Women in Big Data (WiBD) and BNY Mellon’s Women in Technology (WiT) organized a speed mentoring event hosted by BNY Mellon Silicon Valley Innovation Center on April 19, 2018. The event included five diverse mentoring sessions led by outstanding industry leaders eager to assist and connect with colleagues on a beautiful Thursday California evening.
The event was well attended with about fifty participants from a variety of professional backgrounds and career stages, including undergrads, women re-entering the workplace, and mid-career professionals looking to move into different roles. The event highlighted career planning, mentoring, academic choices and trends in technology, with an emphasis on data science. This event facilitated a special opportunity to ask questions, seek advice and connect with successful technology and business leaders with inspiring stories and advice. From these networking opportunities, new bonds were created as the audience connected over shared experiences and uplifting stories. Many participants committed to continued support and ongoing mentoring after the event concluded.
After the welcome and announcement of the agenda by Regina Karson from WiBD, Erika Lunceford gave an overview of BNY Mellon and its impressive history and unique market position. This was followed by Regina and Tina Tang describing the explosive growth of membership from around the world in the WiBD organization since its inception three years ago.
Participants moved around the Innovation Center to participate in four 20-minute, face-to-face sessions of their choice. The sessions were both inspiring and uplifting, as the presenters encouraged everyone in attendance to never give up. Everyone was able to introduce themselves and many questions were answered throughout the individual sessions.
Karmen Leung, IBM Analytics Cloud – Global Sales Executive, shared her challenges to overcome introversion in her earlier part of her career. After assessing how to properly surpass this challenge, and with a lot of hard work, she became a subject matter expert, as others would often seek advice from her, leading to multiple career opportunities.
Sameera Inapakutik, Facebook — Data Scientist, shared that a life-long commitment to learn, take classes, self-study and experiment, experiment and experiment would lead to valuable discoveries. Sameera explained how, at Facebook, understanding the data structures and clarifying the problem statements could lead to a better selection of the data models to choose and the necessary algorithms to simulate predictive behaviors. She also pointed out how Apache Hive expertise is a minimum skill set with today’s big data experiments.
Meena Arunachalam, Intel Cloud Platform Group, Data Center Group – Principal Engineer, told her audience how she has been at Intel several years and seen the company go through many changes. Her personal advice was to be honest with yourself, understand the delicate balance between family and career, and to plan for a constant re-assessment of priorities. She also believes networking is important for career growth and is all about building long term relationships and developing a solid, reliable reputation over time. Good networking involves having authentic conversations with interesting people even if you are an introvert. Having mentors, sponsors and advocates — different roles of career mentorship — is something we all can actively develop.
Tina Tang Senior Director of Product Marketing, SAP Hana for Machine Learning and Advanced Analytics, answered questions from the audience related to difficult situations. Tina advised to always be honest and to try to negotiate for a win-win. Tina also highlighted how it is crucial to be compassionate and place empathy for the other side before making the final decisions. It was also very refreshing to witness how others in the audience added valuable suggestions as well.
Erika Lunceford, BNY Mellon, Head of Silicon Valley Innovation Center, highlighted how having a focus on client-engagement and solving their problems was crucial to the growth of both the business as well as your career. She explained how her initial exposure to technical challenges as a computer programmer, then moving to business analysis, led to many opportunities to become the bridge in conversations between business owners and technologists. Having a laser-sharp focus at the core of all activities and constantly asking “why” becomes a foundation in the understanding of the problems to solve. A constant reinforcement of the bridging between technology and business can lead to optimum solutions. Her advice and answers resonated well with the audience.
The event concluded with more networking and an informal recap of the evening by mentor presenters, who shared thoughts and stories from each of their sessions.
A special thanks to collaborating partners for the success of this event Regina Karson, RK Consulting, Business Development & Marketing for Emerging Technologies and WiBD leader, and Joy Peacock (WiT member) and Noelle Santamaria from the Silicon Valley Innovation Center engagement.
Afterword by Regina Karson, WiBD Mentoring Committee
A big thank you to Erika Lunceford, Joy Peacock, and Noelle Santamaria for being the most gracious hosts. Thank you to mentors and mentees for an outstanding evening. Thank you, Reena Krishnan, VP Global Sales, TMF Group, for sharing information about the important organizations How Women Lead and Women on Boards, 2020.
Sameera: There’s a lot of interest in Data Science/Big Data careers, but a real lack of knowledge around what working in the field entails: how job roles differ between companies, what skill sets are required to get in the door and be successful, and how to think about choosing fields to match one’s long-term interests. I personally went through a similar situation when I was starting out, and so did most mentors here probably. Such forums are excellent ways to bring people together and share first-hand knowledge.
Tina: I really loved the format of the small groups because the women would just jump in and be able to offer their support and experiences, which is perfect and exactly what we want for them: to create a situation where their inner mentor is able to come out.
Also, people expressed a need and desire for professional skills — many of which Regina and team have covered in past WiBD workshops — in the areas of resume writing, personal brand management, job hunting strategy and skills, goal setting, negotiation, how to have difficult conversations, returning to the workplace after a (parental, medical, personal) leave, and conflict resolution.
In addition, I’ll add one that seemed apparent to me but was not explicitly articulated: developing a tool box for how to manage stress, how to juggle priorities and time management, etc.
Erika: I heard quite a few questions around making career decisions. i.e. when is it time for me to move to another position? How do I build all of the skills for my next position when I have my current position (the old 60% vs 100% of the skills for your next position? How do I position my resume so it gets noticed and sifted through (networking)? There is a theme in managing one’s career.
Meena: There is a lot of interest in either starting new or moving into AI/ML/DL areas, and everyone is eager to learn career paths and how to land a job as a Data Scientist, etc. Especially for some I spoke to who are rejoining the workforce after a break or switching fields, it feels overwhelming to develop statistics, domain expertise, and algorithms and coding skills all at the same time. My feedback from my own experience looking for solid contributors is to work on “End to end” projects with collaborators, in their current roles or domains (Business, Finance, Biology, Entrepreneurship, etc.), and to get valuable hands-on experience and leverage domain expertise. Several wanted to know how to keep up with all the advances going on. Overall, I enjoyed meeting all the mentors and the brilliant women who attended the event.
Regina: The evening was fantastic, and we met a real need for women in various career stages. Mentors brainstormed about shared insights from the evening per above, next steps for further mentoring, and pointers to soft skills mentoring that WiBD has provided to date.
Watch this space!
Erika Lunceford, Head of Silicon Valley Innovation Center at BNY Mellon
Erika delivers change through technology solutions and strategies to investment services. Erika also co-chairs the BNYM’s Women In Technology (WIT) Sponsorship Committee and works as part of the core team for WIT (Winner of Anita Borg Institute’s 2015 Top Company for Women Technologists).
Meena Arunachalam, Principal Engineer, Intel Cloud Platform Group, Data Center Group
Meena works closely with one of the top CSPs to bring current and future Intel technologies to successfully launch in their Data Centers. Her current focus is on AI inference and training, cloud architecture system design, TCO analyses. Meena joined Intel 19 years ago with a Ph.D. in Computer Science. She has served on several IEEE Program and Technical committees. Meena is the WiBD Mentorship Committee Chair.
Sameera Inapakutika, Data Scientist, FaceBook
Sameera has more than a decade of experience in Data Science, working across several different areas such as analytics, machine learning, data infrastructure, and experimentation. Using data, she has driven critical product initiatives and influenced executives at Facebook, Instagram, Quora, and Netflix. Sameera graduated with a Masters in Electrical Engineering, Stanford University. She is also an active member of organizations including TiE and BASES.
Regina Karson, Principal, RK Consulting, Business Development & Marketing for Emerging Technologies
Regina has held senior roles in marketing, business development, sales and engineering for market maker technology companies. Currently she works with Fortune 500-start-up companies on their marketing and business development needs and helps articulate the business value of technology. Regina holds degrees from Stanford, CSUN and UCLA. Regina serves on several Women in Big Data committees and won WiBD MVP, 2017.
Karmen Leung, Global Sales Executive, IBM Analytics Cloud
Originally from Hong Kong, Karmen Leung moved to the U.S. on her own when she was 16. Now a newly minted U.S. citizen she works at IBM as a global sales executive overseeing the company’s Analytics Cloud business across all international markets. Karmen holds a Bachelor’s, BBA Accounting, Marketing, Global Studies, College of William and Mary. Karmen is one of the co-founders of Women in Big Data, works with SPEAK Mentorship and The City Eats.
Tina Tang, Senior Director Product Marketing, SAP HANA for Machine Learning & Advanced Analytics
Tina is an evangelist, marketing strategist, mentor, and start-up advisor who works with teens, women, early talent, autism spectrum individuals, Fortune 1000 companies, non-profits, and entrepreneurs to reach their fullest potential. Tina co-founded Women in Big Data; lead an intelligent app challenge for Google Cloud & SAP; developed the Autism at Work conference with Stanford University, SAP, HPE, EY, and Microsoft. Tina holds degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. Her day job is with SAP as an award-winning marketing exec.