Women of Data Science – Alicia Tsai Launches First WiDS Conference in Taiwan
Western Digital is pleased to be a corporate sponsor of the Global Women in Data Science Conference (WiDS) since 2018. This new series of profiles features a select group of WiDS global ambassadors. They share their stories about leading events in their local communities that inspire and educate data scientists, while supporting women in the field.
Alicia Tsai is a WiDS Ambassador hailing from Taipei in Taiwan.
A graduate student researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, Alicia is also actively involved with her local data science community in Taipei as one of the leaders in the Coding & Co-Working Club. Through her role as a WiDS Ambassador, she planned and carried out a well-attended event with several respected speakers.
We talked with Alicia to learn about her experience planning a successful data science event. Here’s what she had to say!
First off, how did your event go?
ALICIA: It was a big success! This was our first time hosting the event and we had around 180 people join. One special thing is that we have both remote and local speakers, all of whom are extraordinary Taiwanese females. The mix of remote and local speakers brought fresh insights not only from Taiwan but also from places outside of Taiwan, making our events global and local at the same time.
When did you get the idea that you wanted to be a WiDS Ambassador?
ALICIA: I saw the WiDS event in July last year and learned that there were local events around the world. But, when I searched Taiwan, I couldn’t find any past events. Taiwan is an island, so attending a nearby event means that I have to fly in. Then I thought to myself “If there is no way, why not create one?” That’s when I started to think about becoming a WiDS Ambassador. I emailed Judy Logan, Co-Director of the Women in Data Science Conference, about organizing a WiDS conference in Taipei and she supported me all the way.
Why were you interested in the ambassador position?
ALICIA: My main goal at that time was to create a WiDS conference in Taipei. I was introduced to other ambassadors around the globe. Their experience in organizing WiDS conferences gave me a great idea of how to plan for my event. Most importantly, I got to recruit a team of 15 amazing people to help me make everything happen. We shared our speakers’ stories on Medium.
Once you started planning for your event, how did you find local speakers and attendees?
ALICIA: Before planning the conference, I had been involved in various tech communities for a while. To build trust with the speakers, I talked with all of them personally after inviting them. This helped the speakers understand what the conference is about and what to deliver to the attendees. Furthermore, our team also built friendship and mentorship with the speakers.
To reach to a wider range of attendees, we designed 3 workshops with three levels of difficulty: easy, intermediate and difficult. The workshops helped promote the conference and helped us gain publicity. Our marketing team did a great job! We compiled a list of groups on social media that fit our target audience and shared our speakers’ information that might fit their interests.
In your experience, what does the data science community look like in Taiwan?
ALICIA: There is definitely more awareness and popularity in data science right now than ever before. Most of the meetups and study groups are organized by working professionals. We also have some larger conferences focusing on data science or artificial intelligence every year. Most of the events are organized in Taipei. Our communities stay pretty close with each other as well. You can bump into the same group of people at other meetups very easily. It’s great to build long-term friendships and connections.
Moving forward, how do you think data science will impact people in their day-to-day life?
ALICIA: A lot of our day-to-day lives and our decisions are a form of analytical process. We may not be aware of it, but that doesn’t mean the underlying process of patterns does not exist. Our technology has made it easier to collect personal data. This means we can better understand our own behavior and decisions.
Everything in our daily lives, from sleep to exercise, to music preference and to purchasing behavior is tracked, recorded, and measured. Besides healthcare, data science also lies in aspects that we are less aware of such as delivery logistics and fraud detection.
What was your biggest takeaway from being a WiDS Ambassador?
ALICIA: An attendee shared on her blog post – “The most valuable parts I found in WiDS Conference are connections, ideas and inspiration”. And that’s what was on my mind when I pictured our event. It still sounds like a dream to me. At first, I was quite unsure about what it would be like. The worst I thought of was to just organize a small meetup.
But, being a WiDS Ambassador was a unique opportunity that combined not only my passion for data science, but also my mission for recognizing more female role models.
“I believe that young women and even experienced female professionals all need role models.” – Alicia Tsai