Women in Data Science Day 2018

Photo credit: UoP Technology, University of Portsmouth

Led by Stanford University, Women in Data Science Day, WiDS for short, aims to educate aspiring Data Scientists around the world on emergent topics within this sector of technology and support women in the field. The annual conference provides attendees the opportunity to learn about the latest data science research and applications used in a broad spectrum from a featured panel composed exclusively of women.

SAP NextGen is an innovation program from SAP that purveys bright young minds and their fresh ideas to produce digital solutions. It aims to connect with students, SMEs (small-to-medium enterprises), and academics and help accelerate their exponential enterprise journeys in the digital society.


I was kindly invited to SAP NextGen WiDS Day hosted by the University of Portsmouth on Tuesday 13th March. To commemorate the launch of the new SAP NextGen Lab at the University of Portsmouth, it was one of the 100+ regional events worldwide participating in WiDS. It gave delegates the opportunity to see how the unique facility within the Business School can help expand young minds and the encourage the inquisitivity of new horizons. The conference consisted of three segments: a lineup of women excelling in the data science field sharing their experiences and tips to succeed, a networking session with the opportunity to discuss the latest topics in data science, and a hands-on practical workshop to produce a digital solution to a real-life problem.

Talk #1: Data Science in a SAP Leonardo Framework by Cathy Ward, Global Chief Operating Officer, SAP Leonardo

Global COO Cathy Ward began her presentation by sharing the heart-sinking, gut-wrenching, daunting-but-real statistic that only 5% of organisations out of the 900+ studied have mastered digital, as reported by the recently published 16 year market research conducted by Accenture.

When “mastering digital”, it does not entail the transition of flipcharts to plasma screens in boardroom meetings. It means the act of digitising your organisational processes to generate business value. For instance, Uber and AirBnB recognised a digital market in the taxi and hospitality industry, respectively. Both companies wanted to increase convenience for those who needed to get from Destination A to B efficiently or book a last-minute accommodation with an authentic flare.

It is believed many companies, or the 95% if you want to quantify, fail to master digital because they are still applying traditional methods to follow digitisation. Thus, the deliverable produced may not have the sufficient business value as expected due to it being more tactical than strategic.

SAP Leonardo fosters the principle of fast innovation and implementation with low risk. It aims to diverge from building tech for the sake of tech and instead aims to help for the greater good by using SAP for more energising purposes.

In 2016, the business embraced the Japan 1BLives initiative to help improve 1 billion lives in Asia Pacific Japan by 2020. As the country is seismic, it aspires to combine SAP technology and natural movements to detect the likelihood and impact of earthquakes in the hope of building safer homes.

It has also collaborated with leading Italian rail transport operator Trenitalia to create a maintenance management system. The business hopes to utilise the system to manage the large volume of 7TB worth of data generated on a daily basis in a bid to gain competitive advantage.

The SAP Leonardo framework is built by three components:

  1. Proven Methodology.
    • Design thinking.
    • Rapid prototyping.
    • Reduce risk in innovation by engaging business and customer.
    • Personas.
  2. Innovative Technologies.
    • Looking at edge technologies in low risk environment for business to experiment.
    • Business value projects.
  3. Industry Accelerators.
    • More than just a toolkit. Adapt to suit business needs.
    • Example: Trenitalia Maintenance Management System.

Talk #2: Opportunities in Data Science by Meghan McCarthy, Regional Early Talent Lead, SAP Sales Academy (EMEA North)

Meghan McCarthy, the SAP Sales Academy Lead for EMEA North (Europe, Middle East, North Africa), started her presentation by stating there is a generational gap in the technology industry.

SAP’s workforce consists of a diverse range of employees in their 20s to 60s, with 40% born in the 90s. It aims to bridge this gap and encourage knowledge transfer between those departing for retirement and those kickstarting their career paths.

It believes diversity and inclusion are the centre of innovation. You can have diverse teams but you also need to ensure their goals and needs and acknowledged to make them feel included. This can then lead to successful innovative digital solutions.

The SAP Academy is a nine month scheme, alternating between six weeks in training and six weeks in the field at California to apply the knowledge they had gained. The program has two intakes per year and is suited for those who know they want to pursue a career in sales.

The LEAP Program is specific for female development and runs alongside the SAP Academy.

Talk #3: Using Fuzzy Logic / IoT to Optimise Container Transportation by Dr Jana Ries, Senior Lecturer at Portsmouth Business School, University of Portsmouth

Dr Jana Ries, Senior Lecturer at the Portsmouth Business School, commenced her presentation by illustrating the uncertainty in data. We assume data is clear and ready to be processed without realising many datasets require data cleansing procedures before it can be analysed. It can be compared to the colour red: it is multifaceted. One person’s interpretation of red can differ from another’s, exactly like data. It can also be compared to baking; it is ambiguous, naturally variable and open to different interpretations.

Dr Ries then introduced the definition of Fuzzy Logic and compared that to an apple. Some are red, some are green. However, there are some that are both red and green and this epitomises the “fuzzy” in Fuzzy Logic. Things can happen to a certain extent, therefore Fuzzy Logic must allow partial membership instead of sets.

This led to the main topic of the presentation: how to utilise Fuzzy Logic in assisting container transportation between three different ports – Hamburg, Southampton, Arica.

Each had a different story to tell with contrasting histories. It was found Hamburg was more integral, whereas Chile required negotiation for transportation due to its border history in 2013. This emphasised the needs to accurate and efficient decision making with a strong membership focus and rule based methodologies.

The concluding points of the presentation were the ability to extend additional decision criteria and real-time analysis for better and timely strategies.

2018-03-13 16.14.34
Photo credit: David Starkey, SAP NextGen
Photo Credit: Martin Gollogly, SAP NextGen

After the networking session and consumption of many chocolate pastries, it was time for the third segment of the conference: the design thinking workshop. The attendees were split into three groups and were given a real-life problem which required a digital solution: build a strategy for an individual who wishes to utilise modern technology in assisting their campaign to raise awareness of endangered animals.

The requirement of the workshop was to build a persona of the individual who would be leading the campaign. The team and I considered gender, age, martial status, educational background and domain knowledge. The next step was to create an ideation. This means what resources are required to achieve the goal, such as: people, funding and equipment. The last step was to create the prototype. Factors considered were operating system compatibility, language, third-party features, geolocation, etc. At the end of the brainstorming session, each team presented their three deliverables to the rest of the delegates.

It was such a fun workshop to participate in and a pleasure to present our digital strategy! Ours was a sassy empowered lady who also represents at the UN and is a highly respected endangered-animal / anti-hunting activist. She has two degrees: BSc in Environmental Science, MA in International Business. The ideation was to create a non-profit group to spread the awareness on endangered animals and delivers many talks at conferences. The prototype was a mobile application (available on iOS and Android), hoping to be rolled out in multiple languages if the prototype is successful. It has features where users can donate to charities directly through the app and geolocation data informs them when the sassy lady is doing a talk nearby.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I was invited to the event by the organiser, but all views are my own and not affiliated with SAP, SAP NextGen or the University of Portsmouth.

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