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The data industry needs you! More than 120 women applied for the “Women in Data” scholarship. 50 of them received one of the coveted scholarship places for the Data Analyst course at StackFuel. And unfortunately, it’s true: the data industry is still predominantly male. Just one-sixth of data experts are female, with a negative impact on business, development and research. The COVID-19 crisis has been particularly detrimental to women’s career advancement. This is exactly where the StackFuel and Telefónica scholarship should have a positive impact and qualify women for data professions and make them fit for the future with data skills.
Elisabeth is one of 50 winners, and she almost didn’t even apply. A friendly email was the deciding factor for her to have the confidence to apply and to develop professionally. In an interview with us, she tells us which beliefs she first had to overcome, why she is looking forward to working with data, and why she would like to see more courageous women in the data industry.
Congratulations on winning the scholarship! What can you tell us about yourself personally?
Thank you very much! My name is Elisabeth Eder-Koschar. I live with my husband and our two daughters in Graz, in the south of Austria. I am very happy to be one of the 50 women doing a “Women in Data” scholarship on Data Analytics with a focus on Python. Currently, I am in a professional reorientation phase. I graduated exactly 20 years ago from the Joanneum University of Applied Sciences in Graz in the field of construction, planning and construction management. After a short year in Graz, I moved to Vienna and then to Budapest, where I built up a branch for environmental engineering and waste management on behalf of an Austrian construction company. For personal reasons I returned to Graz some time later and managed EU projects in the field of renewable energies and thermal building refurbishment. At the same time, I managed the editorial office of the technical journal of this institute.
After my husband and I had two children, I joined a small real estate management company in Graz, where I learned real estate management and housing law from scratch. When the company expanded, I took over operational management and all human resources, including personnel development, and finally headed the commercial department and accounting. That had also been a difficult path and if I could do it all over again, I would take it a little slower, but do everything exactly the same way again. My personal career has always been shaped by my personal visions. And fortunately I have been able to achieve everything I have imagined. Along the way, I have often reached my limits because, on the one hand, I wanted to be the perfect mother and a good wife without neglecting my career. Especially as a mother, you are very much challenged to be flexible every day, to learn and react quickly. You then take this reactive behavior into the office. Now I’ve decided to turn my back on the construction and real estate industry and continue my education in new technologies, where I hope to gain a foothold.
How did you experience 2020 and 2021 and what changed for you during that time?
I already decided in January 2020 that I would go on educational leave for a year starting in the summer. In Austria, this is an opportunity to take a year’s unpaid leave of absence during an existing employment relationship and to be supported by the state. You can do an apprenticeship, but then you have to finance it yourself. I used this opportunity for a one-year course in coaching and social competence.
Lockdown itself was an adventure for me and my family in a positive sense. As a whole family, we tried out a model in which all time structures were suspended. Everyone could set their day according to their own biorhythms. That’s when the most interesting habits or preferences emerged. After a month, we brought structure back in and developed a common plan that worked for everyone. A game changer for me was the reduction of options, because it allowed me to really go into myself and think about what I want to take with me for the time after lockdown and what I want to leave behind forever? That was a time of great realization.
Have you faced any other hurdles in life that you’ve been able to overcome?
My biggest hurdles have been in my way of thinking. I always based my decisions on the acceptance of those closest to me and was easily intimidated. That was hard to shed. What I find so wonderful about today’s world is the almost infinite possibilities offered by the Internet. Instead of just consulting those around you, today you can do your own research and form your own opinion. I took advantage of coaching last year, which showed me my thought patterns. Since then, I have been working on being more self-determined in my decisions at some point, but the way to get there must also suit me.
Data is known to be the best advisor for decisions. Where did your interest in working with data and new technologies come from?
My interest in working with data has somehow always been there, even if I wasn’t so aware of it. When online banking came along and I got my first salary, I imported my income and expenses into Excel and checked them to have an overview of how much budget was still available or how long I had to save for a purchase. For me, it was the most normal thing in the world and the data is there, after all. It always gave me a sense of security and a basis for discussion. In that sense, my interest in data is innate.
A super prerequisite! How did you hear about the Women in Data scholarship?
I came across the scholarship by chance thanks to a LinkedIn post. At first, I didn’t imagine much about it, but the slogan “Women in Data” really appealed to me. Then, when I saw for myself what the scholarship and data analytics entailed, I was totally convinced. The prospect of learning something new was very appealing to me. It was also important for me to be able to say, “I’m 45 and now I’m doing something new that really interests me. Nevertheless, it’s not a decision for life. You should give yourself the freedom to try things out without necessarily having to follow this direction. I then took the aptitude test and failed the test by just a few percentage points. At first I thought that was it and that I was probably not suitable after all. But then I got a nice email from StackFuel telling me to please try again. And on the second try, it worked out after all. You really shouldn’t get discouraged if something doesn’t work right away. I’m very glad that the email convinced me to try again.
What changes do you hope to see in your (professional) life as a result of participating?
After leaving my job in a very traditional real estate management company, I found myself in a digitalized world that was new to me. I was briefly shocked to be so behind and immediately set out to catch up. Fortunately, thanks to the Internet, that’s not a problem these days. I love to learn, there’s just a little detective in me. I hope that my new knowledge will help me to ensure that my talents are really needed and that I can do what I enjoy and have fun doing.
Do you nevertheless also have fears of contact with data, programming, mathematics?
I grew up in a mathematics-friendly environment. My mother was an elementary school teacher, and my father was a mathematics professor. Therefore, my parents never instilled in me fears of mathematics; on the contrary, it felt like I was being supported too much. “I can’t” often simply means that there is no interest, or the teacher doesn’t teach it the way you need to. But if you really want something, you find a way to understand it. I started learning Hungarian when I was 20. You start with five words. You can’t read a book with that, but with 200 vocabulary words you can already guess what the plot is about. You are always afraid of new things and cannot assume that after a short time you will be just as good as others with whom you compare yourself. You need motivation and a vision of where you want to go, then you can climb the biggest mountains.
In your opinion, what are the reasons that hold other women back from continuing their education in the field of data?
The answer is very individual for each woman. For me, it depends mainly on family background and how certain factors were evaluated there. Everyone has to decide on a further educational path after they finish school, but just because a woman chooses a more “female” career path doesn’t mean that she can’t always be involved in organizational, commercial or strategic activities within her profession. If she then enjoys these tasks, one can assume that she has an aptitude in terms of analysis or strategic thinking.
You don’t have to go into a technical profession from the outset to test your talents. I would advise women to be open to other professions and new fields of work, if they are not satisfied with their current profession or no longer find it fulfilling. People often have a false idea of a profession until they ask someone what their day-to-day work is really like. This is especially true for professions which you have little contact with or are even a little afraid of.
Thanks to their consistent efforts, our grandmothers and mothers achieved the existence of the Equal Treatment Act in Europe. Nevertheless, in my conversations with other women and with myself, I notice again and again that we don’t demand that our employers comply with this law. The Equal Treatment Act stipulates that the same salary should be paid for the same work. However, we don’t check whether this is adhered to and justify it as mothers having to be grateful for having a job in the first place. As a mother, when you are so economically vulnerable, this attitude puts you at a strong disadvantage.
You should therefore be aware of what it actually means to receive the same money for the same work, then also expect this and, in the worst case, also demand it. That’s what laws are for. Just as we can expect drivers to obey the traffic rules as a matter of course, we should also structure our employment contracts in accordance with the Equal Treatment Act. But this will only work if as many women as possible adopt this attitude and say: “I only accept employers, and thus contract partners, who abide by applicable laws, and I would like to abide by these laws as well. We need to get out of a “supplicant” position and simply use, demand and expect what our predecessors fought for. That’s why today we don’t need to ask, we just need to take advantage of the fact that most roads have already been cleared for us. It’s up to us what we make of it.
How to become a data analyst
We firmly believe that all women should have the same opportunities to pursue a career as a data analyst. Whether you think you’re disadvantaged or not, whether you’re already working in a data-related environment or changing to a new career, we’ll give you the chance to hone your data skills and shape your career path.
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