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Why Chicago May Be the Next Hub for Women in Tech

More investment may cement this city’s status as the Silicon Valley of the Midwest

“I remember the first time I wrote a simulation program in c++ in college… I was hooked,” says Madhuri Sebastian.

This talk is code for – code – and is a language that may soon be heard a lot more frequently on the streets of Chicago.

The city in the U.S. Midwest once better known as the “Windy City” and for meat in a tube may soon be recognized globally as a hub for an increasingly digital and connected world, and the coders who are building it.

Recent news that GE Healthcare plans to invest $500 million in software and software engineersby 2018, including building out an ecosystem of software engineers, programmers and data scientists in Chicago’s downtown, is yet another proof point in the city’s evolution in this direction.

Sebastian is one of the many experts who will be moving to downtown Chicago in the coming months. After being drawn to computer science because it enabled her to solve complex problems, she began her career in a two-year program with four rotational assignments in various areas of GE’s IT department. Now she will be building deep learning co-development engagements, including a partnership recently announced with UCSF, from the heart of the city.

Why? The quintessential industrial has gone digital. But this isn’t just a reference to GE. Chicago – a city known for its manufacturing roots and industrial feel – is also reinventing itself.

In the past few years, the “Silicon Valley of the Midwest” has emerged as a top technology hub for businesses, climbing the ranks to make this Top 10 Cities for Techies list by data marketing company Mintigo, this 25 Most High Tech Cities in the World list by Business Insider and 2thinknow, and this Top 10 Cities for Rapid Growth list by Inc.

In Chicago, GE Healthcare plans to bring together software engineers, software developers, data scientists, product analysts and project managers into one strategic location for stronger cross-company collaboration and increased innovation with startups, associations and health systems. It’s part of GE’s digital industrial transformation, but it also mirrors the evolution of Chicago as a hub for visionary thinking and digital-first solutions.

Sangeetha Pisharody, a senior software manager who will also be part of the team moving downtown, is excited about being closer to the action in order to better deliver for GE Healthcare’s customers. “Early in my career with GE Healthcare, I designed and developed software for doctors and hospitals,” Pisharody said. “The work I did at that time has given me an appreciation for the importance of quality and reliability in our solutions, as well as the ability to rapidly iterate and deploy technologies that address healthcare’s greatest needs.”

“Healthcare is personal – it touches all our lives,” Sebastian said. “What better industry to use technology to make a difference?”

And making a difference is definitely the goal. Tapping into talent that can help build a library of deep learning applications on the GE Health Cloud, and working more closely with leading hospitals and health systems to co-create digital solutions that have the potential to improve quality, lower costs and increase access to care, is the ultimate vision for this digital investment.

Additionally, the collaboration across GE could enable more rapid development of solutions like DenialsIQ – an advanced analytics solution that uses machine learning capabilities to identify correctable health insurance claim denials and their cause. DenialsIQ uses powerful algorithms originally designed by GE’s Global Research Center for the company’s aviation business.

“GE is an amazing place for nurturing talent, especially diverse talent, and Chicago is a great central location that gives access to innovation, technology and customers across the U.S., which makes it faster to co-ideate and innovate,” Sebastian said.