Today (February 11th) is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science – a dedicated celebration of females working in STEM industries, and a commitment to full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.
At Connex One, our software and services are driven by unrivalled scientific insight from our incredible global team. That’s why we chatted to Nichola Roberts, Anamaria Sugar, Alexandra Uma – three members of our data science team – about their career paths into STEM-related roles, and their advice for the next generation of female data scientists.
Q: When it comes to the future of the data science sector, what are you most excited about?
Nichola: “At Connex One I’m working on the development of chatbots, and I’m very excited about where this will go in the next few years. I love learning about all the new ideas in AI and neural network technology.”
Alexandra: “I’m excited to see the full extent of NLP (Natural language processing) brought to bear in understanding and gleaning actionable insights from the vast amounts of text data we – as humans – have produced and keep producing. A lot of good can come from this but we, the AI community, must of course be mindful of the potential negatives and work to mitigate them.”
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a career in data science?
Alexandra: “ I wanted to understand cognition and social intelligence, by studying and simulating them. I hoped that in doing this, I could also create useful machines, tools and applications.”
Anamaria: “I studied both Computer Science and Mathematics at university, and had a great deal of trouble deciding which to pursue. Data science was the perfect career path for me, as it beautifully combines the two.”
Nichola: “I’ve always loved maths, problem solving, and coding so data science is a natural choice. I’m also quite curious about people and society and data science gives me an opportunity to look at these patterns in behaviour.”
Q: What guidance would you give to young women looking to get into the sector?
Alexandra: “Start before you’re ready. And when you do start, teach, write and publish – your code, results, and projects. Sure you’ll make a few mistakes – some of them publicly – but you’ll also learn faster and grow to become more confident in what you do know.”
Anamaria: “I hope more women get encouraged to not expect or feel the need to provide perfection. Getting into any type of coding will be fiddly as code can break so easily. My job involves debugging errors 80% of the time, many of which I created myself. I hope more women get the right support and encouragement to try something new and a bit scary, and help break gender norms. It is a worthwhile journey in my opinion.”
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given during your career?
Alexandra: “It’s great to work hard but you also need to learn to rest! You’re no good to anyone, least of all yourself, if you burn out.”
Anamaria “Most people experience impostor syndrome. Even experienced developers do not know everything,. It is okay to stumble and take your time to find the answers you need, because it eventually works out in the end.”
Nichola: “I would say everyone’s advice is biased towards their own experiences, as well as their own strengths and weaknesses. However, I think self reliance and the ability to learn from the real life experiences of others is more important.”
Q: Do you think there’s outdated stereotypes of data scientists? How would you like to see these stereotypes overcome?
Anamaria: “Yes, there certainly is. I still get an occasional “really?!” when I tell people what I work as. Hopefully with more women in tech engaging with younger generations, as well as the general public about their experience and journey, we can break these stereotypes. I believe social media could also be a powerful tool for spreading awareness on such issues.”
Q: What’s your favourite part about working in the data science team at Connex One?
Alexandra: “The sense of camaraderie. You get the sense that you are part of a community, working to build something under good leadership.”
Nichola: “I love working on some of the most challenging areas of data science, areas where companies like Google and Amazon don’t yet have the answers. There are no ready made solutions to these problems.”
We would like to thank our brilliant data scientists for sitting down to talk about their experiences and extend our thanks to all of the women and girls working at Connex One for their unparalleled contributions to our organisation.
To learn more about International Day of Women and Girls in Science, visit the official website here – https://www.un.org/en/observances/women-and-girls-in-science-day