Woman in tech of the month: Moyra Chikomo

Women in Tech of the month is our series exploring the achievements of women who are breaking gender stereotypes to build technology-based careers. This month, we’re celebrating Moyra Chikomo, a Data Scientist at PA. In our interview, Moyra discusses her current role in PA, shares her story about her journey into tech, and encourages other young to explore careers in tech.

A photo of Moyra Chikomo

Describe your role and what a typical day looks like?

I’m a data scientist who is still very much sector agnostic. I enjoy seeing how I can bring my knowledge of leveraging data to a variety of sectors, and love that PA allows me that flexibility. My role involves analysing and interpreting complex data sets to inform business decision-making. I use statistical techniques, machine learning, and programming skills to extract insights. Whenever the choice is mine; I choose to work in Python.

A typical day entails tasks ranging from meticulous data cleansing and exploratory data analysis to model development and meaningful collaboration. The dynamic nature of this role keeps me engaged, fostering a continuous learning environment as we adapt to new tools and techniques within the field.

What has your career journey been like so far?

I joined PA from academia where I was researching using data science to detect episodic medical conditions through smartwatches and phones. This involved a lot of self-learning and was my introduction to data science.

Here at PA, I’ve been part of a mix of data-related projects. Some have been more focused on pure data science and utilising machine learning. I have also worked on projects that take a few steps back in the data journey, writing data strategies for organisations. This aligns with my aspiration to gain expertise in data strategy formulation, data management, governance, architecture, and engineering, contributing to the creation of high-quality data essential for successful data science endeavours.

What advice would you give to other women looking to pursue a career in technology?

Dive in headfirst, and don’t be afraid to embrace it. Resist the temptation to specialise prematurely. Instead, explore diverse facets of technology to discover your passions and strengths. I always tell mentees and friends who are considering joining the tech space to take advantage of the many free online courses available. These resources allow you to gain insights into various domains and progressively refine your expertise.

Additionally, consider participation in hackathons, especially those tailored to women in tech, as valuable opportunities for networking and skills development. I follow this advice myself, and I plan to attend two hackathons this year.

Challenge yourself by exploring roles that feel beyond your comfort zone, fostering an environment conducive to learning and growth. Embrace exploration and embark on your tech journey with enthusiasm and determination, I’ve personally thrown myself into front-end development. When experimenting in my free time, it’s a low-stakes challenge to produce a basic app and learn by asking other developers for their top tips and tricks. So, put yourself out there and try things out.

Could you share your tips on making sure your voice is heard?

Making sure my voice is heard is something I have struggled with. I’m still working on overcoming the voice in my head that doubts what I have to say. I’ve found it helps speaking to my mentors and buddies and expressing that I’m struggling with this. Hearing they’ve gone through something similar has slowly hushed the negative voice in my head. I’ve had to trust that what I am saying is backed by my knowledge in my field. As I started to voice things with a little more confidence, I’ve seen people value my input.

On top of growing my confidence, I’ve learnt there are other things I can do to make sure my voice is heard. For example, finding great allies, and agreeing on how to work together to amplify each other’s voices. This means, having someone else in the room who can vouch for you. Not fearing to present myself as a subject matter expert is also crucial. If I know I am knowledgeable about the topic, I clearly state it to make sure everyone else is aware in the room. Lastly, I’ve learnt that perseverance is key. If my message is important and has not landed once, I continue to repeat it, perhaps at different times of the meeting, until it lands.

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