By    |    September 29, 2020
Carmen Saenz is training an avatar to be an effective sign language interpreter in four languages while breaking new “ground” with cloud architecture.

Carmen Saenz, senior devops leader with Kairos LLC, a PEAK6 company, is continually pushing cloud architecture boundaries. At the same time, Carmen, who is working on her Ph.D. at DePaul, is training an avatar to be an effective sign-language translator in French, American, Greek and Mexican sign languages.
 

Right now:

I make decisions with the team about what architecture we’ll create in the cloud. For example: What is best way to run the software that we’re implementing? Do we run it on the cloud? How do we run it? How do we install it and deploy it? How do we ensure high availability?

Why tech:

I was really good at calculus. I learned how to program my TI83 calculator to solve math equations and play games, and I used to try and find ways to update my computer. I got a used one in 1997 when I was in seventh grade—a Gateway with a 486 processor, and my mom made it clear that I had to learn how to fix it because I wasn’t getting another one.

Proud tech accomplishment:

I was at another trading firm in 2012, and they sent me to London to restructure our deployment process for our trading platform for that office. The way they built and deployed code, accessed configuration files, etc. was completely different from our U.S. offices. I rewrote that whole system in a week, by myself, using our U.S. system as a blueprint, and taught the office how to build and deploy the trading platform.

True story:

I wrote a program to enter manual trades for our traders, but there wasn’t an obvious way in the interface for traders to fix an error. So, if they made an error, what traders were doing, unbeknownst to us, was entering another trade to offset that error. My manager got a call in the middle of the night that it looked like we were negative a million dollars. I looked at all manual trades and talked to the traders to understand what was happening, and went through one by one to clean up the mistakes and resolve the issue. It was a useful lesson that communication at the front end of an app is important—especially how to delete a mistake!

Current challenge:

Avatars are increasingly used to bridge the gap between hearing and Deaf communities, particularly when an interpreter is not available. But avatars don’t capture all of the emotion that interpreters convey, plus avatars’ motions are very rigid. We are taking data from different sign languages and creating algorithms for smoother motions, as well as capturing facial emotion and expression.

Just for fun:

I’ve been playing water polo since I was 13. I still play pickup water polo with same girls from high school. In college, I played on an LGBTQ water polo team and competed in the Gay Games in Chicago in 2012.

Tech for the greater good:

I’m part of TECHNOLOchicas and also part of Latinas in Computing. I’m passionate about women and Latinos in STEM careers and mentoring youth to go into STEM careers. I also continue to mentor a group of my former students from Loyola, who are now in the field.

Best part of my job:

My team is always pushing the edge of what we can do with infrastructure, and there’s always a different and random problem to solve. The things we’re building have never run in a cloud-based environment so we have to come up with the standards and ideas and rules. There’s no roadmap, no book. We’re creating this.