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7 Questions for Women in Tech: Laura Velikonja

Bringing awareness to women in tech: Meet Laura Velikonja the Senior Data Scientist at Telefónica Germany. Laura specialises in leading various data projects with data engineering, modeling and visualization. She has a degree in mathematics and is extremely passionate about Data Science – a field, where she found her dream job

1. What is your specific job?

I am a data scientist, which – in its simplest form – means that I am making use of data. More specifically, my job is to empower colleagues in different business units to make data-based decisions. I achieve this by listening to their challenges, collecting and transforming relevant data and developing an algorithm that runs automatically and delivers an answer to a specific question. I always feel like I am working in a start-up: It’s important to understand the customer’s needs and deliver a solution that not only meets the requirements, but is practical and easy to use.

2. Your initial spark to enter this industry?

I’ve always wanted to combine mathematics with real life applications. I first got into tech industry in 2011, when I wrote my bachelor thesis on recommender systems at a Munich-based technology company. At that time I didn’t call it data science yet, but it was actually the beginning of my career in this field.

3. Your most exciting project to date?

Every project is exciting! In each one it is important to understand the business process. That’s why I have to understand every time how a particular department of our company works, and that’s what makes my job so versatile. Over the past few years I have learned many things, to name just a few: How our mobility network works, what an HR IT architecture looks like or how call centers operate. At the moment I am excited about a platform, on which all these data products run. It’s important how they are operated and maintained, because it allows you to scale data science. I am very proud to be responsible for the development of this platform.

4. Top skills that anyone, who wants to work in Tech need?

Ability and willingness to learn and continuously develop. The world of technology is changing very fast, every day new tools and methods emerge and it’s crucial for us to be able to deal with them.

5. What advice would you give to young professionals starting in tech?

Surround yourself with experts, from whom you can learn. Create an environment where you can ask questions and learn from experienced people who have been in the industry for a long time. Although it is tempting to start in a company where you can work ‘on a greenfield site’ and perhaps take on more responsibility, I would recommend to start in a company that is advanced in a field you want to work in. Attending meetups and conferences to exchange ideas with experts is also always a good idea.

6. Your biggest role model?

My former boss and Captain Picard! There are so many great role models out there, that was thinking of someone I worked with and that’s when I remembered my former boss: She created a team spirit that was extraordinary, because she has a great sense of humor and always acted as a buffer between the demands of management and the team. She enabled us to live up to our full potential. And of course, Captain Picard from Startrek TNG. I am always amazed how true his actions and phrases were back then in the early 90th, but still are today.

7. People or media (blogs, podcasts) to follow?

Data Science Podcasts:

Data Science Blogs:

Towards Data Science 

Medium

Management Tips by Captain Picard

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