Interview with Women in Digital & Data Johannesburg’ speaker, Gcobisa Gaxela, Senior Manager: Data Quality and Analytics, Corporate and Investment Banking at Standard Bank
How did you become interested in data?
I wanted to be a Database Administrator; there were no opportunities for inexperienced DBAs and I got into MIS. That exposed me to process management and later to data management.
What are some of the biggest challenges that women who want to venture into the world of data analytics face today?
- The challenges are the same as in any discipline; men have always been at the forefront of everything.
- Misconception that being a woman translates to being emotional and not ideal for a tough and fast paced world
- Misconception that data management is purely technical and women cannot be in technical spaces
Data analytics/data science is perceived as a male-dominated field. What steps should be taken to attract more women to the field?
- Mentoring and awareness about the field; the importance of being balanced between technical and business acumen needs to be clear
- Females need to take a more active role in mentoring young females
Can you pinpoint one moment or person that was instrumental in your decision to pick this career path?
My boss at Eskom insisted I move away from only writing code and analysing data and actually communicate and drive the awareness around the importance of data management. I never thought I would enjoy the business side of things as much as I enjoyed “playing” with the data.
What advice do you have for anyone interested in a career in data analytics/data science?
Go for it, it is not rocket science.
Do you think that data can help build a more diverse and equal workplace? How so?
Yes, data management and data science needs a diverse set of skills. It is where technical meets business. It also has a huge impact on human capital and the diversity brought about by females in leadership brings this to the fore.
What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the data analytics industry?
The empathy and being able to view everything holistically.
How do you think individuals can use data to advance their ideas or careers?
Data gives insight and in-depth understanding of any business.
What are some of the best and worst workplace initiatives you have seen/heard of to help promote diversity?
The best initiative was targeting females at school and pay for their education and have them exposed to the environment from early on.
Worst behaviour by corporates is to expect youth and females to have experience without giving them a chance.
What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in data/data science? What do you wish you had known?
Find a mentor that lifts you up and mentors from a point of view of understanding the individual.
I wish I had known that the world is very sexist.
What do you think we should be doing more of to encourage more girls to consider a career in data analytics/data science?
We should have more awareness and communication around what data / data management can do for an individual.
Any reading/website you would recommend to stay updated?
- CDO Hangout on LinkedIn
Fun fact about you?
How do I choose? My tag line is “shoes are boring, wear sneakers”