By Vivian Reifschneider
05. März 2021

Women in Data Science at MMT

Women in Data Science at MMT

At MMT we choose to challenge the number of women in data science who make only 22% according to BCG. We have a great diverse team with highly talented people and inspiring women who want to share their stories to encourage more female students to work in the field of data science.


Olga Nalivaiko, Project Manager BI, MMT

Name: Olga Nalivaiko
Job Title: Project Manager BI
Education: Master´s degree in Management
Age: 40
Family: 2 Kids 
Years of Experience: 10

Name: Dr. Sarah-Magdalena Leschke
Job Title: Data Analyst
Education: Doctor of Economic and Social Sciences (Dr. rer. pol.)
Age: 36
Years of Experience: 7

Dr. Sarah-Magdalena Leschke, Data Analyst, MMT

Imane Berchid, Data Integration Engineer, MMT

Name: Imane Berchid
Job Title: Data Integration Engineer
Education: Engineering degree in Telecommunications and IT and Master’s degree in IT Engineering
Age: 29
Years of Experience: 4 years as a Telecom Engineer, 1 year as Data Integration Engineer

Vivian Reifschneider in interview with Olga Nalivaiko, Sarah-Magdalena Leschke and Imane Berchid part of the Data Science Team of MMT:

I'm very excited to get to know you better today and learn about your career path, what professionally drives you, and why you work at MMT. Please tell our readers a few words about yourself.

Sarah: I would describe myself as versatile, logically inclined, down-to-earth, inquisitive, sporty and travel enthusiastic with a pinch of sarcasm. In my free time, I seek balance in sports and love to discover the world. Most of all I am attracted to the sea, but I also like hiking in the mountains. I am interested in many things, especially scientific topics that inspire me. I grew up as a child of the 90s in the Bremen quarter and still ride my bike all over Hamburg - really in every season.

Olga: I’m 40 years old and I’m a mother of 2 little kids. I moved to Hamburg from Russia 2.5 years ago. I enjoy traveling, playing volleyball and dancing Salsa. 

Imane: I come from Morocco. I studied telecommunications and IT in Morocco and worked as a radio planning and optimization Telecom Engineer in Huawei Technologies for 4 years. In 2018 I came to Germany to pursue a Master’s degree in IT Engineering. I joined MMT in 2020, and it has been a great experience.

In 2018 Women already make up 55% of university graduates in data science due to BCG research. How did you get involved with data? Was your education related to data or do you come from a totally different academic background?

Olga: As a child I was always good at math, winning different competitions at school. But I didn’t dare to study Computer Science because 20 years ago it was considered a “boy thing” and career opportunities for women were scarce. So I chose Management as my major at the university and my Master Thesis was dedicated to marketing research.

Imane: My educational background included IT, but I specialized in telecommunications. The switch to IT was motivated by the variety of opportunities that are available, which would also enable me to work and discover different fields and I find that very interesting.

Sarah: I first studied business administration and the most exciting subjects for me were statistics, econometrics and brand management, which I then specialized in. This is where I became interested in the insights that can be drawn from data and used for marketing, and at the end of my studies it was clear to me that I would like to work in a job that combines these areas.

" I didn’t dare to study Computer Science because 20 years ago it was considered a “boy thing” and career opportunities for women were scarce."

Olga Nalivaiko
Project Manager BI, MMT

How did you start your career in the Data field?

Olga: My first job was at a local consulting company specializing in this field. Quantitative research involves a lot of work with data, including data cleansing, processing and visualization for reports and presentations. Back in 2003, we were using SPSS and Excel for data analysis and it took a lot of time and effort to go from raw data to convincing insights and recommendations.

I continued my career in marketing, analyzing and visualizing all kinds of marketing data - sales, advertising, competition. I know how important it is for business managers to have timely and accurate data in order to make the right decisions.

When I moved to Germany, I was still on maternity leave and I decided to use that time to acquire new skills that could help me continue my career in data analysis. Ironically enough, the pandemic time was a great opportunity for self-education because many online platforms were offering free courses and scholarships. I mastered my Tableau skills and learned to do some basic coding in SQL and Python for data analysis tasks. It was quite a challenge for me! But eventually, I learned how to solve the same marketing data analysis tasks in a more efficient and effective way.

Sarah: After my work as a research assistant at the university, it was important for me to put the theoretical knowledge into practice. My first job as an analyst focused on address selection and target group selection. For this, we developed some new methodological approaches in my team at the time, and I learned a lot about operations, project management and the implementation of different analysis methods.

Why did you decide to work at MMT and what do you like about your job? What exactly is your professional specialization now (data engineering, data analysis, data visualization, data science) and why did you choose it?

Sarah: In my current job, everything revolves around the question of how media works and should be used optimally to achieve marketing goals. For this purpose, I create various models that describe the effect of media and are used for campaign planning, but also various customer-specific analyses around the questions of advertising effectiveness.

I specialize in the field of data analysis. I decided to do this because I enjoy looking at how to measure the impact of advertising, what data is needed to do this, and how best to use available data to answer marketing questions. For me, the combination of structured work and looking for creative approaches in collaboration with a wide range of departments is ideal. 

Imane: My current specialization is data engineering. I am interested in Business Intelligence and Data science in general, and data engineering is a very crucial part because it is the basis of all the related activities, therefore it is important to provide high-quality data. Furthermore, my job enables me to learn about new technologies and to face new interesting challenges.

Olga: The job at MMT is a perfect fit for me because I can both leverage my marketing background and apply my new skills. I always wanted to work with Tableau and now I do it every single day, creating and enhancing powerful dashboards. 

How long have you been working in the data field? What is your current job focused on? Which tools and skills do you use on a daily basis?

Sarah: I started working as an analyst seven years ago. For the analyses I mainly use the programming language R, but also Excel and Powerpoint are sometimes used to communicate results. In my day-to-day work, I need not only the ability to code and to think analytically about issues and understand data, but also organizational skills and strong communication skills to coordinate the various projects at hand and to clearly formulate issues and results.

Imane: I have been working in the data field for a year now. It has been inspiring and I have learned a lot. My job consists of collecting data from different sources and structuring it into database tables and views so that our clients and other team members can work with it such as for building dashboards.

According to a study by BCG, women are still underrepresented in data science jobs. It seems that women are interested in the topic but then don't take a job in this field. Is it difficult for a woman to work in the data field? What are your personal challenges? How do you experience working in a team at MMT?

Olga: Diversity is one of the key values for MMT. The data team is also quite diverse - in terms of gender, ethnicity and professional background. We fit together like an intricate jigsaw puzzle, complementing each other and delivering synergies. 

For me juggling a career and kids is another challenge - especially in the current situation when schools and kindergartens are closed. I often feel torn apart, trying to cope with all the tasks at work and be a good mother at the same time. But on the bright side, I never feel bored - there’s always something to do.

Sarah: The challenges in this area depend more on personal background and what analytical, technical and social skills someone brings with them - regardless of whether they are a man or a woman.

Personally, I am currently faced with the task of finding enough time in everyday life to deal with new methodological approaches for the exciting ideas that we would like to develop in our team.

Imane: I don’t see any challenges that might face women in the data field, I haven’t encountered any so far. I believe that women are capable of achieving anything they set their minds to because they have the will and the intelligence to do that.

"Go for it! I believe that women are capable of achieving anything they set their minds to."

Imane Berchid
Data Integration Engineer, MMT

What are your career plans and goals? Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?

Sarah: In general, I'm more of a person who is always interested in continuously developing myself as a person and as a professional, and then looks to see what the future holds for me when the next changes come along.

Olga: One of the skills that fascinate me is making marketing predictions based on machine learning methods. I would like to enhance my knowledge in this area.

Imane: My goal is to become an Expert in the field, and to learn new skills and discover new technologies.

What would your advice be to other women who are considering a career in data but are doubtful about their chances to succeed?

Olga: I believe now is a perfect time for women to study Data Science and pursue a career in this field. There’s an obvious deficit of professionals and at the same time, a great opportunity for practice - for example, in marketing there is so much data available on consumer behavior and advertising performance that can be harnessed to make meaningful conclusions and predictions and create value for the business.

Sarah: Anyone who has a basic affinity for numbers and technology and is interested in critically questioning contexts and thinking their way into the various questions posed by internal and external contacts should look for opportunities to find out whether this area could be the right one for them. The first self-implemented projects in your studies or internships that bring you closer to everyday working life will show whether you enjoy dealing with the subject matter more intensively. First of all, it is important that you assess your own strengths and recognize for yourself in which position in the broad field of data science you find yourself.

Imane: I would highly encourage them to go for it, as the saying goes “When there is a will, there is a way”. I believe that women are achievers and there is nothing that can stop them from reaching their goals.

"Use your talents! If you have an affinity for numbers and technology and a desire to critically question contexts, data science is a promising job field."

Dr. Sarah Magdalena Leschke
Data Analyst, MMT

Thank you so much for giving us an insight into your work. We hope that you will inspire women to choose a very exciting, important and highly needed job in the field of Data Science.

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