Empowering Women in Data: Insights from QuantumBlack’s Female Innovators

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The recruitment and retention of women in tech is key to the sector’s growth. That’s according to a recent McKinsey report, which proposes that doubling the number of women in the tech workforce by 2027 could close the talent gap it currently faces and increase its economic output. The report outlines suggestions for achieving this, including more effective diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices, broader support networks, and a greater focus on STEM education.

On International Women’s Day, we’ve delved deeper into what more can be done to encourage women working in tech, and asked some of our female colleagues to describe their own career paths, their inspiration, and the advice they’d offer young women looking for a career in tech.

From early exposure to tech in their formative years and more female role models, to more inclusive organizations and the importance of being your own advocate, QuantumBlack’s own female innovators share their insights below.

‘Become a super-human; Start coding early’ — Amala Umakanth, Senior Data Engineer

Recent advancements in technology are changing many aspects of our lives. And I believe AI is going to take the next generation to yet another level of super-powers entirely. My wish, though, is that this will be done diligently and ethically.

To this end, I’d recommend that any young woman starting out in her AI career should practice ethical AI at every step, empathizing both with the project in hand and with any potential wider impact it might have. It’s vital, therefore, that they stay on top of the latest developments, constantly learning about an ever-evolving area.

My expertise lies in solving data problems through automation and cloud computing, but I’m currently learning about robotics so I can teach it to my eight-year-old. I believe coding will soon become a basic life skill, and that there are significant benefits to exposing children to it in school as early as possible. Not only will it kindle their creativity and curiosity, and sharpen their problem-solving abilities, but it will also boost their confidence as they grow and enable them to innovate in a myriad of different situations.

‘We need more inspirational role models’ — Dana Mekler, Jr. Principal Product Manager

As a Product Manager for QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey, I work on building MLOps capabilities that enable us to deploy machine learning models in production. However, my journey to this role was anything but straightforward. Initially, I worked in strategy and general management positions in the education and EdTech sectors. To further my management experience and explore different technology skills, I pursued an MBA and an MPA, which ultimately led me to technical roles in product management in big tech.

Working at QuantumBlack has exposed me to some inspiring female leaders, including developers, data scientists, and technical managers, all of whom motivate me daily with their expertise and insights. However, more often than not, I am still the only woman in the room.

This is why I strongly believe we need more women like Reshma Saujani in the tech industry. As the founder of Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization that teaches girls to code and encourages them to pursue technical careers, Reshma is not only an entrepreneur, a lawyer and a politician, but also a vocal advocate for diversity in the tech sector.

‘Get to know those around you’ — Ariana Leiva, Senior Designer

Designing for AI users adds a new layer of complexity; you must fit your designs into an orchestrated process which has so many musicians playing at the same time. Although I might understand what’s wrong with a particular user journey, I can’t always redesign the solution by myself as I would on a regular digital product. I need the engineering team to do that, as they’re the ones playing the symphony.

This has meant a tremendous learning curve for designers like me, without a heavy technical background. Taking my first steps, I was inspired by authors like Raluca Bidiu, Leah Buley, and Yvonne Rogers, who wrote about design principles and user experience when male authors were the norm. But as well as looking to such pioneers for inspiration, I’d also urge people to get to know the women in technology inside their own company. And not just those who have broken the glass ceiling; it’s important, too, to find them before that happens. Reach out to the quiet data scientist on your team, and ask about her story and her passions.

Likewise, don’t be afraid to ask questions, request feedback, or ask your teams to let you develop your own passions. Most people will be willing to help, but you should always be your own advocate first.

‘Keep an open mind’ — Kanika Miglani, Senior Engineer

I started as a cloud engineer in QuantumBlack’s India office, where exposure to a range of different tools and technologies helped me grow my technical skills. Following this I moved to a different team in a different country, expanding my network and further developing my skills. Now based in Toronto, I’m a senior engineer with expertise in cloud domains, helping to build cloud infrastructure for our clients, and develop tech stacks with best-in-class tools and guidelines.

I’ve seen for myself how QuantumBlack encourages women to develop and grow, with female tech professionals working across a range of domains including AI, data engineering, and data science. And there’s a strong community of women in tech, in which women can ask questions and share experiences with their colleagues across the company.

For any young woman that finds herself drawn to a career like mine, I’d say do it — I’d say keep your mind open to the possibilities and never get taught in the trap of thinking that you’ve learned all you need to know. There’s always something more.

‘Talk about your insecurities’ — Anh Dang, Senior Data Scientist

My educational background in econometrics and public policy gave me a foundation in statistics and quantitative methods. It’s probably not surprising, then, that I was drawn to the field of data science, something I consider to be a mixture of science and art.

As a data practitioner, I work in a continuously evolving field; constantly emerging technologies, techniques, and innovations mean I’m always learning. I’m inspired by Cassie Kozyrkov, Chief Decision Scientist at Google, and her wealth of expertise at the intersection of data science, behavioral science, statistics, machine learning, economics, and more. A technology evangelist and an established thought leader in her field, she appeared on the cover of Forbes’s AI data science issue, and was recognized by LinkedIn as the number one voice in data science and analytics.

My colleagues at QuantumBlack are equally inspiring; they motivate and empower me every day I go to work. However, I’d advise any young women just starting out that they should always reach out to others. Talk about your insecurities. Your colleagues may see you as better than you see yourself. Surround yourself, like I do, with people who empower you. But more importantly, empower yourself.

International Women’s Day is a time to reflect, both on the progress made and the steps we need to take. Whether it’s following inspirational women in tech, immersing yourself in education, or reaching out to others, women wanting to join the tech sector can learn a lot from those who have carved out a successful career. We are proud of the exceptional women in our team and hearing from them helps us to shape a better future.

Interested in discovering more from our incredible QuantumBlack technology experts? Mark your calendar for March 30th and join our virtual panel discussion for additional insights. Sign up here.

Authored by: Amala Umakanth, Senior Data Engineer, Dana Mekler, Jr. Principal Product Manager, Ariana Leiva, Senior Designer, Kanika Miglani, Senior Engineer, and Anh Dang, Senior Consultant — Data Scientist, QuantumBlack

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QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey
QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey

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