Interview with Rebecca Watson, Data Analyst AI at Jedox
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science was established in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly to recognize the critical role women and girls play in science and technology. Since then, February 11 is the day women in organizations around the world gather each year to share their experiences in science and technology. We asked Rebecca Watson, Data Analyst AI at Jedox, to share her perspective.
You were part of starting this initiative at Jedox. Why do you think this day is so important?
Girls are often steered away from studying or pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields from a young age, being told things like “math is something that is easier for boys” and other stereotypes that simply are not true.
Because of this, we see fewer and fewer women working in these fields, and even fewer working in leadership roles. Lifting up women who work in these fields gives us the opportunity to recognize how hard they have worked to get to where they are, but also to show girls and young women that the possibility is there. Hopefully, it will also make it easier for them to get jobs like this in the future.
You work in a scientific field at Jedox. What makes this work attractive to you?
I work in the research department at Jedox, specifically as a data analyst. Since I was young I have loved computers, whether it be playing games or marveling at how easy they can make life for us. The first program I wrote was for a graphing calculator when I was 14. It seemed like magic, being able to talk to a computer and have it talk back. Since then, I have always found an excuse to learn new things about technology and find ways to work with it.
Working with the Artificial Intelligence Team at Jedox is probably one of the coolest things I have ever done because I am developing part of a product that helps customers be more comfortable using machine learning and AI without having to be an AI expert. Making technology accessible is an incredible feeling.
How did you decide to become a Data Analyst?
When I began my studies, I was hoping to work in a technical field. Unfortunately, I had a bad experience in my first semester of college where I studied math that ended with me switching to a technical writing track. From there I worked as a journalist and later switched to marketing. But I always found a way to bring data into the picture.
I coordinated government records for a business newspaper and helped other journalists research stories by querying these databases. In marketing, I was always looking for an excuse to analyze the data from the different campaigns we were running. But once I moved into leadership, I had less opportunity to work with data and realized how unhappy I was working in my field. When I analyzed which parts of the jobs I did that I liked most, working with data was always at the top. And because I was lucky enough to have a supportive partner, I was able to take time off to learn data science skills. And since working for Jedox, I can say that this was the right decision, because I enjoy feeling happy to go to work! That was hardly the case before.
What would you recommend to other women thinking about a job in science or technology?
Do what interests you. Don’t study something because someone says you should, and at the same time, if you are interested in something that you’ve been told isn’t really for you, study it anyway. It won’t always be easy, but it is possible! Stick close to people who support you, and spend as little time as possible around those who demean you or give back-handed compliments. Ask for help. Look for organizations that will invest in you, whether it’s getting a mentor or a scholarship, take the support you can and fight for the support you need. And have fun!
Last question – what are your greatest achievements and what are your plans for the future?
There are a lot of things I have done in my life that I am proud of. As a journalist I was awarded a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund scholarship and worked at the 13th largest newspaper (at the time) in the U.S., the newspaper of record in Minnesota. As a marketer, I established an entire social media and blog platform for a software company which developed, among other things, comic book creation software. I worked with a lot of talented artists and even got paid to realize a long-held dream of going to Comic Con in San Diego. But I would say my biggest achievement in the past decade is moving to Germany from the United States, putting down roots in Freiburg and changing careers.
As far as the future is concerned, I want to learn more about data science and programming and take that education to make Jedox’s AI component even more compelling and easy to use. I also am in contact with GirlsWhoCode, an American organization that teaches girls computer programming skills for free and is looking to expand its international clubs (it has clubs in the UK and Canada as well). As soon as it finalizes its European application (the goal is 2020), I aim to start at least one group in Freiburg, with the help of other organizations including Jedox. I also hope to join a mentoring program in the coming years.
We want to thank Rebecca for taking the time to talk with us about her experiences. At Jedox, we value equality and are happy that many of our female colleagues took the opportunity for discussions and the exchange of experiences and ideas at our global headquarters in Freiburg, Germany on February 11, 2020. Only by communicating important issues can we start to change them.