Women in Big Data Global



WiBDSA – #ConnectSession + #DevSprint

Women in Big Data

By Nikiwe Sambo,

July 3, 2019

400 Jade Abbott
Jade Abbott

30 June 2019

We have been having an inspirational time in South Africa, and here is a sneak peek of what has been happening this month. It’s been an exciting couple of weeks for us in South Africa.

June 20

Matimba Mbungela
Matimba Mbungela

We hosted our first Connect Session event with Vodacom to commemorate our partnership. This event was aimed at bringing women in Big Data together to not only network but to also empower future female ladies. Matimba Mbungela, Group CHRO, opened the event by highlighting the initiatives that Vodacom have implemented to advance women leaders within and outside of the organization.

Sven van Pletzen, Group Data, Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Officer, spoke about the elements needed to win in Big Data as an organization, one of which he referred to as AI literacy—making sure that everyone in the organization, starting with young professionals to major stakeholders, knows about Big Data and its possibilities, so it can be used in the best possible way.

Vodacom Connect Session Attendees

Jade Abbott, who gave the keynote address, is a Senior Machine Learning Engineer currently working on an African language translator project using Machine Learning. She shared how Africa can take advantage of the diversity in the continent to contribute towards ML to improve systems predictions.

We closed the event with a panel discussion featuring a mixture of phenomenal women from different professional backgrounds, including our chairperson, Naomi Molefe. The conversation encompassed diversity, inclusion of women in the industry and advice on how women should own up and lead with confidence.

June 22

On the 16th of June 1976, students across South Africa went on a peaceful march to protest the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools. They were met with police brutality and it is estimated that about 700 students were killed on that day across the country. This devastating event was a turning point in our country and paved the way to the eventual downfall of the apartheid government. It is for this reason that June is recognized as youth month in South Africa to commemorate and remember the youth of 1976.

WiBD celebrated youth month by hosting a group of young female coders on a #DevSprint event, sponsored by Integrove. The event was mostly driven by our committee members, and we spent the day developing an application based on the Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) concept.

Nikiwe Sambo

Nikiwe Sambo, our Social Media Lead and an integration developer by profession, explained the SOA concept and its applications to the students. before they started developing.

Zesulile Ngobese, the Mentorship Lead, drove the practical application with the students and provided the support they needed to get the application working.

Johanna Thathaisa, our Training Lead, took the students through Deep Learning. It was fascinating to learn how machines can be trained through algorithms to imitate the human brain. Of course, this topic brings the question of “What is the future of human careers when machines are getting this smart?,” and she was able to show us how we can all play a role in the future.

We also had Wanda Shingange, a representative from Integrove, tell us about the company and the culture it encourages among employees. She gave the students a good idea how companies operate and the soft skills they usually look for.

This was indeed a successful event—the first of its kind—with speakers sharing their work experience in their different fields. It was wonderful to have everyone in the room interact with each other, taking away valuable lessons.

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