We had the opportunity to interview Shikha Basdeo, Information Management Specialist at FNB about her journey in data. Thanks for your time Shikha. Please tell us, how did you How did you become interested in data?
My journey started in a very different way to most people – I was head strong my entire life, to be a Physiotherapist – but the plans we make are not always our own, a serious car accident changed my life completely. I had never touched a computer but because of my disabilities I had to start using voice activated software and this started my fascination in data and technology. It a was so interesting that I could write code and basically make anything happen. My career started as Java developer and quickly moved into the exciting world of data. Data changed my life. Imagine every movement, every life stage, every card swipe, every book you read and even the coffee you drink – creates or consumes data. In turn, this data created solutions to my life easier.
What are some of the biggest challenges that women who want to venture into the world of data analytics face today?
Data Vs Technology
In today’s technology driven world men seem to dominate the tech space – being a developer in a previous life – working long hours became very challenging and I had to step out of that space and move into an analysis – I had to balance my time between my family and work.
Bleeding edge Technology seems to propose that all data issues can Solved by implementing tech however – understanding the underlying data is the critical success factor.
Woman face the challenge of competing with the technology solutions driving data but woman are wired differently to men.
I read an article in the medical pages regarding the different pathways and links in the brain.
While the MRI research mainly focused on brain structures, another scientist has been exploring the nerve pathways that link them, like a highway system for the brain's traffic.
Men's brains have more connections from front to back, but Women have more connections going left and right across the two halves of the brain. This could give them an advantage in pulling together information from different sources and drawing conclusions. The left half of the brain handles logical thinking, and the right is associated with intuition.
Data analytics/data science is perceived as a male-dominated field. What steps should be taken to attract more women to the field?
Men and woman have equal opportunities to study in the fields – there is the saying that whatever a man can do a woman can do just as well. But why should women think of themselves in the same category as a man. Woman are unique to men. If a man and woman study the same degree and are applying for the same job, it’s the uniqueness of that candidate that makes them stand out. Otherwise we would all be replaced by machines.
The insight and perspective that an individual can bring cannot be bought or pulled out of a text book. As woman, we need to remember the is no carbon copy of you, use that to your advance, equip yourself with the tools and trends in the field of data analytics and data science and use your unique talent to propel you.
Can you pinpoint one moment or person that was instrumental in your decision to pick this career path?
I worked at a bank as a Data Analyst and I absolutely loved the idea of proposing solutions where data is used most efficiently – the same data and the associated processes were being duplicated across the organisation. The concept that ‘Data is an asset’ had exploded because of the financial crisis and the Information Architecture and Information Management was key to fixing this. At this point I realised that Information Architecture was the way forward for me.
What advice do you have for anyone interested in a career in data analytics/data science?
Be prepared to plot your course and record your steps because you can get lost in the world of data. There are so many areas where insights can be derived – make sure you equip yourself to run the race – use conferences, seminars, webinars, white papers.
The data you have access to has value, you just need to unlock it.
Do you think that data can help build a more diverse and equal workplace? How so?
Honestly data runs the world, and I smile when I say that, taking the diverse backgrounds, experiences and relationships that so many woman have – creating insights on the needs of single moms and the products we could offer them.
Understanding that as South Africans we have many levels of entrepreneurs – from the accounting and secretarial businesses, Personal coaching, catering to the home-based salons and spaza shops. – so what business product should we offer them.
These unique insights are needed in today’s workplace and this is the diversity company’s need to succeed.
What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the data analytics industry?
The fact that as a woman you see things differently.
What are some of the best and worst workplace initiatives you have seen/heard of to help promote diversity?
Bring a young student(female/male) to workday. – Future proof the work environment
Workplace is evolving people/Tech and location.
Mentoring within the workplace / both being a mentor and being mentee. Promotes career development.
What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in data/data science? What do you wish you had known?
In the work place data is the centre of everything getting the tech team to understand that tech doesn’t solve data issues can be very challenging. Be prepared to have the same conversation about 100 times before you get bye in.
What do you think we should be doing more of to encourage more girls to consider a career in data analytics/data science?
- Data analytics/data science is not about technology it’s about finding answers and patterns and unlocking value.
- The misconception that Technology needs to be understood first before embarking on a career in Data. Technology support Data insight.
- Data is not a man’s world.
- Logical and Analytical Think is key.
Any reading/website you would recommend to stay updated?
TDWI – Tech
Fun fact about you?
I am very artist – I can look at anything and draw it. But my latest artist creations have been cakes.