Sun | Aug 18, 2019

Women in data science

Published:Monday | July 15, 2019 | 12:15 AM
Teamwork definitely making the dream work.
Chantelle Jones Sue Yuen Lue Lim having fun while they work. l
COO Chavonie Clarke
Dr Sacha Todd making a literal representation of her company.
Kimberly Shaw working and living her dream.
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Women have always been instrumental in technology development. Despite this worldwide trend, Blue Dot Data Intelligence prides itself on being the leading data science company within the Caribbean with an incredibly diverse team. Blue Dot has taken a stance by closing the gender gap within the field and is currently reaping the benefits.

Flair visited Blue Dot to speak with the female powerhouses behind company.

Chantelle Jones, Kimberly Shaw, Sue Yuen Lue Lim, Chavonie Clarke, and Dr Sacha Todd cleared up the misconceptions of women within Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and shared how the field has evolved over the years within the Caribbean. All five women have received extensive training in their respective fields and are university-certified to conduct their different roles.

Initially, data analysts was dominated by computer scientist. However, there was a problem which centred around persons who might be great at programming, but were weak at analysing the data for companies within the health service or business sector. This was due to having limited research skills and knowledge of areas outside of computing. Over the years, the data-science field has expanded to accompany persons who are trained heavily in research and are analytical in their approach to solving problems.

“I actually don’t have a background in data sciences,” declared Shaw. Shaw studied sociology and anthropology which is the study of different cultures and people. “I wasn’t necessarily looking for a job within my field. I started off at a different company and did digital marketing which is where my whole digital journey began,” she explained. After speaking with Larren Peart CEO of Blue Dot, he decided that he needed her skills to do a little more with digital analytics. “With my background in sociology and digital marketing, marrying my two passions was easy,” said Shaw.

Becoming a data analyst was no easy feat for Jones, who was struggling to figure out what she wanted to become in her early years. “It all started with me trying to find a way and where I wanted to be in life,” explained Jones, She decided to become an actuarial scientist after completing high school. “After that, I took a two-year break to try and figure out what I wanted to do with my life and was working in customer service, which was not in my field,” she continued. She began to feel stuck and had an urge to progress her education. “After the break and working in customer service, I started to feel stuck and decided to pursue a masters in marketing and data analytics. “I knew our CEO Larren Peart previously and told him what I was doing my masters in and he said he definitely needed me on the Blue Dot team,” said Jones.

A very shy Lue Lim always had a love for math and numbers, which fuelled her decision to become an actuarial scientist. “After a couple years, I did my masters in enterprise management which coincides with everything that Blue Dot is about,” said Lue Lim. “Blue Dot seemed very interesting, very forward thinking, and I learned how to be a complete data analyst at the company,” she continued.

“At the end of the day, research is research, irrespective of the category you did research in,” explained Dr Todd, who is a highly trained researcher within the Life Sciences. “As long as you have an ability to learn and try new methodologies, it really doesn’t matter what your background is,” she continued.

Blue Dot’s Chief Operating Officer Chavonie Clarke has had a passion for data science form an early age. “I worked as a research analyst coming straight out of university and I studied economics and statistics,” said Clarke. Her two first jobs focused on supporting teams with data intensive projects and supporting marketing teams with data for decision making. She then dabbled in brand management and sales for a number of years, which gave her a lot of international experience. “From my background being so data and business intensive, and being able to speak the language on both sides, it allowed me to be in a very unique position to support my Blue Dot team,” said Clarke.

“Women have never had a lack of interest in STEM, it was the availability of opportunities that have hindered the number of women within the field,” said Todd.

In previous years, women were seen as intellectually less capable. The culture has now evolved to allow an influx of women who are now able to bring their skills and perceptions to data analytical companies.

In fact, Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, reported in his article, ‘Let’s get real about supporting women in tech’, that tech companies led by women have an average of a 35 per cent higher return on capital than those led by men. He also referenced a study stating that tech companies with female founders perform 63 per cent better than ones with founding teams completely composed of men.

“I think I am at a unique advantage, being a female,” said Clarke. “As women, we have a natural ability to read our surroundings and get people on board. People are connected to our natural nurturing approach. It’s not all about competing and testosterone. It’s about cohesiveness and working together,” she continued.

These women are the brains behind many of the products and services available at Blue Dot Data Intelligence, which includes Consumer Brand Equity Tracking, Concept Testing, Price targeting, Consumer Usage and Attitude and Blue Dot Communa, which is an online panel for persons to participate in surveys and get paid. The advanced technology available at Blue Dot is a necessary investment for any company that wants to remain relevant and on trend. “By investing in data analysis for your company, you are investing in the longevity of your brand,” said Jones.

latara.boodie@gleanerjm.com