Q+A with WIA’s 2019 Fly-Ins

Mishell Pacheco

Why were you interested in attending WIA?

I found WIA through my search for an inclusive and analytics centered community where I could share my knowledge and passion for analytics. This conference embodied the environment and content I wanted to surround myself in. WIA is the forefront of a shift in the analytics space where women are daring to compete – and win.

What did you enjoy about being a Fly-in? Why would you recommend the experience to others?

What I most enjoyed about being a fly-in is being recognized for who I am – being passionate about analytics, striving to make an impact in my career, and surrounding myself with like-minded people. Being a fly-in did just that. I was able to experience the WIA conference at a greater level, meet speakers, develop friendships and connections I still have to this day. I absolutely recommend the experience to anyone – woman or not, to attend. The insights and knowledge I learned in 2 days are incomparable. Excited for what’s to come! 

Harshinee Sriram

Harshinee Sriram is a junior in SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai and a member of the Artificial Intelligence Research Team in the Association of Computing Machinery – SRM Chapter. Her area of research revolves around developing Artificially Intelligent devices that help identify, regulate, and combat a range of mental health conditions. She is the author of an Amazon Bestseller titled The Horrors of Happiness and a co-author of the book Horn OK Please – Pandora’s Box – yearly proceeds of which are donated to the Dalai Lama Trust for advancement and welfare. Apart from this, she is also an active LGBTQ+ activist who believes that every little action, when considered cumulatively, can help make a difference in the picturesque series of fleeting moments that we call the Human Life.

What are you passionate about within the analytics space?

 I am passionate about the capabilities of analytics in the field of Mental Health and Well Being. I believe that in the near future, we will be able to make constructive deductions and meaningful predictions that could possibly help a number of lives by making mental health assistive services more cost-effective and widely available.

Why were you interested in attending WIA?

I was extremely interested in attending WIA because I wanted to meet and connect with wonderful women who are making a change in the Data Analytics space and have a fearless vision. I admire every person I met at the conference because they helped me believe in myself and my capabilities and understand that I should not restrict myself from achieving my goals due to certain prejudices.

What did you find to be unique about the conference? What did you gain from your experience?

What I found unique about the conference was the excellent range of domains the speakers came from. For instance, we had data engineers, data scientists, a bestselling author, and a senior attorney. It really helped me understand Data Analytics from every possible dimension. The ideas pertaining to the major theme, which revolved around ethics, is something I gained from my experience. It helped me understand that the current challenge doesn’t surround the “How would you do it?” aspect, but the “If you can do it, should you do it?” aspect.

Who was your favorite speaker? What topics did you most enjoy hearing about most?

My favorite speaker was Mariem Ayadi who delivered the talk titled ” “So You Think You Know Me?” A Closer Look at Recommendation Systems”. Additionally, I absolutely enjoyed the Ethics in Algorithms Panel.

Would you recommend the conference to others? Why?

I would definitely recommend the conference to everyone who is interested in learning about the current trends, challenges, and predicaments in the analytics space and is also interested in networking with some brilliant people in this field.

What did you enjoy about being a Fly-In? Why would you recommend the experience to others?

What I enjoyed the most about being a Fly-In was that I got to meet other students (fellow Fly-Ins) and received some constructive feedback as well as advice pertaining to my MS application. I also got to experience the wonderful place that is Columbus, Ohio. I would definitely recommend this opportunity to an international student.

Wendy Edwards

Bio

Wendy Edwards is a software developer who’s interested in cybersecurity and data science.  She’s a NASA Datanaut and has also participated in the SANS Women’s Academy for cybersecurity and the Illinois Cyber Challenge camp.  She’s involved with the Ethics Village at Defcon as well as local security groups. She recently spoke at Circle City Con about what data science can do for cybersecurity.

What are you passionate about within the analytics space?

Cybersecurity often involves large amounts of data, and I’m interested in using data science to efficiently detect abnormal events that people should be concerned about.

Why were you interested in attending WIA?

It sounded like a great conference, with opportunities to meet interesting people and connect with a friend from the NASA Datanauts program (who was also a fly-in).

What did you find to be unique about the conference? What did you gain from your experience?

It was the first data science conference I’d ever attended that was focused on women.  I learned some technical things, specifically about machine learning, and took away a number of things to think about.  Also, I’ve never seen such a huge quantity of mac and cheese.

Who was your favorite speaker? What topics did you most enjoy hearing about most?

I really liked the Ethics in Algorithms panel, which included Cathy O’Neil, Emily Schlesinger, Nicole M. Alexander, and Rehgan Avon (moderator). The discussions about ethics and fairness gave me a lot to think about after the conference. Also, the book “Weapons of Math Destruction” was great, so thanks for that as well.

Would you recommend the conference to others? Why?

Yes, the organizers did a great job, and there were multiple tracks that covered a variety of topics.  The panel discussions were thoughtful and offered the opportunity for the audience to interact with industry leaders.

What did you enjoy about being a Fly-In? Why would you recommend the experience to others?

Being a fly-in was a wonderful opportunity because I work for a nonprofit and the budget to send me to conferences is limited.  I was lucky to get the experience and would definitely recommend it.

What are you most excited about for the future of analytics and AI?

I’m excited to see how analytics and AI can continue to improve cybersecurity.