call myself introverted, but I am a bit shy, so I try to step out of my comfort zone often.
Q: What’s something you’re great at that few people realize?
A: Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, so I’ve had lots of practice making perfectly-cooked eggs. Over-easy? Poached? Soft boiled? I got you.
Q: Leave us with a fun tidbit - a favorite joke, a story from your past, an obscure riddle, whatever you like!
A: Happy hour is illegal in Massachusetts. If you’re from here, you probably know that one, so here’s another: in 1919, a huge storage tank containing 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst and flooded the North End in Boston.