Ten on Tech: Spotlight on Celia Desmond

What are you currently reading?

I usually read 2-3 books in parallel. At the moment I am reading a novel by John Grisham, one by Ann Perry and Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime which gives good insight into growing up poor in South Africa. My favourite authors are Wilbur Smith, especially the Courtney series, Ann Perry and James Patterson.

What invention has inspired you the most?

As much as I sit every day glued to a computer of some sort, I do not find the computer itself inspiring. However, the fact that it is possible to communicate, at a reasonable price, with people anywhere in the world, and carry on meaningful discussions, is very inspiring.

What movies or live shows have you enjoyed the most in recent years? 

Come From Away is a great live show. The Downton Abbey movie is one recent film that I enjoyed.

What about current technology worries you?

While computers, internet and smart phones are marvelous and are now essential tools, they are too often replacing human to human contact. Real-time face-to-face contact goes to the core of human beings. I hope we will not lose this.

Also the technical and ethical issues we are facing with automation – driverless cars, etc. – need optimal solutions to problems which probably have no totally correct answer. This is concerning.

What in recent years has surprised you the most?

The fact that most people – all ages, all nationalities, all diverse types of people – seem to be willing to be connected, especially with work, at all hours and all days.

What was the best advice anyone has given you?

Don’t try to solve world hunger. Stick to more direct problems.

What has been or is your favorite equation or concept in engineering, and why?

Although it has been some years since I have been able to use it, I have loved queuing theory. I was lucky enough at one point to have a job working with this, calculating traffic on multi-point data lines, and it was a very satisfying experience.

What have been important life lessons for you that you might be able to share with us?  

Look for the positive in people. There are so many capable and competent people, and it is very impressive what they can do. 

How many unread emails are in your inbox?

I managed to reduce this to 36 today! Isn’t it great to sit in a plane sometimes?!

What should IEEE be (more) involved in?  

Providing value to the people who use technology – not just those who invent, design and build it. This includes not only contact with industries in almost every area today, but also highlighting to the general public the value that engineers bring to the world. When more people understand that they can do what they do today mainly because of engineers, we’ll be on the right track.