Diversity at its best: WiBD Munich Chapter partnering with Datageeks

By Nahia Orduna

Nahia presenting WiBD

We usually join “standard” tech events, where women are the exception. Alternatively, we have our diversity events joined by women. How can we find a balance? That is what Munich Chapter figured out in this event, which took place on January 22, 2020, at the offices of Microsoft in Munich.

There is a popular meetup in Munich, “Datageeks,” which is usually joined by a mainly male audience. We decided to join forces to present a truly diverse event, with around a 50% gender split, to give visibility to what the two communities are doing. Microsoft was a great host for this event, and we had around 140 people joining us.

We had lots of fun! Nahia Orduna kicked off the event by introducing Women in Big Data, and the mission and the activities offered by the Munich Chapter.

Jonas Biehler from Datageeks explained how they organise monthly meetups where networking is encouraged.

Olga Roj addresses the audience

Our first speaker was Olga Roj, Azure Partner Go to Market Lead, Microsoft Central and Eastern Europe. Olga joined Microsoft seven years ago, after completing her MBA at INSEAD Business School. From the beginning she has worked with Microsoft’s Azure Cloud Platform, first as the Azure Open Source Product Marketing Manager, and then as the Azure Go to Market Partner Lead, covering multiple countries in the EMEA region.

Her topic was “Digital Transformation of Businesses with the Power of Cloud Computing and AI: Microsoft’s approach to help every organization start thinking and operating like a digital company by embracing new technology”. Digital transformation is the topic of the day and it is here to stay. It is a phenomenon that is actively fueling both the success and the failure of every organization. Industry after industry is being transformed as we speak, and this is perhaps more so now than ever in our history, with technology not just adding capability but changing business models. Almost every company is grappling with how to embrace new trends, such as Big Data driving the digitization of “things” and advances in data analytics and intelligence; cloud computing placing limitless computing and storage power in the hands of organizations of all sizes; and of course the explosion and ubiquity of mobile computing. Think not only of the features and capabilities that are available today, but also about future horizons, from AI and Mixed Reality to Quantum Services. Olga showed us how to embrace these key new trends. It was especially interesting to learn about how to use AI responsible, and she presented some use cases that might look innocent but could raise ethical issues.

Michaela speaks on data minimalism

Our second speaker was Michaela Regneri. She works as a Senior Expert for Artificial Intelligence & Cognitive Computing at OTTO. She is fascinated by AI, especially by its visual, linguistic and cognitive implications for human-computer interaction. A PhD in Computational Linguistics, in her current role she drives and challenges different areas of AI for e-commerce, with a particular interest in AI innovation processes and corporate digital responsibility.

Her topic was also very engaging: “Data Minimalism & Data Value (Or: Why Data should not be the new Bacon)”.  Data is “the new oil” or “the new gold”. In the context of AI systems, we often treat Data more like “the new bacon”: Bigger data is better data, and we overfeed AI systems with data as a cheap, infinitely available resource. We want to fight data’s bacon-like image by promoting the concept of data minimalism for AI as a strategy to enhance both quality and sustainability of AI systems. In order to survive as data minimalists, we compute the (monetary) value of single data points, and then try to keep just the valuable ones. Implementing this concept is as challenging and as interesting as it sounds. As a corporate-scale example, Michaela showed us how much data actually is wasted in an e-commerce recommendation system, and how toxic data was found while applying data-minimalization strategies. In our events, we always emphasize that we have lots of data and now we saw it from a different perspective—it definitely should not be the new bacon!

At the end of the event we had a networking session, and people from both communities had a chance to get together. We all had very good feedback and agreed we will run more events together in the future. The Munich Chapter team (Astrid Neumann, Katharina Brass, Kendy Rannenberg, Pat Piritburana and Nahia Orduna) want to give special thanks to Radoslav Ivanov, one of our male attendees to our WiBD Munich events (who had the idea and made possible the joint meetup), and to the DataGeeks group.

The slides from both speakers can be downloaded here.

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