Breath of Fresh Air: Diversity Heroes – Mashhuda Glencross

As a community, we embrace our diversity; diversity makes us better, stronger. We cannot do enough to applaud all of our heroes in their diversity.  They are people who are ACM members, volunteers or experts in their field.  In June, we started talking with a number of heroes about their tech career journey, about their perspective on intersectionality and reflect on initiatives for equality.

This month we have Dr Mashhuda Glencross, who is Senior Lecturer at The University of Queensland. Mashhuda has previously served on a number of ACM committees; including as treasurer of the ACM Europe Council and Vice-Chair of the Council of European Chapter Leaders. She is currently a member of the Proceedings of ACM steering committee, an Associate Editor of Computers and Graphics and a member of the ACM SIGGRAPH Executive Committee.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself? What was your inspiration, the driving force that led you to study and work in computing?

As a student, a very close friend who was working at Silicon Graphics in the UK showed me some fantastic computer graphics demos and I was completely blown away. I had to know how to do this and that’s what got me into researching techniques in Computer Graphics and Human-Computer Interaction.

What has been your career highlight? What are you most proud of?

My career highlight was getting my very first technical paper accepted into the SIGGRAPH conference. It was the outcome of a collaboration with a wonderful colleague of mine and was picked up by New Scientist so received an incredible level of interest. This technique estimated high quality relightable 3D textures (including depth) from images. Subsequent work in this area with colleagues also led to the estimation of woven cloth structure from images (Link to paper.) SIGGRAPH is an amazing place to showcase innovative technical and digital arts contributions and I was so excited that I was able to present my technical work there.

What challenges have you faced?  Were you able to overcome them? How?

Like many people entering academic research, I have faced challenges. Being from a minority ethnic background, female and more recently a bit older has meant that I have faced bias, racism, and harassment. How do you overcome these challenges? In all honesty, it has not been trivial. Support from a strong network of friends, colleagues and mentors has helped me through some of these. I now try to avoid situations that potentially place me in difficult situations, but these are not always completely avoidable. My advice to anyone facing any of these challenges is to make sure that you work for an employer or organization that is committed to a positive culture. I also recommend developing a supportive network of colleagues. 

If you were to change something in the way we run tech communities and networks, what would you change?

I would grow diversity among people in senior decision-making roles to help build a much stronger commitment to supporting the whole community rather than just a certain section of the tech community. We still have too few women in senior academic positions, too few on boards of tech firms and even fewer people of colour in these roles. Decision-makers need to mirror the rich diversity of our community. We all bring strengths, through different perspectives and these perspectives are too often overlooked. 

Can you comment on diversity or intersectionality issues that you have experienced, seen or been made aware of?

I will only say that I have experienced and seen many issues and they have been hard to resolve. 

Who is your Diversity/Equality Hero, and why?

I have a few Diversity and Equality Heroes. It’s hard to just pick one so I will name three people; Nelson Mandela because in his words “Nothing’s impossible, it always seems impossible, until it is done”. Mary Jackson because finally, the world sees her contributions and Mahatma Gandhi because in his words “In a gentle way, you can shake the world”. These people inspire me to believe that we can create change.

What would you recommend to young people thinking of a career in computing?

Pick a good university to study at, follow your passion, be fair and equitable and change the world! 

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