How to start a career in Data & Artificial Intelligence?
Kia ora everyone! As part of Microsoft’s #10kWahine initiative where we want to encourage more women to take up careers in STEM fields, I was part of a panel discussion. Some excerpts from the session are here.
A bit about me
My name is Priyanka and I am a Data & AI Sales Specialist in Microsoft, New Zealand. I am passionate about solving business problems with technology. In my 16 years of international experience across India, Germany, the USA & New Zealand, I’ve helped businesses make better decisions and improve performance by unleashing the power of their data through Business Intelligence & Analytics. My journey so far has taken me from helping C-suite execs and senior stakeholders in public and private sector organizations in designing their Data Strategies, Data Management and Data Governance practices. Along the way, I have lead, built and mentored teams to design and deliver Data and AI solutions.
How do you start your career in Information & Communications Technology (ICT)?
My path to ICT has been through Engineering. I studied Bachelor of Engineering (B.E) at MIT, Manipal, India — a small but lively town off the coast of Karnataka. Interestingly, I studied Electrical & Electronics Engineering which had no direct relevance to computing.
In the final year, we had many organizations come to our university for campus recruitment. Companies such as Infosys, TCS, Wipro, and many more. We were tested on quantitative, qualitative, coding skills, followed by an interview. I remember my name being called out amongst the 80 other people who secured a job in Wipro Technologies, Bangalore. My joy at receiving an offer letter was unsurmountable! And this is how my career in ICT began back in 2005.
However, this is not the only way to land a role in ICT. There are several roles in IT such as Project Management, Sales, Business Analysis, User Experience Design, Product Management, Marketing, etc. which you can apply to and then move around based on your interests.
As you are now in the current career stage related to Data, can you share your journey on how to get to this data-related role?
After getting selected in Wipro, I remember we were randomly allocated focus areas such as Java, Datawarehousing, Networks, and Microprocessors. We were 9 of us in data warehousing having no clue of what it meant and where it would lead us.
Then began a 3-month grueling program of learning SQL (Structured Query Language), Oracle, Teradata, and more. This was followed by an exam. Felt like we were back in university again!
After that, it was all about getting introduced to my first customer. That was the beginning. This led me to do various roles in ICT in different countries — BI developer, team lead, solution architect, manager, business consulting, leading a Data & AI practice, and now sales.
How do you see the upcoming data and AI market in NZ? What is the relevance in this market?
The Data & AI market in NZ is booming. With organizations now understanding the power of data and how it can help businesses perform — the opportunities are tremendous.
Take any industry sector — be it banking, finance, energy, construction, retail, etc — the number of use cases to explore with data & AI are numerous. Customer churn prediction, preventive maintenance of machines and roads, proactive patient care, smart insurance, smart cities are some of the many use cases that companies are working on.
Any advice to the audience who want to fast-start their journey with data & AI focus?
Gain familiarity with the field by attending MeetUps, reading books, articles from thought leaders in the industry. Grow your network!
Invest in learning about data & AI. There are several courses available online on Udemy, Coursera, LinkedIn learning, Microsoft Learn, and more.
Explore jobs that are available, read the job description and identify what gaps both you have, and start bridging those gaps.