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Vodacom has joined forces with Women in Big Data, a global initiative, to inspire more young girls to join the data sciences. Four women in this field shared their stories with us. Here, Angela Lai King tells us more about Big Data and why she thinks more women should be involved in it.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in data science?
My journey into the tech space started when I was in high school, where it appeared that girls in my grade did not find IT appealing. This motivated me to give IT a chance, and from there my passion for technology and programming increased. This led me to study computer science at university.
The journey continued even after completing my undergraduate degree. During my honours year, I was chosen for the Big Data honours programme. This was the beginning of my career in the world of data science.
What really piqued my interest in data science is my passion for solving problems, and the curiosity I have for uncovering stories behind the data.
What are some examples of Big Data we will have seen in South Africa?
There are many examples where Big Data has played a role. To name a few, companies such as banks have used data science to identify fraudulent transactions or predict the likelihood that someone will buy a product or cancel an account.
In service-related industries, chatbots such as TOBi are helping streamline engagement between consumers and brand.
What exciting developments do you think we can expect in this field?
With the advancements of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, there is so much more that can be accomplished now than was possible a few years ago. With more computational power, we will be able to process data faster and provide businesses with better actionable insights faster than ever before.
We’ll see the automation of workflows, which will maximise time and efficiency. AI provides the potential to collate large amounts of data to uncover patterns, which enables us to know more about people than they actually know about themselves.
What is the role of technology in driving social change?
Already we can see that technology has become part of every aspect of our lives. For instance, applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook have revolutionised the way we communicate with people around the world.
Technology has made it easier for different cultures to come together and learn from each other. This allows us to break down the geographic barriers and unite us.
How can we inspire more women and/or youth to enter the tech world?
We first need to shatter the stereotypes and instil confidence in women and youth. This can be accomplished by educating the youth from school age by introducing girls to role models and showing them that women can also be strong and successful in the tech industry.
What misconceptions or myths exist around Big Data?
One of the most common misconceptions that women face when entering a STEM-related career is that women are not as technically inclined as men. This is mainly due to the tech industry being highly male-dominated. This reality results in females having limited exposure to STEM at the early stages of their schooling, which ultimately prevents more women from studying technology-related degrees. This shouldn’t be the case because women are equally as strong, intelligent and capable.
What unique capabilities can women bring to the STEM careers?
Since the misconception is that it’s a male-dominated field, we need to ensure there is diversity and bring more female representation into STEM careers. Women bring a diversity of thought and alternative viewpoints.
What advice do you have to offer other women and/or youth who are interested in data science?
If you are curious and passionate about innovation and have an interest in technology, this will be one of the most rewarding careers to enter. I honestly believe that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Don’t let anyone limit your potential.