As president of the Women in Analytics group while a member of the Master of Science in Analytics (MScA)’s first cohort, Nichole Urigashvili saw the importance of the support women can provide each other when embarking on careers in data science. Now with over half a decade of experience working in the field, she has observed up close the positive impact women have had on each other and their workplaces across a variety of technology-related fields.
“During my time working in the field of data science—and technology more broadly—what I’ve noticed is a growing sense of camaraderie among women,” Nichole says. “Whether it’s helping prepare for interviews or sharing opportunities or just being there for each other, women are really engaged in supporting each other and encouraging one another to take risks and grow in their careers.”
Having started out with Nielsen working as an analyst, she took the opportunity to shift into a role as a data scientist while still in the MScA program, in order to mix her new technical skills with her business knowledge. In 2017, she accepted a senior data scientist position at GrubHub where she presently develops models to enhance GrubHub's use of data and business applications.
“Sometimes I miss the more client-facing work I was doing as an analyst at Nielsen,” Nichole says. “But it’s exciting to see how the models I develop at GrubHub play out and affect the overall business. When I research a business problem and develop, test, and implement the model all the way to production, I’m using the exact skillsets I learned while in the MScA program.”
"When I research a business problem and develop, test, and implement the model all the way to production, I’m using the exact skillsets I learned while in the MScA program.”
In addition to her role at GrubHub, Nichole continues to expand her network of women in the data science industry by actively participating in several groups in Chicago. TecHive, formerly called Women in Big Data, aims to increase the visibility and success of women working in the data science industry by closing the gender gap and increasing the number of women in leadership positions. Additionally, the group hosts monthly events showcasing female thought-leadership at both the local and international level. As with all TecHive events, everyone is invited.
Nichole herself helped coordinate an event recently focused around the variety of roles women data scientists have at GrubHub.
“The idea behind the event,” she says, “came when a group of us at GrubHub realized that, even though we were all data scientists, our different positions meant we were doing really different things. We thought it would be interesting and valuable to have a panel discussion centered around how, even across a single organization, data science positions can be really different. Knowing more about what opportunities are out there is a great way to inspire ideas about exciting future steps we can take in our careers.”
A different sort of women-focused group Nichole has taken part in is Brave Initiatives, where she volunteers to teach middle and high school girls how to code. With Saturday get-togethers in downtown Chicago during the school year and a weeklong camp during the summer, Brave Initiatives seeks to empower high school girls to be active engagers and leaders through design, coding, and leadership training.
“What I love in particular about Brave Initiatives is that all their projects center around positive social impact,” Nichole says. “The websites the girls design always try to focus on important areas, like healthcare or trash collection or crime rates. Seeing their passion for learning code and designing their own websites is incredibly inspiring and exciting to watch.”
“The websites the girls design always try to focus on important areas, like healthcare or trash collection or crime rates. Seeing their passion for learning code and designing their own websites is incredibly inspiring and exciting to watch.”
As a teacher and mentor of these young women, Nichole sees the importance of starting early when it comes to building a community of women who will be tomorrow’s technology leaders. While Nichole’s team at GrubHub is comprised equally of women and men, she is well aware that that is not the case everywhere yet. Addressing the underrepresentation of women in the technology workplace generally, she points to the fact that oftentimes it is simply a matter of fewer women applying for job openings.
“It’s a slow process,” Nichole says. “But that’s why organizations like Brave Initiatives are so important. By instilling a passion for coding and design while still young, these girls will have the drive and confidence to aim high and achieve whatever they set their eyes on. Ultimately, that’s the biggest piece of advice I have for women working in technology: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t hesitate before an intriguing opportunity. After all, one of the great aspects of working in this area is that there are so many exciting paths to pursue.”