How These Three Women Made Mid-Career Pivots Into Data Science

The thing that bothered me the most about the #BIGDATAPH2016 Conference was how majority of the speakers wanted to source their data science talent from the university system.

I’ve talked again and again how uncomfortable I feel about this. How domain expertise, having business and industry context, is such a vital skill–not only in data science but across all domains. I feel its something we’ll miss out on if we focus too much on the technical aspect and not enough on the stories to be told.

So when I read about people who have managed to do it, people who defied the odds by pivoting their careers toward data science… I get excited. Encouraged. Especially when its women!

READ: How These Three Women Made Mid-Career Pivots Into Data Science

There’s more than one path into a successful data job than through the university system’s “talent pipeline.”

But while widening the so-called “talent pipeline” is one important way to narrow that gap, it’s not the only solution. If girls can be exposed to STEM programs early on in their educational careers, there’s no reason why adult women can’t make the leap into a data-based role later on in their professional ones.

Out of the women featured I could relate to Rebekah Iliff the most. She talks about making numbers tell a story, the same reason why I started studying data in the first place.

Iliff says saw herself as a storyteller—being able to think creatively by putting disparate pieces together. A in her world could just as well be connected to D as to B. The only hitch, she felt, was that results of those connections were more a matter of faith than calculable ROI; it was more art than science.

I’d make a guess that Iliff’s MBTI profile would say she’s an iNtuitive rather than Sensing. INtuitives tend to see the big picture. All the relationships and connections, but miss out on the details.

It’s the same reason why I moved from engineering and into project management. I didn’t like not knowing what I was building/testing/supporting things for. I envied how project managers got an end-to-end view. How they could see things from end-to-end, from initiation all the way to production. How they could see how different streams of work depended on each other. How everything was a balancing act, and the project manager was master juggler.

These days though, I’m getting greedy again. I want to see even more. I want to see the layers above the technology. I want to see the user impact–not only upon release, but months after. I want to see the large tech strategies that came into play to be able to decide on which projects to fund.

Things all far above my pay grade. Which is why I’m trying to skill up, and thankful for articles like the above for inspiration.



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