STEM Up: Sukanya Tiwatne

My name is Sukanya, and I am a data scientist! I have a Master’s degree in Business Analytics and I love reading (check out – ‘Why We Sleep’ and thank me later 😉), calligraphy, and researching about data science. Being a minority, I am always looking for ways to encourage more women in STEM. I also have been a part of Women In Data Science conferences, so here’s another attempt to do the same.

1.What’s your story?

I started my career as a software engineer but craved on solving more challenging problems employing cutting-edge technologies. And just then I stumbled upon Masters in Analytics program which was a step ahead of coding. It had an enticing combination of math (one of my early childhood fascinations) and coding for uncovering useful information hidden in data. I jumped at the opportunity and so far this field has never ceased to fascinate me with it’s advancements.

2. What is your specific area of STEM?

My focus is Data Science. It is a subset of Artificial Intelligence and includes statistics, probability, coding (Python is the most in-demand, R comes next), and machine learning.

3. How would you explain your STEM field to young girls?

Data Science is the field of drawing actionable insights from data. In plain English, it means that you get historical data, you find underlying patterns in it. For an instance, ice-cream sales go up when temperature rises. This leads to you recommending your boss that we should sell more ice-cream in summers. This way sales increase, boss is happy, you get promoted, and it’s a win-win!

4. What made you choose this STEM discipline? Were you inspired by someone?

I chose this field as it combines two things I like – math and coding. But more importantly, it allows me to reach the ultimate goal of better decision making. Growing up, a lot of my decision-making was based on random choices and lots (lots! lots!) of elderly advice. Being in this field forces me to take better evidence/data-backed decisions myself.

5. What are some really cool things that people in your profession work on?

Data Science is filled with mind-boggling things that people work on. To name a few –

  • predicting future: which customer will leave the company; which patient will go on to develop a disease. And my personal favorite – predicting who will commit bank fraud!
  • recommendations: Amazon, Etsy, Spotify, any and everyone who recommends stuff to customers uses data science to understand user preferences,
  • extracting handwritten text from scanned documents,
  • recognizing cats vs dogs in pictures,
  • chatbots, and many more.

6. What keeps you going in your profession?

Two things: (1) the power of discovering answers from data and (2) there is so much more to learn and so little that I know.

7. What goals do you have in your career?

I want to gain depths of knowledge and experience to be able to drive decisions for high-impact business problems and create positive change. Eventually, I want to apply my skillset towards social good such as solutioning for climate change, agricultural productivity and plastic waste reduction.

8. What is the biggest challenge you face as a woman in STEM?

I have had a very few women role models in STEM, whose stories of pushing through struggles and shattering the glass ceiling would be something I could look up to. I have also had fewer opportunities (than I would like) of working with compassionate and ambitious women in managerial/senior leadership roles. The reason I think having a supportive network of women is important because they can empathize better on certain experiences you witness in the career like for example, managing emotional intelligence while working as a part of a team.  

9. What message would you like to give to our young readers?

STEM lays the core foundation for innovation, and innovation is the only constant. So grab a seat at the table where decisions are made, be at the forefront of change and make use of the powerful tools that STEM has to offer to solve complex and rewarding problems.

Thank you for reading our first STEM Up interview! To know more about what Sukanya is up to, feel free to shoot her an email at sukanya.tiwatne@gmail.com

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