Building the right data talent starts when a person is still in school preparing to dive deeper into the data science profession. This is well grasped by both the African Centre of Excellence in Data Science (ACEDS) and Cenfri, which is implementing the Rwanda Economy Development Programme funded by the Mastercard Foundation.
On January 25th 2023, they both organised a public lecture which focused on "Building the right data talent pipeline". This was attended by different data science practitioners as well as data science students.
Ekow Duker, a tech start-up co-founder highlighted that there is a high demand for data science professionals, suggesting demand increased threefold in 2021. Duker urged the students in the audience to develop a commercial mindset and learn the underlying business to better understand the issues for which a data solution is required.
"The next step is to partner with the business and not to be an 'order taker'," he continued. "Be technically proficient by knowing the underlying math, building a project repository, testing yourself in competitions, and by being part of the wider data community."
Hanjo Odendaal, another experienced data scientist warned, "It is not all about big data, administrative social science data can also be particularly valuable." He encouraged the audience not to fixate on machine learning and advised people to learn SQL so they can work with large databases.
Olivia Rutayisire, an alumna of ACEDS declared that she is using the knowledge she has acquired from school (including data mining, data manipulation, Python, as well as machine learning) in her work, although she is aware that the data science domain requires one to keep learning.
She urged organisations to share data on trust, declaring that the number one goal of data scientists is to help them make data-driven decisions instead of basing decisions on gut feelings.
Rutayisire called those who are passionate about data science to pursue it because it is a golden field considering today's world, adding that they must be willing to help institutions to get the right data and then analyze it by finding insights that are going to impact those institutions.
Dr Ignace Kabano, Head of Training at ACEDS, found the session very useful and insightful, given that it bridges the need of the industry through the education and training that are offered at the university.
He asserted that at the ACEDS, they train students to become data scientists who can not only develop models but also develop solutions to the challenges that industries are facing.
"Data scientists can't only be studying theories; we want them to come up with solutions, especially when you consider the data revolution and data engineering perspective. We want them to be working on a specific project in the industry and come up with a solution to the challenges observed," he said.