Guest Blog - Women in Data & Analytics: Duhita Khadepau, Assignar

Ripesh Damania 06.03.2019

To celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th, this week we will be bringing you a series of guest blogs from leading senior females in Data and Analytics. They will be discussing their success, career-defining moments and what advice they would give to another female looking to pursue a similar career. This is what Duhita Khadepau, Head of Data at Assignar had to say.

duhita_khadepau2.jpgProfile: Duhita is a passionate data science-aficionado, with 13+ years specialized experience in Data Warehousing, Database designing, and Development of Business Applications across banking, retail and workforce management industries internationally (India, USA, Singapore, Australia).

Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, in 2017, Duhita co-founded Madlytics, a data consultancy helping Startups to become more data-driven and leverage the resultant insights.

Currently, Duhita is Head of Data at Assignar, where she is responsible for the big picture of the vision, priorities, strategy, and execution for data and analytics landscape across the entire company.

In past, she has been the Head of Data Science at Deputy, Data Manager at THE ICONIC and Head of Data at Zalora where the key goal was to make the organization data-driven and use data to build better products.

Duhita is passionate about how data science as a relatively new field is still shackled by the archaic ways of the old technology days. With women being few and far between, she works hard to help empower women to consider a career in Data. She holds a Master of Data Science degree from UTS.

She is also fascinated with the possibilities that deep learning (neural networks and AI) holds across industries and aims to help realize its potential in mainstream businesses.

What are the key habits that you feel make you successful?

  • Being an early riser: I generally like to wake up at 4am and have an early start to the day. It helps you mindfully get through all your daily routine. Go through the news, get a bit of reading done, check my meetings, messages, and email and plan for the day ahead. This helps me avoid spending time at work organising myself.
  • Being Fit: You do not have to be size zero but you do need to be healthy. Exercising even if it's for just 30 mins or any kind of physical activity like dancing or playing a sport will keep your mind sharp throughout the day. 
  • Keep Learning: Waking up most of the days with an excitement to learn something new is a great feeling. Being in technology, there is always something new coming up. And trying to keep yourself up to date is very important. So I keep seeking out and completing udemy, udacity courses to stay on top of the latest trends and learnings. I also listen to podcasts to understand different points of view.
  • Network: Having a support group to learn from and be like a second family is very important. Surrounding yourself with people who not only are part of your social circle but also support you professionally and act as your sounding board for career advice is crucial especially for women.

What's the most valuable piece of advice you have received in your career and how did it help you?

Fail fast, fail early. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Risk it for the biscuit. I’ve learned time and again that hesitating to the take the first step due to fear of making a mistake is never the right way. That is not to say that one shouldn’t plan before they act, but staying in the planning stage with no forward momentum is akin to death.

At the first startup I worked, we wanted to do Netsuite Integration and wanted to use new technology. Nobody knew how to use that tech, so I volunteered to take up the challenge. I learned the technology, implemented it and the success of it led me to be promoted to being Head of Systems integration.

So if there is an opportunity, grab it and then learn how to do the job. Don’t give up without trying.

What's the most challenging situation you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

Throughout my entire career, I have had great mentors and I am still in touch with them. But a key issue that I found with Mentorship is that no matter how much a mentor cares for you and give you advice, they cannot help you at your current workplace. So even when I have had mentors outside of the workplace, I have always made sure to have a Sponsor within the current organization. Someone who has seen my work, someone who is acutely aware of my career goals and aspirations. Someone to whom I have proved that I am capable of doing a great job. That sponsor would help me get the right projects, right resources and right opportunities to prove myself and vouch for me when the time comes for moving upwards or across other teams. And once you move on from that organisation they then become your mentors.

Despite the progressive nature of tech and the people in it, bro-culture is still an issue. In one of my past roles, I was the only woman in a team dominated by a “boy’s club”. Getting buy-in for a decision or having my opinion heard was an uphill task. Thankfully sound advice from my reporting manager, who ironically was a man, helped me navigate the testosterone-driven environment. Standing my ground and ensuring the environment did not intimidate me, it allowed me to not only survive but thrive. 

When you are starting out, you feel you know quite a bit of the technology you are using, and the business. But once you grow in your career and also become a people manager, you realize it’s impossible to know it all. You cannot be coding, being a manager, and driving vision and strategy. Hence you start hiring and building your team. At that point, you have to learn to do two things;

  1. Learn to Let Go: After a certain point, you have to start feeling comfortable not knowing every single detail of the project. You sometimes have to then decide if you want to keep coding or be a leader. Although I would love to think I am a Wonder Woman, realistically one cannot do everything.
  2. Trust your team: When you hire a team, hire people smarter than you. But when you do that don’t teach them how to do their job. You have to learn to trust them that they will do a job better than you.

How do you approach making a difficult decision? 

There a few things to keep in mind while making a decision.

  1. You do need to understand clearly what is it that you want to achieve and why?
  2. Coming from a data background, I would need to gather as many data points as possible. I wish we had an AI program that could view the millions of possibilities and give me the winning result (Just like where Dr. Strange looks at 14 Million different futures to see that only in 1 would The Avengers win against Thanos :D) 
  3. You need to think if that decision aligns with the customer, company and employees’ well being. 
  4. Also, think about the worst-case scenario, what happens when things don’t plan out.

What do you believe will be the most in-demand skills over the next 10 years within Data and Analytics and why?

10 years is a very long time when ecosystems are constantly changing. Although I would say that some of the below skills will definitely be required for a data scientist:

  • SQL - to be able to query any database
  • Python/R - to be able to do analysis/modelling/visualisations
  • Communication - Being in Data space you need to be able to not only with the engineers but also with the business people. They have to be a very good communicator and switches from geek-speak to business communication seamlessly.

Join in on the conversation on Twitter for this years' International Women's Day using the hashtag #BalanceforBetter

Ripesh Damania's picture
Director | Technology & Analytics
rdamania@morganmckinley.com.au