After almost 35 years of technical and management experience in data science, Kam Lin Mah (BSc ’88) has gracefully retired from her role as Group Data Scientist at Maybank – the largest local bank in Malaysia. It all started four decades ago, well before a storied career in fields spanning from geo-marketing to satellite space operations, with a decision to shirk her older siblings at Monash University and study physics at Flinders University.
“It turned out to be one of the best choices I ever made,” says Kam.
“I have memories of eating a Balfours meat pie, potato chips drenched in vinegar purchased from the refectory, feeding the seagulls under the sun next to the lake – I loved everything about Flinders!
“My favourite lecturers were Professor Kluvanek and Professor Blevin. I also liked Dr Mike Brooks, Dr Alan Branford and Dr Terresa Dodds. A nine-year-old, bright-eyed Terrence Tao was my classmate in the Differential Equation class!”
Once the foundation in physics was laid, Kam went on to complete a postgraduate qualification in computing, before returning to Malaysia in 1990 to contribute to the burgeoning telecommunications industry. She became one of the first two fully trained and certified satellite orbital analysts in the country by Hughes Spacecraft, USA and played a key role in the procuring, payload planning, building, launching and operating of Malaysia’s first and second satellites: MEASAT-1 and MEASAT-2.
“When I hear others saying that they don’t get to use what they studied at uni, I think that’s totally untrue,” Kam says.
“In fact, I get to use every single bit of knowledge I learned, even the rocket equation when I was involved in the satellite launch missions.”
In recent years, Kam has served as an industrial advisor to several local universities and sat on review panels to assist in accreditation for data science courses.
Her latest role as Strategic Advisor with Athena Smart Cities involves championing projects using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to contribute towards Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) compliance for green financing strategies, social good and mitigating potential risk from climate/weather conditions – her modelling can also detect ignorant and irresponsible land clearing.
“My greatest comfort is that with data, AI and Machine Learning models, potential climate and ESG issues can be detected, mitigated and hopefully managed by providing AI solutions for town planners or local authorities,” Kam says.
In mid-June 2023, Kam was announced the winner for ‘AI in Climate’ category award at the Women in AI Awards 2023, Asia Pacific; the only Malaysian finalist and winner for the 2023 award scheme. As her role becomes increasingly important, there may be many accolades to come.
“Flinders provided me ‘space’ to explore during my formative years,” Kam says.
“Nurturing the ‘curiosity’ aspect in my learning experience made me want to know more, learn more, do better, do it differently, innovatively… which directly and indirectly shaped my career path.”