What’s Super Hot in Central Florida?

Answer: A Career for Women in Data Science

Jennifer Odess, Appirio VP on the #WiDS2018 panel at UCF.

This was the first year the University of Central Florida (UCF) joined the global Women in Data Science annual technology conference as an ambassador. As a board member on the Masters in Data Analytics program at the university, I lobbied for it at our December board meeting, and was thrilled we got involved.

We held the event last week, March 5, on the UCF campus, along with over 100 other satellite locations that live-streamed talks from Stanford on the same day. The event has been growing in international popularity and significance as demand for data scientists has been sky-rocketing in every field.

Data scientist ranks as the #1 job in America by Glassdoor with median base salaries averaging $110,000 in 2018. It has consistently ranked #1 the past few years, and every indicator suggests the trend will continue.

Opportunities for women in data science are nearly limitless. What makes data science so attractive for women, in addition to the strong demand, high salaries, and choice of industries is the satisfaction that comes from working on challenging problem-solving that plays to women’s strengths such as storytelling, active listening, and group collaboration. A background in data science is particularly valuable for women professionals as they position for leadership or entrepreneurial roles.

“The cloud makes the field accessible to everyone.” — Ozlem Garibay, Director, Office of Technology and Innovation and CIO for the UCF Research Division — ‎University of Central Florida

The early afternoon panel @UCF discussed tools, skills, career opportunities, and continuous learning. Caitlin Johnson, currently studying for a Master’s of Science in Industrial Engineering, enjoyed hearing from the panel experts. She had this feedback about the event:

“Right now I am looking for a job, so one of my main takeaways is to work on my confidence in applying for positions and working to build more skills in the areas employers may be looking for. I also appreciated the diverse backgrounds and specialties of the women. As a former Geographic Information Systems intern, I was especially able to relate to the professor with GIS background. [Jamie Griffiths Craighead, PhD.] The WiDS event made me excited for the future of big data and glad I’m studying a field that uses data science tools.” — Caitlin Johnson, student

Panel member, Jennifer Odess, an executive at enterprise cloud SaaS vendor, Appirio had great general career advice for the students in the auditorium:

“Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. You have to believe in yourself and look for gaps. Find and fill that gap. Ask for it. ” — Jennifer Odess, Appirio

After the panel concluded, the attendees were treated to the live-streamed portion of the event from Stanford. We heard fascinating talks by Lada Adamic, Research Scientist Manager, Facebook; Nathalie Henry Riche, Researcher, Microsoft Research; Daniela Witten, Associate Professor of Statistics and Biostatistics, University of Washington; and Latanya Sweeney, Professor of Government and Technology in Residence, Harvard University.

Dan Eilen, Associate Director — MS Data Analytics Program, College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Shafaq Chaudhry, Assistant Director, Research Information Systems, Office of Research & Commercialization; University of Central Florida

The event was an excellent inaugural debut at UCF. Special thanks to the MSDA program’s Dan Eilen and Shafaq Chaudhry from the Office of Research and Commercialization who made the #MSDA_UCF #WiDS2018 happen.

Planning is already underway for 2019.