Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Ada Lovelace Day post about Kate Tsoukalas

In honour of Ada Lovelace Day, today I'd like to tell the world a little about a good friend of mine, Kate Tsoukalas. We met about 4 years ago when she replied to a robotics team recruitment e-mail, and we quickly became good friends.

Her bio goes a little like this. Kate has a B.Sc. in Applied Physics specializing in Nuclear Science, and an M.Sc. in Computing Science in Data Mining. She's currently a Software Developer in Test at Microsoft working on the Windows Mobile team. She's won numerous awards and scholarships, has a US patent pending for her thesis work, was president of a computing science club at our alma mater, and was an invaluable member of a robotics team. She can also name off every Star Trek episode (both original and TNG), and can speak conversational Japanese. This girl is pure awesome.

But to me, Kate is, and always will be, the epitome of strength. She has always inspired me to do my best, because, is there any other option? One fond memory I have working with Kate was during an undergraduate robotics competition.

From the day we started development on a robot named Caprica (Kate introduced me to Battlestar Galactica at the time), Kate was there with me, plugging away at hardware installs, soldering, and coding ever so patiently. Late at night, when I couldn't take it anymore, Kate kept her cool and we worked through each problem one at a time. When we finally made it to the competition in Florida, Kate and I stayed up, making final tweaks and adding features, staying later than any other team in the hotel conference room which served as a robot maze.

The day of the final, we were tired, wired on coffee, and at 10 a.m. after an all-nighter, we finally decided we were done. The final competition was to start at 1 p.m., so we could have in theory gotten in a couple hours of sleep. Then Kate says this: "Hey, how about we check out that resort pool?" I looked at her and smiled. She is so hardcore, I thought to myself. So we jumped into our bathing suits and went for a swim in the palm tree lined pool, floated around in the warm sun, and then proceeded to have the best 30 minute nap EVER on the poolside lounge chairs. Kate is definitely the "work hard, play hard" kind of gal :) [As an aside, we received the Technical Achievement award later that day.]


[Kate and I working late the night before the competition - thank god for coffee]

Indeed, one of the other things that amazes me about Kate is her ability to keep that work-life balance. Aside from her full time job battling bugs and writing code, she makes sure to put time aside to see friends, read mountains of novels, go to the gym, and snap gorgeous photos with her Nikon SLR. (This is one of my favourites.) She's extremely thoughtful: she writes cards, pings you on IM to stay in touch. There's more I could say about this computer scientist, but I think she'll get too embarrassed if I continue, so I'll leave it at that ;) *waves at Kate from the other side of the world* You are an inspiration, Kate!

PS. Kate - in retrospect, our work together was some of the best in my career so far. If we ever get a chance, we should totally start a company together.

10 comments:

Kate said...

Hi Angelica,

Wow, your post is totally amazing. I never saw myself in that light, and I am truly honoured.

Man, that robot competition really was 'the best of times' and 'the worst of times', lol. I don't think I've ever been so sleep deprived, before or since! It took a lot but I am so glad we did it; it's something I'll never regret. Of course the best of it definitely was working on it with you - I learned so much from you, really! And speaking of hardcore, who was doing pushups and pullups at 3am in the lab? It certainly wasn't me!

Hope you have a lovely day in Japan.

Arigatou Gozaimashita <3

Kate

Angelica said...

Hahaha! Totally forgot about the pushups... definitely one of those memories to look back upon and laugh about ^^

Kate said...

p.s.: I would jump at the chance to do a startup with you! Maybe one day...:)

Nikki Zuko said...

This is beautiful Angelica. Well done. Very proud of both of you and all your contributions to computer science.

Gail Carmichael said...

Though I don't know either of you as well as you know each other, I think you are both most definitely awesome! :D

Angelica said...

Aw, thanks guys :)

Len said...

This is such a nice post. But after having worked with Kate at BOBJ and hanging out with her (she did a good job convincing a few of us to start running and watching BSG), I'm really not that surprised. I'm super glad she does a good job keeping in touch. Kate, you're a rock star! ~Darlene

Tinky said...

This was a lovely post, Angelica. I only wish you'd had a photo of you and Kate and the robot to post! This was a great addition to Ada Lovelace; I love the personal tributes.

Shafagh Alikhani said...

What a great post! I'm truly inspired by just reading your post and the comments. I hope I can meet the two of you at the next Grace Hopper Celebration :)

Angelica said...

Thanks for your comments everyone :) Let's see if we can't post a photo to go along with the post...