Silicon Valley Firm to Usher More Underrepresented Groups into Tech

Girl at a computer
To bring more diversity to the tech sector, data and analytics company ThoughtSpot is planning a pair of online courses to introduce students from underrepresented communities to careers crunching data. (Dreamstime/TNS)

To bring more diversity to the tech sector, data and analytics company ThoughtSpot is planning a pair of online courses to introduce students from underrepresented communities to careers crunching data.

The one-hour courses will include slide shows and interactive talks. Free, it will be offered nationwide to students from sixth grade to high school seniors, said Cindi Howson, chief data strategy officer of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company.

The presentations will be streamed on online tutoring service Varsity Tutors at 7 p.m. on Nov. 4 and Dec. 16 and will be available online and on YouTube afterward, said Howson, who is to lead the Nov. 4 presentation. She will be joined by Kirk Borne, chief data scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the largest security contractors in the U.S., and by other professionals who use data in their jobs.

The November presentation will seek to explain how data is “now part of everyday life and is at the heart of AI,” according to the registration website. Similarly, the Dec. 16 presentation is called “From touchdowns to baby names — exploring data from everyday life.”

“Data informs pretty much everything,” Howson said, defining data as gathered information — whether numbers, pictures, or words — organized in diverse ways to provide answers. People who work with data commonly place information into databases to be analyzed with other software tools, she said.

“These are the hottest jobs, the highest-paying jobs,” Howson said. “If we don’t have diversity in tech, we risk having bias at scale.”

She added that people, burdened with prejudices and biases, risk embedding their preconceptions into artificial intelligence, or AI, systems they build or into their analysis of data.

“So as more things go to AI, we need diverse teams working on this … and driving change,” said Howson, an expert based in northern New Jersey who has partnered with Philly-area organizations seeking to introduce more girls and women to tech careers.

In a survey released in October, the World Economic Forum listed data analysts and scientists as the jobs for which demand was increasing more dramatically. The survey, dubbed the “Future of Jobs Report,” interviewed executives from more than 200 large companies worldwide from many industries. “Skills gaps continue to be high as in-demand skills across jobs change in the next five years,” the report found.

“Over the next five years, all growth in traditional tech spending will be driven by just four platforms: cloud, mobile, social and big data/analytics,” according to a recent forecast by research group International Data Corp.

These online courses are part of the ThoughtSpot Together program launched by the company in 2018. The initiative hopes to spark an interest in data and analytics at an earlier age for all people, but especially women and girls and members of communities underrepresented in tech such as African-Americans and Latinos, Howson said.

(SOURCE: TNS)

(Article written by Ezequiel Minaya)