Towards Data Science: Why I decided to go the Data Science, rather than MBA route

(Not the MBA route, yet*)

Last week, I began my nearly 4-month immersive data science program at the FlatIron School. The course will cover programming, probability, and machine learning/linear algebra. I have been working towards this goal for the last 6-months. This course of study is not a reflection of a change of heart about Africa or business or lack of direction as my dad, who believes the natural next step for me is an MBA), fears.

Rather, it is a calculated decision made with the understanding that the combination of my strategy, business development, writing, and sales ability with data science will allow me to birth and execute truly innovative ideas on a scale I haven’t imagined yet. 

It is also an effort to gain the technical skills needed to solve big problems on the African continent and encourage and motivate others interested in the issues of African politics, development, economics, history, and culture, areas traditionally relegated to the social sciences and arts, to get radically technical about their contributions. 

It is about the possibility and beauty of scale.

Towards Data Science 

My journey towards data science began late last year when African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS)  launched its African Masters in Machine Learning program in Rwanda. I was instinctively drawn to the program‘s pitch about gaining high-level interdisciplinary business skills that would allow me to solve problems on the continent at 10x-20x scale. 

I knew it would be good for my business and the work we are doing to address youth unemployment across Africa. 

I understood that if I didn’t have the skill today, I would need to hire for it tomorrow, literally. 

“Data analysts and scientists are the TOP emerging in-demand role, even as automation begins to take hold and replace other roles. ” Tricia Morris said in Business Trends of The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future of Jobs Report

A Forbes contributor also recently argued:

"As data science continues to proliferate in coming years, there will be increasing value to being able to tie the underlying techniques to business problems in a meaningful way and technically trained individuals with solid communication skills and business common sense are probably in the best position to capitalize on this….where companies traditionally have hired MBAs.”

Rather than join the legions of founders or managers who need data scientists on their team, I would become the data scientist founder.  


The Journey Begins 

I’m excited about being a data scientist! I think I am getting in at a sweet spot: the field is new but not so new that there are no tools or applications to make the work understandable. 

Enrolling at AIMs didn’t work out. After many inquiries about applying, I was told that I had to have an undergraduate degree in mathematics, statistics, computer programming or a related science degree to enroll; my economics degree would would not cut it.

Life has a way of working itself out. 

At a vision board party I co-organized for my women’s group in Ghana, I freely pinned together words and images that resonated with me without much thought and at the end of the activity, TECH stuck out among the rest (board above).

I later saw an add on Instagram ad about women in data science at FlatIron. Although the course and content isn’t Africa focused, I know that the school cares about diversity - enough for me to chart an Africa centered data science/AI path while here!

The realization of this goal has meant putting some things, like sharing a blog post each day, on hold. Still, the timing is perfect; I believe that this is the perfect time to transition into this skill and make considerable impact in this way. 

I am highly optimistic that the coming together of all of my abilities, interests, and insights at the end of this journey will be delightful. 

What were some of your aspirations for the new year? What have you had to put on hold to fulfill them? Do share. The title of this blog post is inspired by a data science blog called Towards Data Science that I would recommend you read if you are into interested in the subject.