Jana Zizkova and Pavel Bulowski:
"Tech absolutely is for women and they shouldn’t be afraid to join!"
One of the benefits of working at CEEC is that we get to constantly meet and speak to extremely interesting people who change the world. This week we had the opportunity to chat with Jana and Pavel, Founders of She Loves Data which is “a social enterprise, dedicated to inspire women to become more active contributors in our data-driven world”. They have had brilliant success in this mission. Over the past 3 years they have trained more than 6,000 women, present in over 12 cities (on 3 continents) around the world and provided roughly about 50,000 hours of education for free. More of the details, about what drives them and their home country the Czech Republic below.
CEEC: Jana and Pavel, you are the co-founders of She Loves Data. Tell us more about how this idea sparked up in your minds and how you came together to manifest it.
Jana and Pavel: We started by organizing a hackathon, back then when there were not two or three every week. It went really well but guess what? 96% of people who turned up were men. We were inspired by similar concepts we saw back in Prague or in the US and we gave it a try and organized first ‘Intro to data’ workshop for free of course and exclusively branded for women only to break down the ‘boys club’ barrier. We figured that if we got 30 ladies in the room it would be a smashing hit but instead, we got 250 registrations just in couple of days.
CEEC: Why are more women needed in the tech and data world? What are the benefits of this?
J & P: The simplest answer is because our industry suffers a dramatic lack of talent and by hiring dominantly men, we are, as an industry ignoring massive talent pool. The longer answer is that the world is diverse and complex and in order to solve complex problems, we need diversity. Look at AI for instance, there is a debate going on right now about inherent biases of AI that are very apparent because the technology is designed by very homogenous groups of people, mostly men. But it doesn’t manifest only in gender we have to think broader: age, cultural background, religion. People of diverse backgrounds have a lot to bring to the table.
CEEC: How do you manage to make data so much fun?
J & P: It’s simple. We are authentic and passionate about our industry and culture. What we do is a community service, not corporate CSR and our volunteers think alike. Also, data or tech in general is fun and creative industry, we work really hard to make it fun and remove that label of boring, nerdy environment.
CEEC: How do you choose the speakers, trainers, companies and partners that you work with?
J & P: While at this point, when we have a management board and nearly 70 volunteers in 12 cities around the world, we are getting organized to some degree, our movement has always been very organic. So the partners, speakers, instructors, and sponsors really gravitate to our values, that’s the most important. Of course, we are always looking to add more momentum, so anyone interested in getting involved or partnering should get in touch!
CEEC: You are both Czech. Tell us, are all people from the Czech Republic such data masters or was it serendipity that brought you two together for this initiative?
J & P: While Jana is a computer science major, neither of us is very technical and we couldn’t code to save our lives so it’s hard to comment. 🙂 However, we have met few years before we started She Loves Data when we founded boutique data consultancy and we have surrounded ourselves with phenomenal, super smart and very diverse team back in Brno and here in Singapore, so we are absolutely proud of this background.
CEEC: What is an interesting fact or what is that one thing that people should know about the Czech Republic?
J & P: The Czech Republic is a well-known tourist destination so leaving the obvious aside, some of the biggest contributions to the world are inventions such as soft contact lenses, screw propeller, first grounded lightning rod or, behold, sugar cubes! Czech Republic is also ranking 6th on the global country safety list, which is fantastic!
CEEC: What are your top three achievements in the last one to two years?
J & P: It’s hard to name just a few. Every single time we open a feedback form from one of our workshops that’s the real achievement. But the highlights are probably growing the organizations to be active in over 11 countries, including countries in Africa and the USA. We have reached 8000 attendees of our events, which translates roughly to approximately 50.000 hours education provided completely for free.
CEEC: What is your vision for SLD for the next five years? What are the changes you want to see in the data world and how will this affect women? How realistic is this and what are the needed actions and steps we all need to take to achieve this?
J & P: Of course, we want to grow and scale, but as a not for profit organization, we are reliant on sponsors and partners. We would like to take a few steps to sustainability but for that, we need a few more serious partners. We believe that the world is becoming a better place every day for most of us, opportunities for women are plentiful. The big challenge really is changing women’s mindset and approach and growing self-esteem. Industry-wise, big debate with the onset of AI is of course ethics. This will inevitably open new frontiers and career and business opportunities.
CEEC: Apart from SLD, you are also the co-founders of Meiro, tell us more about what you do there and what’s your outlook on data trends for 2020?
J & P: Meiro is right now a little over two years old and we just got our product – customer data analytics platform ready for market as topics like data privacy gain prominence so we feel really good about our timing. Data legislation like GDPR is also spreading in various forms around the world and it makes it more challenging for companies more concerned with how they use data and technology. We bootstrapped Meiro to nearly 30 people across now four countries and that’s just us getting started!
CEEC: Lastly, is there anything that we’ve missed out that you would like to add?
J & P: We would just like to take this opportunity and invite all the ladies out there who are interested in the tech to join one of our workshops or meetups near their location. Tech absolutely is for women and they shouldn’t be afraid to join!