Q&A with Gina Sharma, Data Governance Analyst at Kubrick Group

Q: When did you decide data was the field for you?

A: I always liked data and I saw the power of it in my degree, but the moment I knew I wanted to do data as a career was when I read about Kubrick and understood their model. Before that, I didn’t know what the field of data even was! Yes, data is fantastic. Yes, data is untapped. Yes, it’s powerful. No one’s ever going to deny that. But what is it? What can I do in it? How can I contribute my skill sets? How do I break into it? I don’t know anyone in data. I don’t know anyone with a job in data. I knew people in finance, but I knew that wasn’t for me. I didn’t know what progression was out there for me.

That’s why I love Kubrick as to my understanding, there is no other company that can do what they do. There are obviously other data consultancies out there, but they cherry pick consultants who have already got prior experience. A lot of people say they want 5 years plus experience or three years’ experience. You’re caught in that catch 22! How can you get into data if you’ve never done it before? So yeah, reading about Kubrick was the first moment I genuinely knew I wanted to do it and it wasn’t just some abstract thing.

Q: Did you have any work experience prior to getting into data?

A: I’ve done almost every job under the sun while studying and travelling! I used to work for a fundraiser, I’ve worked in cafes and in restaurants. Every new job brought about new experiences and allowed me to see things from a different perspective. It showed me that you don’t have a limited scope on doing things and can broaden your horizons.

Q: So, do you think your work experience helped you decide what you wanted to do as a career?

A: It’s difficult to say really. I think the work experience helped me realise what I didn’t want to do, rather than what I did. I think data has been downplayed for a long time and treated as the field you stumble into, rather than a field you seek out as a career.

Now it’s become something people want to pursue because it’s no longer stigmatised, and people see the benefit of it. It’s no longer a field people just get into because they couldn’t find anything else to do.

Q: Do you feel the work experience helped you from a soft skills perspective?

A: 100%. It definitely improved my communication skills as it exposed me to new ways of thinking, and in the field on data you have to be able to communicate to people in a variety of ways as some people will be really technical, yet some people won’t have any understanding of the data and need it to be explained to them in a manner that’s easy to understand. You can be the world’s best communicator, you can be the most amazing person in your field, but unless you know how to change what you’re saying in a way that the person you’re speaking to can understand it, it means nothing.

Q: What did you study at University and how did it help you get into data?

A: I graduated from Imperial College London with a 1st class degree in Chemistry. I’ve always seen Chemistry as an enabling science which encourages multidisciplinary advancements. Success within the subject, combined with a genuine interest in its application motivated me to continue and I’ve become particularly interested in the use of data for socioeconomic development.

During my studies, I spent a year in Panama where I collated a report on teak deforestation from research on geopolitical and micro financing models. The resulting brief assembled over 4 years of data from various independent sources and I presented my analysis and conclusions to local financial institutions and NGOs. I found this to be an immensely rewarding and unique experience where I practised communicating complexity to differing branches of institutional structure.

I began understanding the value in data and appreciating its potential impact on the business world.

Q: Did you know you always wanted to study Chemistry at University?

A: I really enjoyed English and came so close to studying English Literature. I realised the reason I enjoyed English so much was because of the science behind it. You’re picking out patterns and analysing the language, meanings and what each part means for you. It’s interpreting it one way and communicating it out in another. To me it’s not a siloed thing. It’s interpretation, analysis and communication, and that’s science.

Q: Do you think schools need to do more to educate people about the various career options available to them?

A: Yes, definitely. I remember there was a course that taught you how to shower, how to take care of yourself etc, but there was never anything about the types of jobs you could do post education. Aside from the standard ‘you can be a doctor or banker or teacher’, it was never spoken about.

As a result, the only exposure you get to the types of careers out there are through your friends and family’s parents, meaning your understanding of your future is entirely dependent on the people you’re connecting with on a daily basis. Schools need to start providing students with clear information about the various paths they can take, and how they can get there.

Q: Finally, as the industry grows and attracts people from different backgrounds, how do you think we can attract more women into data?

A: By demystifying data. It’s all well and good people saying they work in data, but what does that mean? There are so many different things you can do in data, but right now, it’s just ‘data’, and I think that’s off-putting for a lot of women as there’s no clarity around it.

Until we can demystify it, people aren’t going to be brave enough to go for it. And girls are fabulous, but we’re not always supported for being as courageous as we could be. Even if you look at science or STEMM in general, so many women don’t go into it because it’s ‘kind of a man’s job.’ So, people go into other things that isn’t quite so daunting or seem as such a big, scary thing. The only way we can bring about actual change is through demystification.

by Sarah Collins

Posted on July 18, 2019