Women of Data Science – Eleanor and Shir Lead Data Transformation in Israel
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.
Eleanor Yehudai and Shir Meir Lador are two rockstar WiDS Ambassadors hailing from Tel Aviv, Israel.
Both women are leading data transformation at Intuit Israel: Eleanor as a Project Manager and Shir as a Data Science Manager.
Their data science event, WiDS TelAviv, saw keynotes, lightning talks, and tutorials for a large group of data enthusiasts. We talked with Eleanor and Shir to learn about their experience planning a successful data science event.
First off, how did your event go?
SHIR: We had an amazing and unique event! It was inspiring to meet so many professional data scientists in one place, including many female data scientists. Our presentations were also high-quality.
ELEANOR: I agree, it was an amazing event! Throughout the entire planning process and the event itself, we came across many talented and inspiring women. They are so passionate about their work that you can’t help but feel inspired and energized.
When did you get the idea that you wanted to be a WiDS Ambassador?
SHIR: Intuit took the initiative to support WiDS in the United States a few years ago. Last October, our team at Intuit Israel decided to bring this event to Israel.
ELEANOR: Once Intuit Israel decided to bring WiDS to Israel, I was very excited to take this opportunity!
Why were you so interested in the ambassador position?
SHIR: I love having a community of professional data scientists around me to learn and get inspiration from. To evolve as a data scientist, I believe that I have a responsibility to share my work and get feedback from other professionals in the field.
That’s why I co-founded PyData Tel Aviv meetups in 2016. The attendance at these meetups—and in technical conferences in general—has historically had a low rate of female participants and speakers, around 10% – 20%. I thought that being a WiDS ambassador would be a great opportunity to have a technical conference that encourages women to speak and participate.
ELEANOR: Within Intuit, we highly encourage more women to work in tech. I love to promote this message every day at work. Also, technical talks about data science always cover interesting topics and ideas! This combination of women and data science made WiDS an easy partnership choice.
Once you started planning for your event, how did you find local speakers and attendees?
SHIR: We looked to our local machine learning community, data science groups on social media and the PyData community to get recommendations for female keynote speakers. Based on our research, we invited a few key people in the industry to speak at our event and published a call for proposals for lightning talks, tutorials and roundtable discussions.
ELEANOR: Shir used her connections to the local data science community to spread the word. Speaking offers came flowing in! The hardest part was to screen all the offers we received.
In your experience, what does the data science community look like in Israel now?
SHIR: The data science community in Israel is flourishing. Companies understand the power of data and have a data science lead or team working to leverage their data into insights and grow their business. Some data scientists are doing analytics and business insights. Many of them use machine and deep learning models in production as the core of their products.
ELEANOR: As Shir described, the data science community in Israel is flourishing. Data science is such a popular topic nowadays. People are looking for brilliant data science features to be a part of their products.
Moving forward, how do you think data science will impact people in their day-to-day life?
SHIR: Data science is transforming the entire world around us. It’s only going to become more and more important as we’re looking into the next few decades!
ELEANOR: I had this talk with my father, where I had to explain why our AI/ML group is growing so rapidly here at Intuit Israel. The main reason is that the world is moving towards smarter products in every aspect you can think of:
- Sales websites offer you more items to add to your cart based on your previous purchases or based on people who bought a similar item
- Investment platforms offer you additional investment options based on your prior activity
This is a direct result of the enormous amount of data that can be collected and used to predict behavior. We’ll see more and more of that coming our way.
What was your biggest takeaway from being a WiDS Ambassador?
SHIR: I actually have three takeaways! 1) It’s possible to have an event that encourages women to speak and produce high-quality content. 2) When women are encouraged to speak, they show up and give great talks. 3) There are a lot of talented women in the field in Israel and we should keep giving them the place to meet and share their work.
ELEANOR: I have one more piece to add to Shir’s input: when we first started planning, we took a decision to keep the format rules, without making our event all about gender. The focus was on creating high-end content. The feedback that we got was so supportive and positive!
“Women are tired of getting the stage because of their gender; they want to get it because of what they have to say.” – Eleanor Yehudai