Graphic illustration of hands giving high fives for Aus Women in Tech article.

Data Science

Meet Some Kick-A** Women Paving the Way in Data Science & IT

By Slalom Australia

Earlier this month, we hosted a “Speed Hiring” event (same concept as speed dating!) with Girl Geek Sydney and loved meeting more than 40 ambitious women. As we continue our growth journey, Slalom is on the look-out for talented new team members to join our awesome team. Partnering with Girl Geek to connect with inspiring women ready to take the next step in their careers, was a natural fit.

Girl Geek Sydney is a volunteer-run community group focusing on promoting and engaging women in technology in Sydney and is part of the global Girl Geek network.

At Slalom we are proud to have a diverse and inclusive people-first culture where everyone is inspired and empowered to make their own unique impact. In fact, one of our inclusion and diversity communities at Slalom Australia, Women’s Leadership Network Australia (WLN), is a group open to all genders and committed to engaging and inspiring every woman at Slalom to achieve her full potential.

Two kick-a** team members, Yao Yao and Becky Jamieson, were part of the Girl Geek Speed Hiring Panel last week.

Yao is a Senior Data Engineer specialising in machine learning (how cool!).

Meanwhile, Becky is a Solutions Consultant (which means she may just have all the answers…).

We sat down with the two leaders to understand how they have built successful careers in a relatively male-dominated industry.

Can you tell us more about your role at Slalom?

YY: As a senior data engineer, I build data-driven solutions to help our clients solve real-world business problems. As data engineers at Slalom, we enjoy getting our hands dirty on everything data-related, such as data modelling, ETL, AI/ML and cloud data platforms. We also need to collaborate closely with front-end/back-end developers to ensure the solutions are built effectively.

BJ: I am a Solution Owner at Slalom Build. My role is focused on helping clients develop and implement IT solutions, which could involve anything from building custom software and data products to helping solve problems through AI and Machine Learning.

What advice do you have for aspiring female leaders looking to get into an IT or a data-led role?

YY: From my perspective a career in data science is one where you are always learning and feeling challenged. Not to mention, these roles are in incredibly high demand and I truly believe the job empowers you to feel fulfilled and be the best version of yourself. A data scientist professional needs strong math and computing skills, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These skills build the base of your career and make you irreplaceable.

My ultimate advice for female data science professionals is quite simple: You need to ignore all these pre-assumptions and biases towards female abilities solving complex mathematical problems. At the end of the day, trust yourself and work hard on your skills.

BJ: The first thing I would say is: don’t believe the stereotypes. There are some incredible women working in IT fighting to pave the way, making it easier for aspiring women to enter the industry. In my experience, the same standards apply to everyone in IT if you work hard and continue to learn and grow in your field. The key thing is don’t be scared to make your voice heard even if you are the only female in the room, it’s always good to have another perspective in the conversation.

Have you faced any challenges getting to where you are today? If yes, how did you overcome these obstacles?

YY: Challenges make me who I am today, and I will be further shaped by more challenges in the future. Conquering self-doubt is an ongoing battle in a relatively male-dominated industry. Over the years I have had my doubts about accomplishing tasks as well as men. It took me years to beat self-doubt and build the trust that I can develop strong math and computing skills too. Instead of being influenced by stereotypes and biases, I decided to become bolder in my convictions and just ignored these comments suggesting I pursue another career more suitable for “girls”. I think as women; we sometimes listen too much but ignore too little.

We have a wonderful community here called Slalom’s Women’s Leadership Network Australia (WLN). It’s my go-to place if I need some support to keep smiling!

BJ: In the past I’ve worked in some small companies where my opinion was always pushed to the side, not because I am a woman but because I was more junior than other people in the room. In order to overcome this, I was always persistent in my opinion and found it helped to research and document a more detailed view to play back to the team.

In your opinion what sets Slalom apart from other organisations you’ve worked for?

YY: Slalom encourages you to be your authentic self in the working environment. I can be the real me and get my work done at the same time. Our open-minded and inclusive culture respects all personalities and gender differences. It’s OK to be a person who builds machine learning models and like pink unicorns at the same time.

BJ: One of my favourite things about Slalom is that you are really encouraged to be your whole self. You don’t have to hide who you are, and people will love you for it. This is the first time in my career that I can truly call my colleagues friends. Slalom is one big happy family and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

Any work accomplishments you wish to share during your last few months working at Slalom Australia?

YY: I’m currently working with a client in the marine industry to build autonomous vessels. It’s such an interesting yet challenging project, and I feel very lucky to be able to explore the cutting-edge technologies and make real impacts in the industry. Unlike autonomous vehicles, which has reached a relatively mature stage, autonomous vessels are still in early development and challenges like tough weather, lack of training dataset, limited use cases still need attention.

Our machine learning team has successfully built a prototype model that can identify boats, estimate distance and direction of the boats with only a camera. There is definitely more we need to do, and we all look forward to developing it further!

BJ: I was lucky to be part of the team for the first ever Slalom Build Australia project. Having the opportunity to set the scene for future projects and put that first mark on the Australian market is a huge achievement, not just for myself but for the entire company. I am also part of the Slalom Australia founding 50, it’s fair to say it’s been a great start!

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