People of Intel – Mariia Skyba

The people of Intel are at the heart of all that we do - discover their stories




Mariia Skyba,
Deep Learning Software engineer

I was born and raised in a city in the north of Ukraine called Zhytomyr. Although I grew up in an independent Ukraine, the hangover from the collapse of the USSR prevailed. After high school, I followed in my father’s footsteps and studied English. He has been a teacher all his life and is a great inspiration to me. He’s in his 60’s now but just graduated with a Master’s in psychology and has been working in a rehabilitation centre for people with addiction. He has always taught me that you can turn your life around at any age. This year has challenged all Ukrainians on that front.

I come from a big family with three brothers and a sister. Books were our entertainment growing up; we didn’t have a computer or internet, which is ironic considering what I now do for a living! My childhood reading experiences had such a profound impact on me I still collect illustrated children’s books as I’m just fascinated about the idea of unlimited imagination. Those picture books were a portal into a parallel universe.

I met my future husband when he was on a visit back home to my town. He’d been living in Ireland since he was 12 and we began a long-distance relationship while we were both studying in college. I still remember my first time visiting him in Ireland, and driving from Dublin airport to County Cavan where his family lived, and being delighted at the depth of green and the sense of nature.

I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do for a career. Studying English had been a way to travel and have greater opportunities. I came to Ireland but there wasn’t much demand for a Ukrainian translator at the time in 2012. Who could have known how that would change so tragically.

My husband was still in college studying electronic engineering, and when I joined him we did a lot of travelling around Ireland. I think it is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. He started to talk to me about computers and I realised I was really fascinated. Perhaps it’s that idea again of limitless imagination, so I applied to Maynooth college to study Computer Science and Software Engineering. I was surprised they even considered me as I didn’t have a lot of knowledge but I did have a lot of determination! I remember my father being excited, as he really liked the idea of exploring new things. Sadly, it was during the COVID lockdown when I graduated and they had to just watch names scroll on a screen from afar but they were both so proud.

In my final year I had focused on Artificial Intelligence, an area I was most interested in. My final year project involved games one could play against AI and my love of illustrated books helped me create the game imagery myself. My interest in AI only grew and I started to look for opportunities. I discovered that Intel was running a Women in Technology programme and all women studying STEM in Irish universities could apply. Although my final year was packed with assignments, interviews and work on my final year project, I really wanted to explore the WIT program, so I set some time aside to prepare for the application process.

I was so excited when I was accepted into Intel where I joined the Movidius Modelling team as an intern and was later converted to a full-time Deep Learning Software Engineer. In the Modelling team we are responsible for building and maintaining software models of low-power edge AI/Neural Network/Deep Learning accelerators. I could never have imagined this type of work when I was a child and I feel really lucky to be working with so many amazing people who inspire me every single day.

This year has obviously been extremely difficult. Our lives changed forever on the 24th of February, and these have been the darkest months of my life. My parents are elderly and my father just didn’t believe an invasion would happen. We never thought we would be subjected to that level of violence. I had managed to send some money right before it started which was lucky as it’s been so disruptive since.  Our town is two hours away from Kyiv and in the early weeks of the invasion it was bombed, a school and important infrastructure were destroyed. One of the explosions happened very close to where my brothers live. They had to go into hiding with their families in basements for protection. My brothers aren’t allowed to leave but I managed to persuade my parents to get out. My father had to drive non-stop for four days to the Polish border in extremely difficult circumstances. My sister lives in Poland and so her friend helped them get shelter and then thankfully they came to Ireland. My husband and I are in rented accommodation and so my parents are being housed in a hotel, with very little but the suitcase they brought with them. For both my parents to leave the home and town where they have lived their whole lives has been very difficult, although they really enjoy Ireland. I managed to persuade my sister-in-law to bring my niece and nephew, as well as encouraging some friends to get out as well, one of them having fled Ukraine with an 8-month-old baby.

There hasn’t been a day since the beginning of the war when I didn’t check the news. To know so many of my family and friends are still there, enduring the fear and uncertainty every day is terrifying. Every single person in Ukraine is affected, but we have come together as a people, and I know we can win. I can’t fight in the army but I can help in other ways, and am obviously sending money and other supports back home when I can. It was important for me that Intel as a company showed their support for Ukrainians too by organising a matching donation program which I’m really grateful for. I am eternally grateful to Ireland for the way this country has stepped up and opened their doors.

When something like this happens, it inevitably becomes a part of your life. It has shown me your life can be changed in an instant with people I know and love now actually scared for their lives and suddenly lacking basic things like security and safety. It has slowly begun to sink in compared to the shock of the first few weeks, I’ve now accepted this is the reality and now have to deal with it and help in any way I can. My father can now use his new skills to help people here. We’ve both found our passion. Despite all the horror of the last few months, I feel blessed to have this time with my parents here in Ireland. Recently it was my father’s birthday and we all gathered here in celebration. I’m fascinated with the potential that AI brings, but there is no substitute for real human connections that we share with our family and friends when we’re laughing together.