“Diversity is just the beginning.” Interview with Mina Saidze.

Table of Contents

Here is a woman you should know by 2022 at the latest: Mina Saidze is a data evangelist and founder of Inclusive Tech. She was included on the “30 under 30” list by Forbes at the end of 2021 and is passionate about diversity and gender equality in the data industry. That alone would be an impressive list of her career achievements to date, which she has put her heart and soul into, as well as lots of hard work. We talked to Mina about her vision, why diversity is especially important in the data industry, and her journey to change careers and become a digital pioneer.

Interview with Mina Saidze

(5 min read)

You work full-time as a data evangelist. How would you explain to your less-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 using data and train people from a wide variety of fields to understand data-driven technologies and make the topic accessible.

In this way, 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 do it together with their company. All of society benefits from increased participation, because we need all kinds of talent to build the world of tomorrow.

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

To do this, I develop strategies and best practices to promote a data-informed culture within companies and the approach of self-service analytics by empowering all employees. And I identify and work on use cases that have potential to add value to the business. I also help build successful data teams.

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

As the daughter of political activists, I’ve always asked myself how to make the world a better place. That’s why I did a volunteer service in Tanzania after graduating from high school. Because of 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”. Because critical journalism can certainly offer the possibility for consumers to develop into critically thinking citizens. So I spent some time at taz.die tageszeitung, Deutsche Welle and Radio Bremen.

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 and, even better, to develop products from data.

My resume is anything but straightforward, as I’m someone who is constantly learning new things and following my passion. When I made decisions, it involved a mix of brains, heart – and a fair amount of courage.

Because I was changing careers, my entry into the tech industry was not easy, but doable, because of my practical experience, enthusiasm and inquisitiveness.

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

For a long time, I didn’t know who I was or where I belonged. At home I lived my Central Asian culture and outside my own four walls I was “the German Mina” quoting 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. I now travel 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 German culture or between a suit with a tie and a 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 often still seen as an employer branding strategy or CSR measure. What is often forgotten in the process is that more participation of underrepresented groups such as women, people with a migrant 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 world of work, we also have to say goodbye to the straightforward storybook career. Technological change makes lifelong learning essential, and the shortage of skilled workers means that we need more career changers who can react flexibly to changes.

Apart from the rational reasons, my own background 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. Should you leave this in to understand the phenomenon? Or should you throw it out to create a homogeneous picture? I learned that you don’t have to fit in anywhere.

The important thing is 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 getting into the tech industry or making their dreams come true.

Do you want to beome a data expert just like Mina Saidze? Learn on Germany's most innovative learning platform.

How do we open up the data and tech industry to career changers and in what ways would true diversity in the data industry have a positive impact on companies and society?

The debate around big data and AI is technocratic, while the social aspects are forgotten. We should ask ourselves more often what concrete effects this has for society and in particular 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 figurehead for the company. A recent study by the Capgemini Research Institute reveals that most tech employees with diverse backgrounds don’t feel a sense of belonging to their company. According to the study, 85% of executives surveyed believe their companies provide equitable career development opportunities for all employees – but only 19% of women and minority tech employees agree.

This striking discrepancy indicates that many managers are not aware of this. They need to go beyond mere communication, demonstrate an active commitment, and build trust with underrepresented groups like women or people of color.

Diversity is just the beginning. Inclusion is the next step in creating lasting change.

Interested in exciting content like this interview with Mina Saidze? Stay up to date on StackFuel's social media channels.

Why do you think women in particular are suited for this industry and why are any reservations with tech and data unfounded?

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

In addition, it is essential to keep up to date with the latest developments in technology so as 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’s 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’re interested in the field but still unsure if they’re cut out to work with data?

With StackFuel. 😉

And finally, a few quick questions. Ready?

1. What’s your favorite programming language? Python

2. Who’s your professional role model? Tina Müller

3. What’s the best book you read this year? „Die neue Einsamkeit“ (The New Loneliness) by Diana Kinnert

4. What’s your next ambitious goal on your professional journey? Seeing more data.

5. What do you get up really early 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, head over to her Data Literacy Day interview here or feel free to follow her on LinkedIn or Instagram

Follow Mina Saidze on social media
Follow Mina Saidze on LinkedIn.

Sources

Pictures by 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]

Laura Redlich
Laura Redlich
As an authentic Berliner, Laura quickly joined the creative and start-up scene. After studying Media and Communications Management at Media Design University of Applied Sciences, Laura worked as the editor in charge of Finance, Tech, Data and AI at IQPC and interviewed well-known industry pioneers at conferences. At StackFuel, Laura is steadily adding to the Content Lab - our varied offering of free content, webinars, and publications.

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