After weeks of preparation, the Women in Big Data (WiBD) Southern California chapter, in collaboration with Women in Data Science (WIDS) Southern California and PyData Los Angeles, held a SoCal Showcase Meetup on Mar. 29th, 2018 at DataScience.com’s headquarters in Culver City. This event attracted a mix of men and women alike to learn more about the opportunities provided by these organizations and celebrate the second event for WiBD SoCal in its inaugural year.
This meetup aimed at providing a platform for all who are interested in supporting women in big data, data science and open data to network and connect with each other as well as to hear about the career journeys shared by the key speakers. The meetup was kicked off by the co-founder of the SoCal chapter, April Zeng, a student in the USC Marshall MS, Business Analytics program set to graduate this May who has spent her final year in the program launching the WiBD So Cal chapter to support like minds. April introduced the organizational history of WIBD and shared her experience as an early career professional working for a big accounting firm where she was the only female on her team. She saw the need for more women in the field of big data and also, as an early career professional, sees the power of those who unite to support women in a data related career.
After April kicked off our event, the microphone was passed to the WiBD SoCal Awareness & Evangelism committee lead and current USC Marshall MS, Business Analytics candidate in her first year, Wenzhen Zhao, who introduced her experience as a tech-driven student who received discouragement from family members and school leaders when they taught her that a female brain is structured differently than a male brain and therefore she should choose her career path accordingly. Wenzhen defied the odds and shared her story about how she built up her confidence with help from females around her with like minds. Wenzhen presented the mission of WiBD, introduced the partners and sponsors, including Intel, LinkedIn, and the USC Marshall MS, Business Analytics program, and shared about our inaugural So Cal chapter event held last fall at USC, featuring four female big data professionals from Netflix, a company that has since become an organizational WiBD partner.
Roselyn Byrd, incoming WiBD SoCal lead and MS Business Analytics first year candidate at USC Marshall, introduced the organization structure and our focus on hosting future panels, as well as tech trainings, as our key deliverables to members.
To wrap up the intros, our chapter advisor and co-founder, Ilyana Salem, welcomed our featured speakers: Elizabeth Amini, Rachana Mukherjee, and Sandra Perea, who spoke about their career journey, work experience, and job hunting suggestions from different perspectives.
Elizabeth Amini is the CEO of Anti-AgingGames.com and serves as an adjunct professor at the Marshall School of Business where she teaches healthcare analytics and game analytics for the MS, Business Analytics program. When Elizabeth is not fiercely searching for data donations for analytics projects from healthcare related organizations (she can make sure there are signed NDAs!) she is expanding her reach and cultivating an exceptional network as President and Co-Founder of the USC Trojan CEO Network. Elizabeth shared her career journey and discussed how she found big data an incredible field to work in with unlimited potential. Becoming a professor in data analytics is a coincidence, as was becoming a CEO; however she truly enjoys helping students who are ambitious about changing the world through analytics. With real world data, Elizabeth has led students to help solve real business problems. Not only does she help students to make their career dreams come true, she is working with them to make an important impact for others in terms of healthcare or gaming-related businesses and more. Elizabeth referenced how Google and Stanford University combined big data with cancer prediction, leading to great success, and explained how data would change people’s lives in that “big data is the trend and will largely support the future development of diverse industries. It is driving changes.”
Rachana Mukherjee is currently serving as the Director of Analytics and Data Infrastructure at Evite, the world’s leading online invitation service. Rachana has over 12 years of progressive experience in the data analytics and Business Intelligence field. In the last three years, Rachana has been actively transitioning from an individual contributor role to a technical leadership role that oversees high performance learning teams organized to deliver the highest value to the business. She loves building scalable data platforms, systems integration projects, internal company tools, and to improve mundane, inefficient processes through programming and automation. Rachana spoke about how she noticed trends in big data and successfully persuaded her CEO to make changes in data platforms that largely helped the business thrive. Rachana encouraged females to overcome the fear of stepping on others’ toes, to confidently declare their own opinions, and explained how to persuade others and bring changes to the company, with a key emphasis on the importance to connect data scientists with the deep structures and leadership initiatives across any business.
Sandra Perea is an experienced data scientist whose current focus is marketing analytics for Capital Group. She also partners with CEOs, executives, startups and established companies to analyze and interpret complex digital data. With the application of the latest tools in data analytics, Sandra discovers the meaning of data and infers conclusions to assist clients in their decision making. Sandra believes in driving growth and revenue using a structured approach aligning the analytics goals with business goals. Sandra knows that curiosity, proactivity and resourcefulness are important to unlock the story behind the data and successfully communicate it. From this angle, Sandra gave valuable advice about how to communicate with human resources within an organization to be more competitive, how to understand positions based on the stage of companies in their development and growth, and how to brand yourself through LinkedIn, GitHub and a website portfolio. Sandra encouraged females to participate more in networking events and to seize opportunities whenever they come to you.
After three great featured speakers, the WiBD SoCal Mentorship Committee lead, Keying “Claire” Que, introduced our upcoming mentorship program and welcomed everyone to join our community. A connection between mentors and mentees will be built based on individual skills and professional interests or expertise areas. Members who filled the mentor-mentee preference survey will have the chance to be both a mentee to learn from fellow members as well as a mentor to give back to fellow generations of talent. The mentorship program is designed to bring everyone together and make a difference. The program will be officially launched very soon. We sincerely invite you to follow the updates and join us!
To bring the program to a close, the WiBD SoCal training lead and USC Marshall MS, Business Analytics candidate Mahalakshmi Raghavan shared details about our next technical training opportunity: Natural Language Processing (NLP) with SpaCy, expected this coming September 2018. Stay tuned by becoming a member on our MeetUp and following our event announcements!
Finally, WiBD SoCal Networking Committee lead and USC Marshall MS, Business Analytics candidate Ushita Palande explained the benefit of becoming a partner and sponsor, and introduced how to sign up and join us. Networking continued after this formal portion of the program where the guests had the opportunity to talk with speakers freely and continue in the vein of sharing suggestions and opinions with each other inspired by each our presenters.