Data science, being the young field that it is, has a ton of avenues for entrance. Specifically, women and minorities are approaching this field from both traditional and non-traditional paths.
This many part series will focus on women/non-binaries in data science and how they got to where they are.
Currently, I am a Senior Data Scientist working at a Cyber security firm called Cybraics, Inc, so I’ll start with my story. It begins in high school with an amazing Trig teacher and a girl who wouldn’t stop teasing me.
I happened to really adore the teacher who taught my Trig class, now Dr. Bynum. She was snarky, rode a red motorcycle to school everyday, and really loved teaching. I stayed after school for help, visited Dr. Bynum at lunch, and worked hard on my own. But this girl in my Trig class (Let’s call her Susan) wouldn’t leave me alone. I wasn’t good at the snarky comebacks at that time that I am known for now, and the way I got back at people was making better grades. Every test, Susan and I were neck and neck with Susan always being slightly better. I kept working, and the last test I beat her by five points. Susan had a conniption. She stood up and yelled across the room, “How could you beat me? I have a TI-92 calculator, it does everything for me!” This calculator was not allowed in this class. Dr. Bynum heard and told her she couldn’t use it for the final. I got an A in that class, Susan failed. I tell this story, not because I want to shame anyone, but to show that talents creep up on you when you least expect them to.
This talent for math didn’t register until college when I was majoring in Business and taking Calculus 2 for fun, also with an amazing female math teacher, Mrs. Tsai. I realized I better change my major. I ended up with a BS in Applied Math, doing some really cool undergraduate research using graph theory to study Facebook networks, and I was hooked on data. I got my MS in Applied Mathematics studying Facebook networks and MSM (Men who have sex with men) networks, and then my PhD in Biomathematics studying animal social networks and movement, specifically prairie dogs and ants. Each of my graduate degrees consisted of many small projects instead of one giant one. All, I would consider, data science projects, though at that time, data science wasn’t well known, and definitely unknown to me. I didn’t realize it was a thing until I started applying for jobs.
I did the job application thing, like I do all things, with a fierce intensity. applied for 200 jobs in a week. From that set, I got four in-person interviews. One of the companies, L3 Data Tactics, was a data science firm in McLean, VA. After three rounds of phone interviews, I had to double check when they asked about salary that they were really offering me a job because I was shocked at both the fact I was getting a job and the salary was what I was going to ask for. I was suffered from imposter syndrome all through graduate school and still do occasionally. I moved to DC, and worked for L3 Data Tactics for almost 2 years. I was put on a cyber security government contract, using my network analysis skills to find anomalies in cyber data. It was during this job that I noticed the lack of women in data science.
I was the only woman on a 40 person data science team when I co-founded a meetup, Women Data Scientists DC (I am still the only woman on a data science team, but there’s only 6 of us)). Over 100 members joined that first week, which floored me. Now we are just over two years old and we have almost 1800. After a few months, that meetup was asked to join Data Community DC, and now I am president of Data Community DC.
My data science path has been slightly traditional in it’s math and computer science background stemming in academia, but it’s also pretty unique.
In the next installment of this series, I will tell someone else’s story.
Amanda Traud is a Senior Data Scientist. She earned her PhD in Biomathematics at North Carolina State University. She is currently at Cybraics, where she uses graph theory and machine learning to find anomalies in cyber data, liaisons between teams for Proof of Concepts, and leads the Cybraics diversity initiative.
Amanda believes strongly in community and is the Co-founder of Women Data Scientists DC and President of Data Community DC.
You can follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter, her website, or the continuation of this blog!
About our blog:
This blog (like Flock) was formed to amplify the voices of underrepresented technologists and help all of us fly higher together.