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TechLadies Brunch – livestream event with Jana Marlé-Zizková

TechLadies Brunch – livestream event with Jana Marlé-Zizková

TechLadies is bringing to you a series of monthly livestream interviews with women in tech to discuss some of the popular technical roles we hear and see nowadays. Join our Facebook group to be the first to receive event updates!

Social distancing may be keeping us in our homes, but communities like TechLadies will always find ways to thrive. This May, amid the extended Circuit Breaker, Giselle, Vanessa, and Ning from our Events Team delivered our first completely virtual event – a livestream brunch discussion with Jana Marlé-Zizková, co-founder of Meiro and SheLovesData.

Why Data?

Thanks to organizations increasingly embracing the role of data in their decision-making process, working as a data scientist has quickly become The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century. In Singapore, where demand for tech jobs grew by 20% since 2018, data science is one of the 10 most sought after skill sets. However, is it the only data role worth pursuing? Together with Jana and Giselle we dove deep into the topic, looking at industry trends, structure of data teams, and different job roles in the area of data to answer this question.

Data Project Roles

Data consultancies and internal data teams can deliver immense value to organizations. With the global shift from offline to online (amplified by the crisis in the past few months), companies got access to incredible amounts of information about their customers’ behaviour, preferences, and needs. According to Jana, by treating data as an asset and creating data availability for business users – by implementing technologies that help translate raw data into readable information – data teams help businesses make strategic decisions that will have a positive effect on the bottom line. 

Using her expertise as a data consultant, Jana explained how different roles work together to implement data-oriented solutions in organizations. There are many roles on a data project, taking care of all aspects of the implementation process:

CTO (Chief Technology Officer) – verifies the architecture behind the solution

CDO (Chief Data Officer) – responsible for data strategy as a part of an overall business strategy

Business experts – define business needs of the organization

Business consultant – bridge between the business and the IT team

IT, security, and data compliance – decide how to securely access the data

Data Security officers – defining rules and data governance procedures which may be country- and company-specific

Data engineers – technical team taking care of the architecture, finding secure and efficient ways to get and clean the data

Data analysts – working on the final form of the data that the client will see

UX and UI teams – last mile delivery and the look and feel of the product

Client services director – project manager, managing all communication with the client and the team

Data Scientist, Data Analyst, Data Engineer – what is the difference?

Project team breakdown made the distinction between different roles much clearer, but the three roles – data scientist, data analyst, and data engineer – are so frequently confused we discussed them in a bit more detail.

  • Data engineer – often forgotten title. Critical role, basically equivalent to a database administrator. Understands the principles of ETL: how to extract, transform, and load the data. Data engineers build and maintain the logic of the pipeline so the data is ready for future analysis. They also control how we store and move the data. Skills: SQL, Python, R, Apache Hadoop, databases, pipelines, and structuring data for further use in the organization.
  • Data Analyst – needs to understand ETL, know where the data is coming from, if it’s clean, structured or unstructured. Performs simple transformations. Skills: SQL, Python, R or any other language used for simple data transformation, data visualisation tools such as Google Data Studio, Tableau, Power BI, DOMO.
  • Data Scientist – works on mining and defining data, creates algorithms and models, “teaches” machines how to find valuable information, allowing humans to find hidden patterns in data. Skills: Statistics, mathematics, programming; understanding business problems; machine learning, deep learning, text analysis.
Giselle (left) and Jana (right) during our live Q&A

How to get started?

As it’s always the case with starting in a new industry, you need to begin with some research. “There are many free resources out there,” Giselle advised data newbies. “Get into fundamentals, try a Statistics 101 refresher, try different languages, find one you are most comfortable with – this way you will quickly know if this is your cup of tea and which areas you’d like to study in more depth.” If you’re not sure which languages to choose, SQL and Python are always a great starting point. While SQL is the key tool when going into the field of data, Python is a versatile programming language with a great community, many free resources, and groups like PyLadies to reach out to for support. 

Practical experience, says Jana, means more than certificates and diplomas. Being comfortable with SQL is a must and a good starting point for going into a data job. “It doesn’t matter if you’re self-taught,” assures Jana. “If you have the passion and curiosity – join study groups, get an internship, work somewhere for 3-6 months to gain experience. This will be your stepping stone to a junior analyst job.” According to Jana, certain skills and attitude are more important than formal education. Critical thinking, following correct logic, as well as understanding the circumstances of the client and the context of their industry can get you a long way. Building a GitHub portfolio can also help you land your first job.

Jana gave a few examples from her own team at Meiro. Her colleagues come from all walks of life and educational backgrounds: mathematics and statistics, software testing, project management. What they all have in common is passion for data and life-long learning. They relied on many different resources to build their skill sets: Udemy and Udacity online classes, data science courses provided by the Singaporean Government, learning through work experience and small projects.

What matters most is that you never stop learning. Data is an industry that never stops and always keeps you searching for new information – you will need to have patience and perseverance if you are considering this field. To stay relevant, you will have to be open to new, emerging fields such as data science applications in retail, education, human capital analytics, safety and security, marketing, and business administration. For those considering a career switch, your understanding of a specific domain area and the characteristics and challenges of an industry might be your greatest advantage and give you a leg up when searching for a data job. Build your domain expertise from your past experience and add your data skillset on top of that.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a techie but a business user, building basic data literacy can be a valuable addition to your skillset. If current trends are any indication, organizations will shift from lengthy written reports to data visualisation tools. Learning the basics of SQL or software such as Google Data Studio or Tableau will allow you to communicate better with analysts and data specialists in your organization, understand your KPIs better, and make more informed business decisions. It will also open the door to some of the emerging roles such as marketing technologist that bridge the gap between tech and business. 

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TechLadies Brunch will be back soon – follow us on Facebook to keep an eye on future event announcements. To watch the recording of our full interview with Jana, visit our Facebook group (available to member’s only). If you want to share your feedback about the event with us, complete this short survey: https://tinyurl.com/TLlivestreamJana

Meet Vanessa – Curious Introvert, Engineer, TechLady

The TechLadies Bootcamp is a 12-week part-time accelerated learning program designed to help women with some basic programming background become programmers. Participants are guided by industry experts, creating products for non-profit organizations. 6 ladies were chosen for the TechLadies Bootcamp #4. In this blog series, we will be sharing more about their backgrounds and learning journeys. Hopefully that’ll inspire you to start learning how to code!

Vanessa Cassandra (CRF) - Curious Introvert, Engineer, TechLady

1. If you could tell a story about yourself in one or a few sentences, what would it be?

Born in Indonesia, I moved to Singapore 10 years ago for my studies. I spent most of my free time reading comic books, daydreaming, and trying out new activities.

2. What are you currently working as?

After graduation, I joined an industrial automation company as an application engineer. In my everyday work, I help people implementing control system in their industrial application, e.g. the control system in a semiconductor packaging machine.

3. What sparked your interest in learning how to code?

I started learning how to code in university. It was a compulsory module at that time, and they taught us programming in C. After that, I continued coding because I joined a robotics club and we had to program a microcontroller (again, in C). After that, I continued coding because my workplace requires us to do some coding for the automation system. So, I started learning how to code simply because it was needed in school and at the workplace.

The part about coding that I enjoyed the most is the “eureka” moment when you managed to solve a problem after spending hours of debugging. It feels like I could run around screaming “It works!! It works!!” and it can give you a morale boost.

The part about coding that I enjoyed the most is the “eureka” moment when you managed to solve a problem after spending hours of debugging.

4. What was your first thought or reaction when you heard about TechLadies?

I think it’s great that we have a community to help more ladies to learn about or get into the tech industries.

5. Why did you want to apply to the TechLadies Bootcamp?

So far, my programming experience has been hardware-related. I have been learning about website technology by myself, but am lacking the experience of working in a group.

I applied because I think it will be a very good experience to work with the coaches to find out about the best practices in the industry and consult them about things. These are the things that would be difficult if you’re learning on your own.

6. What are some of the challenges you faced while learning how to code?

Website technologies change too fast, and tutorials you find online might be outdated in no time. When you’re debugging, the answers you find might not work because the engine behind has changed. There are hundreds of ways of using to achieve and at times it can be quite confusing.

Coming from C background, it was quite frustrating when I started learning Javascript because it does not behave as expected. My strategy is to google and use answers that are not outdated by more than a year :’) I’m actually still struggling with this, so if any of you out there have some tips, please let me know!

7. Describe the TechLadies project you’re working on and why you selected this project.

We’re building a quiz app for EarthFest Singapore to find out your current habits in relation to the environment, and to encourage you to pick up more green habits. We’re using Vue.js for the UI framework. We also use the interact.js library to make the action cards draggable. There is no back end involved (for now) as Data is populated from Google Sheets.

I selected this project because it’s heavy on the front-end, and I find front-end as a mysterious magic world where you need to know the magic tricks and the magic words (e.g. when to put “overflow: hidden”) to make things work. I believe I can learn a lot of things from this project.

8. How do you see yourself using your coding skills for in the future?

I hope to be able to build educational and thought-provoking interactive apps that can educate people or trigger a social change. I’m a fan of Nicky Case’s works, especially this one titled “We Become What We Behold“.
He started Explorable Explanations, which is a wonderful initiative.

I’m particularly interested in data visualization e.g. data journalism because it’s in line with what I hope to achieve. At this moment, I’m still exploring the various industries and opportunities.

Everybody has their own way of learning, but I personally find it more helpful if I have a specific goal to work towards to…. All in all, everybody has their own preferred learning method, and you should find your own, too.

9. What is one advice you will give to a lady who is thinking about learning how to code?

Everybody has their own way of learning, but I personally find it more helpful if I have a specific goal to work towards to.

When I learn how to code just for the sake of learning code, I easily get bored and most of the time I couldn’t finish the tutorials I found online (I spent more time filtering the tutorials than actually reading them). I had to set my mind on a goal, like a specific project, e.g. to make a personal website.

The process: Start doing -> Face a problem -> Google how to solve the problem -> End up in a tutorial article / website -> Apply the learned tricks -> Doesn’t work -> Google other solutions -> End up in another tutorial -> Repeat until it works -> I learn something new and I will actually remember it

This method may not work for some people. They may need the foundational knowledge before they can actually do anything. In that case, following basic tutorials is actually better than diving into a project.

Some people may prefer reading a reference book instead because not all tutorials on the internet are fantastic (at least online tutorials do not need an editor). I personally think that a lot of tutorials will teach you “how to make it work”, but books may teach you the underlying principle behind that may enhance your understanding of the topic.

All in all, everybody has their own preferred learning method, and you should find your own, too.

TechLadies 2016 – Year in Review

How was your 2016? I hope it was as great as ours! It’s still a little hard to believe that TechLadies was only launched in 2016, I still remember it like it was yesterday.

Despite being less than 1 year old, we’ve touched 629 people with our events, workshops & bootcamps; taught 111 ladies how to code; and saw 3 of these ladies getting internships and 2 more ladies hired as junior software engineers.

Thank you for an awesome 2016 and for being part of TechLadies! 🎉

Let’s take a quick look at what we did in 2016.

January

27 Jan – TechLadies was born!

TechLadies had our launch party at Facebook Singapore where the community get to know who we are, learn about the TechLadies Bootcamp was about, and hear from a panel of industry experts on what it’s like to be a women in tech. Thank you to our global panel of speakers Michelle, Ludwine, Hui Jing and Aislinn who graciously contributed their time!

I was initially worried if we could fill up the venue (which our coach Hui Jing assured me that if nobody showed up, we’ll have our own private party) but we filled it up with a bunch of amazing passionate women! I am AWED.

29 Jan – Our launch was covered by e27!

The launch event was covered by e27, one of the best tech site in Asia. I particularly like this quote I gave, and it still rings true today.

TechLadies was started when so many people volunteered to help. It’s easy to give me all the credits because I’m the face of TechLadies, but really, it was the people who helped that inspired me to start TechLadies.

And as the writer Kevin McSpadden puts it, “time to put on those coding capes.

February

20 Feb – We had the first TechLadies Bootcamp!

9 ladies were chosen out of 129 applicants to participate in the first TechLadies Bootcamp. Back then, we called the program TechLadies Coding Programme but changed the name because it was too long and we often confused ourselves if we were using the British or American spelling for “programme”.

These ladies worked in groups of 3, spent at least 15 hours a week to create web applications for 3 non-profit organizations – Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, Asian Film Archive and Engineers.SG.

Read about their stories here:  SharonVinaXin TianKateYitingCasieSandyErika, and Cornet.

May

5 May – We held the first TechLadies Graduation Party!

The newly minted tech ladies have graduated from the TechLadies Bootcamp and presented their applications to 180 attendees at Google Singapore. 2 of these graduates will eventually get into programming internships, and 2 more were hired as software engineers. Proud of all of them! You can watch the video recording of the event here. 

18 May – We kicked off the TechLadies Tech Talks series!

The TechLadies Bootcamp grads had the idea of creating a platform for beginners to share their technical knowledge. Running with that idea, TechLadies Tech Talks was born! In these talks, you will learn about various programming languages from ladies who are picking up the skill. We held the first of this series in May, featuring the Ruby programming language. You can watch the video recording of the event here. 

29 May – TechLadies was featured in The Sunday Times!


Kate (our bootcamp grad), Jaryl (her coach) and I were featured on The Sunday Times as part of their feature on tech education in Singapore. You can read the article at this link.

June

24 June – Xin Tian spoke at the Red Dot Ruby Conference!


Our bootcamp grad, Xin Tian, gave a lightning talk at the Ruby conference in Singapore, sharing the lessons she learned from learning how to code in Ruby. In the audience is Matz, the creator of the Ruby programming language! You can watch her talk here. 

August

2 Aug – TechLadies Bootcamp returned!


The bootcamp was back, and this time BIGGER! We have expanded our intake from 9 to 15, and helping 5 NGOs use technology for good. We held an info session where the NGOs presented the challenges they were facing, the coaches gave a quick introduction on what solutions the bootcamp participants would be building, and we heard from Audrey, Nithya, and Olivia exploring the possible careers paths in the tech industry. You can watch the video recording of the event here. 

Also, this is our biggest event so far!

6, 13, 20 Aug – We ran 3 pre-bootcamp workshops!


We learned that it is important for TechLadies Bootcamp participants to have some sort of programming foundation in order to build a web product that will be used by the NGOs. So we ran 3 workshops to teach women basic programming skills! 93 women attended these workshops, and 5 of them were chosen to participate in the TechLadies Bootcamp #2. You can watch the video recording of all 3 workshops here. 

11 Aug – We had the 2nd installment of the TechLadies Tech Talks on Python!

We shared about Python this time round. Do watch the talks by Vina and Junqi! 🐍

Sep

24 Sep – TechLadies Bootcamp #2 was ON!


15 ladies were selected for the TechLadies Bootcamp #2, out of 41 applicants. Why the drop in the number of applicants, you ask? Good question. That’s because we’ve upped the application requirements – each lady needs to create an application before they can apply for the bootcamp… to learn how to build an application. We are all amazed by the quality of applications these applicants created without much guidance!

28 Sep – We were mentioned in Tech in Asia!

Tech in Asia published an article on people making a mid-career switch into the tech industry and TechLadies was mentioned! Read the article here.

Oct

1 Oct – We were featured on Her World!

Singapore’s best-selling women’s magazine, Her World, ran a feature on TechLadies. Psst! That’s Ruby codes in there.

Dec

3 Dec – We concluded the TechLadies Bootcamp #2!


Sadly, a bootcamp participant decided to drop out of the program midway due to personal reasons (we wish her all the best!) and we couldn’t onboard someone new by then. 😔

Nonetheless, 14 ladies graduated from the TechLadies Bootcamp #2 and created applications for Mutts Rescue, I Am Talented, TOUCH Young Arrows, Highpoint Community Services Association, and Singapore Muslim Women’s Association. They will be showing you the apps they have made in Jan 2017!

It takes a village to raise a TechLady

Everything that we have achieved with TechLadies in 2016 is no doubt a community effort with people stepping up to volunteer their time, expertise, skills, and money. I’m grateful to each and every one of you who have helped us along the way. 😘

Thank you Xin Tian, Kate, Joelle, Cherie, Nikki, Amanda, Estella, Michelle, and Xinhua for volunteering your time in the less than glamorous job to make sure that the blog, Facebook page and our events happen.

Thank you Martin, Jaryl, Michael (for stepping up to be a coach at the last min), Sherwin, Ted, Laurence, Grzegorz, Gabe for spending 100 hours to bring more women into the tech industry.

Thank you Varun, Monika, Kiong, Jesstern, Sunny, Jen, Junqi, Guo Xiang, Ken, Martin, Aysha, Justin, Sher Minn, Sean for taking time out on Saturdays for the pre-bootcamp workshops.

Thank you Chee Aun, Gia and Wei Man for your UX/UI skills, and Engineers.SG for recording so much of our events. By documenting our events, you helped us maximize our impact.

And thank you sponsors The Artling, PayPal, Facebook, Google, IMDA Labs, Tinkerbox & Bitmazk for keeping TechLadies going!

Future Plans 💯

Woo! That was a long review article, wasn’t it?

For 2017, we’re going to do more for women around Asia. Yes! We are going overseas!!! ✈️✈️✈️✈️

Here’s what we have in store:

  • 17 Jan: TechLadies Bootcamp #2 – Graduation Party!
  • Feb onwards: TechLadies Study Groups
  • 18 – 19 Feb: TechLadies Coding Weekend in Kuala Lumpur
  • Apr – Aug: Pre-Bootcamp Workshops & TechLadies Bootcamp #3

We are also thinking of running TechLadies Coding Weekends in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Pakistan. Want TechLadies in your city? Email Elisha at elisha@techladies.co to get started!

Have a great 2017!

 

Stay curious,
Elisha & team

Why we started TechLadies

Participants and coaches for TechLadies Coding Program

When I was starting my previous tech startup back in 2011, I couldn’t find a tech cofounder to join me. That was when I decided that I was going to learn how to code the product myself. The biggest challenge I had was this ­ – “where do I start?”

I started hanging out at Hackerspace to learn from other programmers, and I remembered the discomfort I felt about how out of place I was at my first few visits. I have zero technical knowledge. I felt like a misfit among them – I was one of the few females there, I didn’t know “programmer speak” and I don’t understand what they were talking most of the time. But as I got to know the tech community better, and learned more and more about programming, ­ I fell in love with it.

Programming isn’t just a bunch of codes on a screen; it’s the ability to create. It’s the ability to solve your problems (or someone else’s problem); it’s the ability to dream up a tool and code it into existence. It’s beautiful; it’s like a superpower. 

And the best part about programming?

The programming languages are free to use.

People create useful tools and give them all away. Not just tools, people share their knowledge and help other with their coding problems ­ all for free. The culture of giving is very evident and prevalent in the tech community, and it’s something that has always inspired me.

It’s a shame the tech industry is a male­dominated one and sexism is real. Even in Singapore, the gender ratio at any tech meetup is heavily skewed towards men. Gender ratio imbalance in tech is a big problem to tackle – it’ll probably involve education, government, and unions. But that doesn’t mean that a small group of people passionate about the problem can’t try inching towards that goal. 

This is why TechLadies was created.   

We are a group of people passionate about getting more women into the tech scene. ­We want more women to come to love programming just as much as everyone in the tech industry does, without the perception that programming is a men’s thing or that the tech community is a men’s club. 

TechLadies is a community-­led initiative that introduces more women, and those who identify themselves as one, to programming and the tech industry. We’re trying out a different method of introducing women to programming by focusing a lot of resources to get them into the industry as programmers.

We’ll start with nine women.

These nine women are participants of our 8-week coding boot camp, TechLadies Coding Program, where they will learn how to code by coding an app for non­profit organizations. We’re cultivating the giving culture we see in tech by making this program free and help them contribute to their community with the apps that they create. 

The TechLadies Coding Program’s 9 participants come from very diverse backgrounds. They consist of an air stewardess, a chemical engineer student, a linguistics student, a gymnastics coach, a student entrepreneur, a management consultant, a WordPress developer, a pharmaceutical sales representative, and a customer service rep. They each have dreams they want to pursue with the ability to code.

It’s AMAZING where they come from and where they want to go. In this blog, we will share their stories and coding journey with the world. If you wish to get updates right in your inbox, please sign up for our newsletters below. Otherwise, you can also like us on Facebook to stay in touch.

See you soon!