I became a Data Scientist, without gender getting in the way

The gender gap in the field of data science and information and technology, ever since its advent, has been huge and it has only widened considerably over the last couple of decades. However, O’Reilly Media’s ‘Women in Data’ by Shannon Cutt, Cornelia Lévy-Bencheton – a compilation of inspiring stories, interviews and interactions with women who are central to the data science and data related businesses – report that the increase in awareness is gradually bringing more women into the field.

Today, we have a story to share. The story of a lady who, after 12+ years of experience in the service delivery sector as Project Manager, thought her career needed a boost. After a lot of effort in trying to understand what could best suit her, Sujatha Narasimhan found that data science is the key area to explore.

“Any domain you look at, data science plays a vital role – and that’s going to make or break the business. Basically, for any business solution, data science has now become the answer,” she comments.

After much research, a convinced and determined Sujatha joined the Postgraduate Program in Data Science and Machine Learning (PGPDM), by the University of Chicago’s Graham School, the professional division of one of the top-ranked universities in the US; IBM, the global technology leader; and Jigsaw Academy (now UNext), India’s top online school for analytics. Though she agrees that the journey was not an easy one and was sometimes overwhelming as she had to juggle work, family, weekend classes and assignments that came along, Sujatha believes that a good support system and great mentoring from the University of Chicago faculty members and the industry veterans from UNext helped her face the challenges head-on.

With a singular goal of finding a Data Science related role, she started applying to companies and circulating her updated profile in the job market almost as soon as she was 2 months away from completing the program.

“It was definitely not an easy task but after applying and attending a few interviews, I now have successfully landed a job with Microsoft as Project Manager – Data Science,” remarks Ms.Narasimhan while acknowledging that, “UNext was my pillar all through the process and now, the foundation that I’m building my Data Science and Machine Learning career on”.

She knows that she has a long way to go in the field of Data Science and that she must remain hungry for knowledge as there is something new that pops up in this field every other day.

She had started my career way later than the normal ‘soon-after-college’ culture. And for that very reason she was asked by a lot of people in her close circle and outside, as to why she was taking a step as drastic as this – a move towards Data Science – at this stage in her life.

“The world of data science is for the millennial to walk towards, explore and grow, they said. This attitude affected more than child’s play. Now, I was more determined than ever. I had to overcome self-doubt along with discouraging words like the ones that were thrown at me, and work towards enrolling for and completing the program. I had to be more confident about myself and performing well”.

Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, pointed out in his article – ‘Let’s Get Real About Supporting Women in Tech’ – that technology companies led by women have an average of a 35% higher ROC (return on capital) than those led and directed by men. He also referenced a study stating that tech companies with female founders perform 63% better than the ones with founding teams completely composed of men.

Therefore, this is why we need more women in computing and data science – to bring their skills and perspectives to the table for better performance overall.

Sujatha now wants more women to blaze the trail in the field of data science. She believes that the technology space is currently growing by leaps and bounds and is offering an explosion of opportunities for both women and men alike. But the fact remains, that we speak of women empowerment and equality but have a long way to go in realizing those dreams and making it a reality.

“I am looking forward to being in this field – encouraging, helping and mentoring more women to join the bandwagon”.

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