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I had the pleasure and honor of moderating the Women in Big Data Luncheon Panel at Dataworks Summit in San Jose on June 19, 2018.   The panel represented a diverse cross section of accomplished technical women from around the world.  I thank our panel members for sharing their uplifting perspectives with our audience:

Photo Credit: @Roni_Fontaine

Barbara Eckman, Principal Data Architect, Comcast
Bhakti Hinduja, Bigdata Software Engineer, Intel Corporation and Core Committee Member, Women in Big Data Santa Clara
Toni LeTempt, Senior Technical Expert, Walmart, Inc.
Janet Li, Big Data IT Manager, HP, Inc.
Kristel Sampson, Release Train Engineer, Standard Ban

Bhakti Hinduja opened the meeting with a presentation describing the challenges and opportunities for women in Big Data.  A McKinsey study found that in 2018 demand for Big Data talent will exceed supply by 50 – 60% but women comprise less than 20% of the technology work force.   For companies struggling to find qualified workers women provide untapped potential.  Bhakti talked about the mission and worldwide work of WiBD to inspire, connect, grow, and champion the success of women in Big Data.

The panel discussion started with introductions and a summary of the use cases delivering value at each organization.  From logistics to financial systems the panelists described how data was transforming their organizations.  The panelists found the most challenging part of the job was managing expectations of their customers.  Big Data is an emerging technology and customers at times had unrealistic expectations of what it can do.  The panelists described the paths to their current position.   Their journeys often took unexpected turns but each panelist was happy to land in Big Data.

Another theme of the panel was inclusiveness.  Encouraging diversity is important but creating a workplace that is both comfortable and helps women grow their careers is equally important.    Without inclusiveness women can feel discouraged and marginalized and ultimately end up moving to a different organization or dropping out of the technology field. Panelists shared some examples that made their own workplace more welcoming including having a manager “like me” and colleagues with shared interests to talk to.

Panelists admitted they felt the need to over achieve and always be proving themselves.  However, as women we need to fight the imposter syndrome and believe in ourselves.  We need to accept that we deserve to be where we are and it wasn’t just a stroke of good luck.

The audience of one hundred women and men was attentive and asked thought provoking questions.  A woman starting out in her career asked how to decide if she should stick with a technical track or go into management.   While this is not an easy decision, the panelists offered that women shouldn’t be afraid to take advantage of opportunities to try new roles and accept projects that are outside their comfort zone.  They were encouraged to go boldly and not be afraid of failure.   Trying new things, accepting challenges, and failure is key to growth and gains in experience.  Experience helps women understand more about themselves and informs next steps in their career path.

Thanks again to everyone who attended and to the panelists for their all their words of wisdom.  We hope the attendees will take the thoughts and affirmations back to their work places and we look forward to seeing everyone next time.

How to Get Involved with Women in Big Data

To learn more about Women in Big Data view the video.   To become a member, partner, or sponsor visit womeninbigdata.org, join the Women in Big Data Forum LinkedIn group, attend a meetup near you, or follow @DataWomen on Twitter.

About the Author

Carolyn Duby is a Solutions Engineer and Chair of Women @ Hortonworks, an employee resource group supporting women in all roles at Hortonworks.  We aim to make Hortonworks a top company for women to work.   We work to increase gender diversity with the goal of creating a stronger company and strengthening the bottom line.

Carolyn is a subject matter expert in data science and cyber security and frequent speaker on open source technologies at conferences such as Open Data Science Conference, Dataworks Summit and Strata.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the Women @ Hortonworks board members, especially Roni Fontaine and the Women in Big Data Core Committee members, especially Bhakti Hinduja and Suja Viswesan.  Thanks to Diana Yanez-Pastor of Hortonworks for recruiting our excellent panelists.

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