Women of Data Science – Nathaly Alarcón Torrico Trains Data Scientists in Bolivia
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.
Nathaly Alarcón Torrico is a WiDS Ambassador hailing from La Paz, Bolivia.
As a data scientist, Nathaly works for an Internet of Things (IoT) company in Bolivia. She also leads technical workshops that teach data scientists new skills. Through her role as a WiDS Ambassador, she planned and carried out a successful event with many respected speakers.
Above all, Nathaly is dedicated to training Bolivian women to become high-caliber data scientists. We talked with Nathaly to learn about her experience planning a successful data science event. Find out what Nathaly had to say!
First off, how did your event go?
NATHALY: The event was pretty good! The event became the first Local Conference of Applied Data Science. We had close to 100 attendees and almost 80% were women, even some without a background in STEM.
In addition to the main conference, we also ran code labs to meet our attendees’ requests to cover topics like Python for data science and image classifiers. The code labs were full and attendees got the chance to train their first classifier. The most gratifying experience was that several women tried data science for the first time and were ready to learn more!
When did you get the idea that you wanted to be a WiDS Ambassador?
NATHALY: When I discovered WiDS, I was fascinated with the videos of the first conference. After I finished my Master’s degree in Europe and returned to Bolivia, I found that the field was just starting to grow. I wanted to help speed up this process.
So, when I read about the WiDS Ambassador program, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to create a local community of women interested in data science. Immediately, I contacted the WiDS organizers and our interests aligned. We were trying to achieve similar goals, share knowledge about data science and empower women interested in this field.
Why were you so interested in the ambassador position?
NATHALY: Because I needed the support and expertise of a community that could help me with content. Also, I was looking to develop guidelines to empower Bolivian people interested in data science. Bringing the WiDS conference to my city of La Paz was a great goal to start this empowerment with a recognized brand.
Once you started planning for your event, how did you find local speakers and attendees?
NATHALY: As data science is an emergent field in Bolivia, finding local speakers was one of the hardest tasks. We opened our call for speakers and hosted a couple of meetups to talk about data science and its tools. These meetups all were packed with attendees! Then, we found local speakers who were women from the meetups, universities and social media.
In your experience, what does the data science community look like in Bolivia now?
NATHALY: Since we launched the local WiDS conference, we have inspired many people to learn about data science and machine learning. The data science community in Bolivia is growing. One example is that for the most recent WiDS data science training, we had over 200 candidates! Unfortunately, we were able to only admit 50 students.
But, we are looking to deliver additional training opportunities for the remaining applicants who are passionate about data science!
Moving forward, how do you think data science will impact people in their day-to-day life?
NATHALY: Data science will improve the processes that affect companies’ results. We will be able to make smarter decisions and focus our efforts and resources on the most effective tasks. For people in technology, if they are not building the models, then they will have to learn how to consume them and incorporate them in their work processes.
What was your biggest takeaway from being a WiDS Ambassador?
NATHALY: We just need to INSPIRE people! If you show them that you are able to learn and apply data science, then they will try to do the same. That is how our community is growing.
“Offering support will help young data scientists persevere and succeed in their journey.” – Nathaly Alarcón Torrico