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About the Women in Data Science Series
A data scientist knows that some of the richest and most intriguing stories can be found in a dataset.
To highlight the stories behind the women in data science at Booz Allen, we created an editorial series on the individuals who are solving today’s big challenges and redefining, in their own unique ways, what it means to be a data scientist.
Explore the profiles and get personal with women from a variety of backgrounds, skill sets, and experience who are a part of our growing team of data scientists at Booz Allen.
When she was growing up, Sian’s dream job was to be Oprah. “I saw someone who looked like me on TV,” she said, “and I wanted to interview all the world’s smartest, most influential people, too.”
Young Sian would come to find out that, as a data scientist, she herself would be one of the world’s most influential people. “Algorithms help determine a lot of important aspects of our lives such as job eligibility and access to loans and funding,” explained Sian. “Because of this, it’s important that people of all backgrounds have a role in making data-driven decisions.”
Born in Nottingham, England, Sian landed in the DC area by way of Trinidad and Tobago. Now a specialist in deep learning, natural language processing, predictive analytics, and social good initiatives, Sian’s professional journey did not begin as a data scientist. If you ask her, however, she’ll tell you that “every job I’ve had has turned into a data science job.”
In her last professional chapter, Sian ran a political data firm that helped elect people in democratic elections all over the world. She was also a political and legislative director for a labor union. Now at Booz Allen, Sian says, “I’ve been able to combine both of my passions: data science and the ability to do social good in a big way.”
When you meet Sian, a 2019 DCFemTech awardee and Prince George’s County 2017 40 Under 40 honoree for public service, it doesn’t take long to realize that the only way she knows how to do social good is in a big way.
Sian’s current project work with a government client involves using data science to convert health records to digital format for active duty service members. Why does this matter? “Because coordinated records means better healthcare for our military,” Sian explained. “I came to Booz Allen to be the best data scientist I can be, and solving big challenges like this is what gets me out of bed every morning.”
What else gets Sian to rise and shine? Her work with the Women in Data Science (WiDS) group, GLOBE (our LGBTQ+ forum), and executive board duties with the Wanda Alston Foundation (which provides housing and support services to at-risk LGBTQ youth in DC), to name a few things. And if those weren’t enough, she also leads a black lesbian book club for fun.
As part of her role with WiDS, Sian helped create the “Hackathon for Hiring” which posed two challenges to participants: use data science to build a model that could predict female employee attrition rates, and use natural language processing to assess industry job ads for gender inclusivity. WiDS is on a mission to achieve gender parity for data scientists at all levels at Booz Allen, and this hackathon brought them closer to that goal.
The Hackathon for Hiring had a particularly strong impact on Sian, who saw it as a meaningful step forward for Booz Allen. By encouraging more women to enter––and stay––in data science, we’re getting closer to gender parity one algorithm at a time.
Paraphrasing author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (via Beyoncé), Sian recalls the succinct definition of a feminist: someone who simply just wants equality.
While it may be a simple concept to express, there is still a long way to go. “We are in an age of divisiveness,” Sian reflected, “and no matter how many gains there are, communities are still sometimes pitted against each other. When you have civility as a challenge, it’s really hard to get anything done.”
Data science could help fuel the push towards the progress we need. While there are technical requirements for the job, Sian says, “it also requires really strong ethics. You have to be guided by a moral code that will benefit everyone.”
“You have to be guided by a moral code that will benefit everyone.”
Whether it’s at a hackathon, in a conference room, or at her book club, Sian is doing all she can to make a difference for all. “When I was growing up, I was always ‘the only.’ The only girl in AP math. The only woman in the room. The only black person. The only out queer person,” Sian reflected. “I’m building a future for people who feel like they’re the only so that they don’t have to be.”