Africa Women in Data Science - Making a Difference Through Mentoring
Fanamby Randriamahenintsoa was one of the speakers at the Africa Women in Data Science event in March 2022, co-organised by DARA Big Data and SARAO. She gave a fascinating overview of her career journey from software engineering to the current day, where she now works as a data scientist (watch her talk here). After the event several women who were in attendance reached out to her to ask for mentoring in the field of data science, which she provided to them. Two of them were young Malagasy students who needed technical support guidance and advice on the data science job market in Madagascar. The other was a Nigerian Physics PhD student who needed assistance with finding the right resources to start building her data science career. This bespoke support is invaluable for women hoping to build a career in such a male-dominated field; the development of an informal continent-wide network was one of the desired outcomes of the Africa Women in Data Science event.
Fanamby holds an MSc in Computer Science, majoring in business computing, software engineering and AI. She took part in the 20/21 Africa Data Science Intensive, a high-level skills training programme organised by SARAO, and was deemed to be one of the top participants in the programme that year. She has work experience as both a software developer and a research and development engineer but in 2020 became a data scientist, starting a role with the South African company VoxCroft Analytics. Fanamby really enjoys the challenges and variety of her current role and has found her company supportive and keen to help her develop her career further. She had previously requested data science mentoring herself from a former colleague, saying that she knew she would find it much harder to navigate the learning curve otherwise. Having benefited from this herself she has been happy to try and help others in a similar situation.
In early 2022 Fanamby attended a professional event in Madagascar where she was asked to talk about her background and career to participants in the SESAME programme. SESAME supports disadvantaged Malagasy youth into higher education and provides them with important career guidance and skills training. One of these participants, Thérésia, is about to start her Bachelors degree and reached out to Fanamby to ask if she could mentor her. Thérésia said ‘being a young and ambitious person, innovative, and wanting to contribute to the development of my country, I would like to major in Computer Science to work as a Data Scientist afterwards. Mentorship is one of the ways that can help me build my career path. Receiving support and advice from someone who is already working in the field will give me a taste of the reality of the job.’ Fanamby has been providing assistance to Thérésia with her learning and study projects and has also given her valuable insight into entering the data science field.
This is not the only mentorship success story from the Africa Women in Data Science event; others throughout the day reached out to speakers and benefited from it. Women are keen to help other women succeed in a field that can be challenging and exclusive. Fanamby has kindly offered the below beneficial suggestions and tips to other potential female data scientists;
It is worth learning if you love it
Never be afraid to ask for support if you feel like you are alone in the learning process, or if you do not know where to start. Nobody knows everything, but everyone can help each other. Plus, there are many communities nowadays that support and promote female data science enthusiasts
Search for your role model, this is extremely important for early-career data scientists
Challenge yourself and be curious and eager for knowledge since data science is a long-term evolving field
Finally, practice by doing, this is the best way to grow in the field. And it does work!