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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.
Monika is one of 50 winners. Her new data analyst skills will be put to use primarily in her current job, as Monika works for the Center for International Peace Operations in Berlin. As a political scientist, she says, she is anything but a “techie,” but she applied for the scholarship out of a desire to always develop herself. In the interview, Monika talks about her real goal after the data analyst course and why she thinks data skills should be promoted more.
Hi Monika, first of all congratulations on winning the scholarship. What should our readers know about you?
Hello, thank you very much. I come from Landshut, a city with about 75,000 inhabitants northeast of Munich. I was born and raised there, but left the city pretty quickly after graduating from high school to go to Munich and study.
What course did your career take from that point on?
I first studied communication for a year, but after a short time I realized that it was too theoretical for me, so I applied for a traineeship. I spent two years at a daily newspaper, working as an editor, and only later resumed my studies. While studying political science and international law, I completed various internships and took on assistant jobs. After graduation, I first worked on various projects, then spent two years in development cooperation at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit in Frankfurt, and when ZIF, the Center for International Peace Operations and my current employer, was founded in 2002, I moved to Berlin and was one of the first staff members.
Today, I am a research associate at ZIF, a subsidiary organization of the German Foreign Office, which was founded to strengthen international capacities for crisis prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Among other things, we train civilian personnel primarily for peace operations of the United Nations, the OSCE, and the European Union. We recruit personnel and also supervise them during their deployment. We also provide analysis, information and policy advice on peace operations. It is in this last area that I work. One of our current focuses is on peace operations and new digital technologies. In this regard, we are currently exploring how digital technologies can support peace operations in implementing their diverse mandates.
I have two children, 15 and 17 years old. It was always important to me that I stay in my job despite having children. That’s what I did from the beginning, initially part-time on a 20-percent basis, and later I increased. That was a very good way for me to go, at least today I’m back on the job full time. I’m always interested in new topics, and I really like to throw myself into them.
The years 2020 and 2021 have brought many unforeseeable changes. How did you experience this time?
In addition to the changes in our personal lives that we all experienced, some of the changes for me personally in my job have actually been positive. Our organization managed to go digital very quickly and we were all well equipped to work at home. What I found particularly great was the opportunity to bring the world home. I attended a lot of international conferences during that time that I might not have otherwise gotten to or taken the opportunity to attend. I experienced it as a great opportunity to broaden my horizons and to do so without much effort, from my own desk.
So you could say that you have always recognized and taken advantage of your professional opportunities. Have you also encountered hurdles in the process so far?
I have to admit that I have been very fortunate not to have encountered too many hurdles. I have always worked in very good environments and in teams that are interested in shared success. But there was still one hurdle for me, even if it was more of a content-related nature: the topic of technology. I am a political scientist and am currently working on how to use digital technologies in peace operations. Unfortunately, I’m not a “techie,” so this whole field was completely new to me, and it was challenging to familiarize myself with it. That’s when I was initially dealing with questions like, “What is artificial intelligence?” “What is machine learning?” But as is often the case, a topic becomes more exciting the deeper you go into it. And so this hurdle also becomes smaller and smaller.
These topics are also reflected in the “Data Analyst” advanced course, for which you received a scholarship position. How did you find out about the “Women in Data” scholarship?
By chance. I subscribed to a newsletter from Women in Tech e.V. and read about the scholarship there. Shortly before, I had a personnel development meeting in which we had talked about the topic of data analysis, so I thought I’d give that a try. When I looked at the website, I was finally convinced because the course seemed very well structured and really fit my current needs. I hope to gain a better understanding of the possible applications of data analysis. In my view, this is an important competence if you want to use data more intensively in an organization. My goal would be to run a data analytics project myself with a team, but only time will tell. I’m looking forward to putting the new knowledge to practical use on my own afterwards.
Where does your interest in working with data come from, and how do you feel about the fact that you will soon be dealing with mathematics and programming?
Data is currently a very important topic for the United Nations. The UN Secretary-General recently published his first data strategy, and the topic is now also very present in peace operations. Among other things, it’s about optimizing conflict analyses or recording hate speech in social media. The topic of data is omnipresent. I’m interested in the possibilities that data analysis offers. Nowadays, it’s important to deal with data in order not to lose touch. I’m not afraid of data and the learning content, but I do have respect. I basically believe that you can get into anything if you want to. All it takes is time and a certain passion. There may be limits for people with a background in social sciences though, but we’ll see. For now, I’m optimistic.
Finally, would you like to give other women something that will help them on their way?
This is probably true for everyone; you’re always good at what you’re passionate about. STEM subjects have always been rather male-dominated, even though boys/men are certainly not inherently superior to girls/women in technical fields. That’s why I would say just do it! There’s no reason to hesitate. Just try it out.
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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