Like any new graduate with a tech degree, when I first started out in my career, I didn’t quite know where the journey would take me. But thankfully, after lots of school, trial, error, and talking with peers and mentors, I eventually found my way and forged a rewarding tech career in data science. As the industry has evolved, and through advancements in machine learning and big data, I’ve helped contribute to discoveries and solve real problems in healthcare, energy and now the cybersecurity industry as principal data scientist at Exabeam.
And I’m not alone in saying this field is rewarding. Data science continues to be one of the most loved jobs, with Glassdoor ranking it as the No. 1 job in America for four years in a row. Demand for data scientists continues to rise as companies seek to learn new insights to make better decisions about everything. Data scientist job postings have increased by 256% since December 2013, and median salaries have reached $112,000, according to an analysis of data scientist job postings over the last 12 months from Labor Insights/Burning Glass Technologies.
But it turns out that only about 15% of data scientists are women, according to a 2018 survey by Burtch Works. And according to the recent Cyberstates report, “Nationally, the composition of the tech sector workforce in 2018 consisted of 4.9 million men and 2.4 million women, translating to 68 percent and 32 percent, respectively.”
Moreover, women continue to be underrepresented in technical careers. That leaves a lot of room for more women in tech. And while some careers like “data scientist” may sound intimidating, if you’re a curious person, are passionate about innovation, and have an interest in technology, a tech career may be right for you. Here’s my advice for women who are entering and advancing in tech careers:
Don’t be intimidated.
Some women may feel reluctant to enter technology careers because they’re afraid they don’t have enough technical knowledge. However, having curiosity, not technological background, is the top reason one will succeed in careers like data science. Curiosity will inspire you to identify the problems and dig out the root causes. The biggest value data scientists have added to society is identifying how to use “old” technologies to resolve “new” problems. In addition, careers in technology are not just about acquiring technical knowledge, but about demonstrating leadership and mentorship. Women are also good at handling interpersonal relationships and often attribute to overall harmony and quality of work environments.
Talk to people.
It took me a few years to figure out that data science was my niche. I talked to lots of friends and even friends’ friends about their daily work, and whether they liked or disliked their jobs. I also went to different workshops and meetups of varying industries on the weekends and tried out some small projects. Eventually, I discovered data science fit me best. I encourage you to do the same before entering one area. Check out a list of upcoming IT events.
Spend some time teaching yourself the required skill sets before interviewing for tech jobs. Remember: After you start a career in tech, you’ll continue to learn. You may not need to know all the details, but you need to know the advantages of these new tools. You can determine how the new tools can help you, and then decide whether you need to acquire them. Even one hour today or half an hour tomorrow in your spare time helps, and you will become an expert soon. Good skill sets to have include math, statistics, coding and system design. Interested specifically in data science? Here’s a good overview of the skills you need and how to acquire them.
Follow good people.
When looking for new job opportunities, follow good companies and people instead of high salaries. When deciding where to work, remember to look for and work for people you admire and respect. Work for companies that have intelligent leaders and care about their employees.
Find a good mentor.
Women in data science fields must find a good mentor to be successful, and that requires being proactive and committing to continuously learning from superiors and peers.
Advocate for yourself.Everyone should know their worth and not be afraid of advancing. Women are sometimes willing to sacrifice financial gains in their career for other rewards. But to advance, you have to push forward and ask for what you want.
No matter what field you choose, remember to never give up on your dreams and always keep a positive attitude. And no matter what roadblocks may come, women should never let anyone limit their potential.