Big Data is revolutionising the way we work, live and interact on an everyday basis. From helping us navigate our way in traffic to personalising our online retail experiences and optimising Google searches, Big Data helps us understand the world and ourselves much better.
Women in Big Data is an industry initiative whose mission is to inspire, connect, grow and champion the success of women in Big Data. Founded in 2015 in Silicon Valley, it has grown strong in the United States and is scaling incrementally worldwide.
We chatted to four local women who are making waves in Big Data. First up, is Thandekile Hlatshwayo.
Tell us about your career.
I did my undergraduate degree in computer science and then went on to pursue an honours degree in computer science with Big Data analytics as my elective. I then started as a graduate in the Big Data analytics team at Vodacom in 2017.
I had decided to study data science out of curiosity and a genuine interest in this field. I chose to turn it into my career because I wanted to challenge myself and I have an interest in analytics and being able to make predictions for sound business decisions.
In the South African context, what are some examples of Big Data we may have seen in recent times?
A common example is navigation technology, which picks up our location at every minute or hour in the day to map out where we work and live and the places we like to visit. These technologies then provide suggestions based on our everyday movements.
What exciting developments do you think we can expect in this field?
Automation of most repetitive tasks is really what I’m sure we can all expect in the near future. More advanced, efficient systems in the healthcare, banking, motor and other industries. You can expect faster and more accurate diagnoses, more automated and less human interaction, and more sensors, driving and parking automated systems in the aforementioned industries.
What is the role of technology in driving social change?
One obvious one would be the mode of communication among people in general. We have so many platforms through which to communicate that distance is no longer a barrier.
The annoying chore of having to wait in long queues at the bank to make deposits or transfers, or even merely to change your bank account limit, is truly a thing of the past. You can now do all of that in the comfort of your own home on your cellular device.
How can we inspire more women and/or youth to enter the tech world?
A good way to inspire women is to show representation and have more platforms and forums that assure women that it is an inclusive field. It is always good to start when they are young, at school level. They need to be exposed to the world of tech as early as possible.
It would also be really useful for women who are already in tech to be a part of mentorship programmes to inspire and motivate other young women to enter this space. It will be more effective as these young ladies will be able to identify with them in a more intimate and safe environment.
What advice do you have to offer other women and/or youth who are interested in data science?
I like the words ‘Go for it!!’. You never know what impact you can make if you play small and doubt yourself. You truly are either your biggest fan or your biggest inhibitor.