"Diversity is just the beginning." Interview with Mina Saidze.

Mina Saidze is a data evangelist, founder of Inclusive Tech, Forbes "30 under 30" and influencer for diversity and gender equality in the data and tech industry. In this interview, she talks about her exciting, odd path that led her right here.

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You should know this woman by 2022 at the latest: Mina Saidze is a data evangelist and founder of Inclusive Tech. At the end of 2021, she was recognized by Forbes as a "30 Under 30" and is a passionate advocate for diversity and gender equality in the data industry. That alone would be an impressive list of her professional successes to date, in which she has invested not only a lot of work, but above all her heart and soul. We talked to Mina Saidze about her vision, why diversity is especially important in the data industry, and her path to becoming a career changer and digital pioneer.

Interview with Mina Saidze

You work full-time as a data evangelist. How would you explain to your not-so-technical friends what your day-to-day work looks like?

For me, the democratization of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence means that I want to make it usable and accessible for everyone and thus break down barriers. I provide assistance and advice at many stages on the way to the use of data and train people from various fields to understand data-driven technologies and make the topic accessible.

So I democratize data and AI by focusing intensively on the topic of "participation" - not only for techies, but also for people without a tech background, so that they can participate in social progress and, together with their company, in it. The whole society benefits from a better participation of all, because we need all talents to build the world of tomorrow.

For this, I offer educational formats to bridge the gap between tech and business.

To do this, I develop strategies and best practices to promote a data-informed culture within the company and the approach of self-service analytics by enabling all employees. And I identify and work on use cases that hide potential to add value to the business. In addition, I support the development of successful data teams.

Where did your desire to enter the tech industry come from and would you describe your own entry into the tech industry as smooth?

As the daughter of political activists, I have always asked myself how the world can become a better place. That's why I did a voluntary service in Tanzania after graduating from high school. Due to my experience in development cooperation, I represented Germany at the official G8 & G20 Youth Summit.

As an activist, it was natural for me to become a journalist. Rebecca Schneid once said: "Journalism is a form of activism. After all, critical journalism can certainly offer the opportunity for consumers to develop into critically thinking citizens. So I have stations at taz.die tageszeitung, German wave and Radio Bremen completed.

During my studies, I discovered the Berlin digital scene for myself and have been working in this field ever since. Data constantly accompanies us and I find it all the more fascinating to gain insights from data and - even better - to develop products.

My resume is anything but straightforward, as I am someone who is constantly learning new things and following my passion. When I've made decisions, it's involved a mix of brains, heart - and a good dose of courage.

Due to a lateral entry, my entry into the tech industry was not easy, but doable due to my practical experience, enthusiasm and inquisitiveness.

Is your background particularly advantageous in shaking up the dusty borders and prejudices in Germany, or have you also encountered unexpected hurdles?

For a long time I did not know who I was and where I belonged. At home, I lived my Central Asian culture, and outside my own four walls, I was "the German Mina" who quoted Bertolt Brecht and Heinrich Heine. I felt similarly as a data analyst: I didn't know that my communication skills were in demand.

It was only much later that I realized that I could take the best from each of the two cultures and my skills. In the meantime, I am on the road as a data evangelist at conferences, where I make technical topics accessible to a broad audience. I build bridges between worlds - be it between the culture of my parents' country of origin and the German home culture or between a suit wearing a tie and a female developer in a hoodie.

You've taken up the cause of diversity in particular and founded your own organization, Inclusive Tech. What was the decisive reason for taking the topic of inclusion in the tech industry into your own hands?

Diversity - whether in tech or other fields - is still often seen as an employer branding strategy or CSR measure. What is often forgotten in the process: More participation of underrepresented groups such as women, people with a migration background and people of color in the digital labor market promotes our national economy.

For economic reasons alone, it makes sense to promote diversity in tech to counteract the shortage of skilled workers.

In the modern working world, we also have to say goodbye to the straightforward storybook career. Due to technological change, lifelong learning is essential, and because of the shortage of skilled workers, we need more lateral entrants who can react flexibly to changes.

Apart from the rational reasons, my own biography plays a decisive role: As the daughter of immigrants, I often felt like an outlier in the data set because I didn't fit into the image of the new Germany. Do you leave this in to understand the phenomenon? Or do you throw him out to give a homogeneous picture? I learned that you don't have to fit in anywhere.

It's important to find your voice. With my story, I want to show young, migrant people that with brains, heart and a good dose of courage, they can also make it - whether it's entering the tech industry or realizing their dreams.

How do we open up the data and tech industry to lateral entrants and in what ways would equalizing diversity in the data industry have a positive impact for companies and society?

The debate about Big Data and AI is being conducted in a technocratic manner, while the social aspects are being lost. We should ask ourselves more often what concrete effects this will have for society and especially for women, whose jobs are particularly at risk from automation.

It's not enough to just hire diverse tech talent and use them as a poster child for the company. A current Study by the Capgemini Research Institute reveals that most tech employees from diverse backgrounds do not feel a sense of belonging to their companies. According to the survey, 85 % of the executives surveyed believe that their companies provide equitable opportunities for career development to all employees - but only 19 % of women and ethnic minority tech employees agree.

This striking discrepancy highlights that many leaders are not aware of this. They need to go beyond mere communication, demonstrate an energetic commitment, and build trust with underrepresented groups such as women or people of color.

Diversity is just the beginning. Inclusion is the next step in bringing about sustainable change.

Why do you think women in particular are suited to this industry and why are any fears of contact with tech and data unfounded?

The job requires a variety of talents: I need to be able to work in a team. I also have to be able to explain technical, complex issues in a way that is understandable to a non-technical target group.

In addition, it is essential to be up to date on the development of technologies in order not to lose touch. In addition to analytical skills, a basic understanding of mathematics and tech know-how, this requires team spirit, communication skills and a willingness to learn.

And it is precisely this versatility that some women bring to the table. Working in tech requires a lot of communication, empathy and passion. It's not a listless, dry job where you don't interact with others.

Where can individuals start if they are interested in the topic but still unsure if they are suited to work with data?

At StackFuel. 😉

And finally, a few quick questions. Ready?

  1. Your favorite programming language: Python
  2. Your professional role model: Tina miller
  3. The best book you've read this year: "The New Loneliness" by Diana Kinnert
  4. Your next lofty goal on your professional journey: See even more data.
  5. What do you get up really early for: For breakfast in bed.
  6. If you had chosen a different career path, what would you have become? An archaeologist, tracking down undiscovered treasures.

If you'd like to read more from Mina, you can go here to her Interview on Data Literacy Day or follow her on LinkedIn or Instagram.

Follow Mina Saidze on social media

Data Literacy Interview with Mina Saidze. Follow Mina on LinkedIn

Sources

Photo from Julia Steinigeweg

Capgemini Research Institute (2021): "Just 10% of global businesses are front-runners in inclusion and diversity practices within their technology functions" [11.02.2022]

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