How to rise to the challenges of big data and diversity

I would like to see more girls into sciences as a career...The technology sector is one of the worst in terms of gender balanceAngie Judge, Dexibit

Angie Judge recalls attending a lecture for her software engineering course and finding there was only one other female in a class of 90.

This was in 2002, when Judge was completing her bachelor degree at AUT University.

“It feels like a long time ago, but the reality is it wasn't,” says Judge, now CEO of data analytics company Dexibit.

After completing her degree in business, strategic management and organisational change, Judge worked for multinational technology companies including Amdocs and Hewlett-Packard.

“I had the same experience of often finding myself the only woman in the room, or one of two in a large group,” says Judge.

“I am just determined to make sure we don’t have that kind of environment for Dexibit.”

Just a year old, Dexibit now has customers in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Canada. These include the Auckland Art Gallery to the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

Judge founded Dexibit just over a year ago. The company provides analytics on visitor behaviour onsite and online, enabling data driven decisions that increase visitation for museums and other cultural institutions.

“We work with data from the visitor's physical presence via mobile signals, online traffic, social media, commercial transactions, weather and more, presenting personalised, real-time dashboards to museum managers,” says Judge.

Dexibit now has 10 staff, with customers in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Canada. “From Auckland Art Gallery to the Smithsonian.”

“We are also diverse,” adds Judge. “Forty per cent of our team are women and we speak 13 languages amongst us.”

Honouring a tech pioneer

Judge shares her experience, as she talks about the significance of Ada Lovelace Day, which is held every second Tuesday of October.

Ada Lovelace Day or ALD, is an international day celebrating the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths, known as STEM.

The day was named for Lovelace, considered the world’s first computer programmer, an English mathematician in the 19th century.

According to a website on famous scientists, Lovelace “took part in writing the first published program and recognised for the first time that computers could do much more than just calculations”.

October 11 is Ada Lovelace Day, which pays tribute to women in STEM careers.

Judge is keen to promote the legacy of Lovelace.

Speaking to a group of high school students at Shadow Tech last August, she held up her smartphone and encouraged the female students to take selfies.

We should celebrate, she says, “the first computer programmer was a woman, Ada Lovelace.”

Angie Judge at Shadow Tech Day in Auckland.

She says it is important to stress the opportunities in STEM for female students. “They can go on to leadership and entrepreneurial pathways.

“I would like to see more girls into sciences as a career,” she says. “The technology sector is one of the worst in terms of gender balance.”

Lessons in leadership at home

Growing up, Judge never considered going into any other career but technology.

Her father was a software engineer and technology entrepreneur in the '80s. “Technology was a dinner table conversation in our home,” she says.

“He had a ruler that he used for designing software procedures. This was back in the days before we used technology for doing that very task.

“He would sit me down with pens and pieces of paper with the ruler, to draw pictures and diagrams for software.”

“He is exactly one of the people in my life who did what I would want others to do, in terms of encouraging women into different careers," says Judge, who also has a certificate in applied science, software engineering, statistics and calculus.

We work with data analysts, architects, scientists and developers, to pull together our web products to take to the world.Angie Judge, Dexibit

The techie as entrepreneur

The idea to start her own company, came when she volunteered at the small museum at Howick Historical Village in East Auckland.

“I was helping out one day with the museum and started to comprehend how big their problems were around recording visitations, and how they are making that efficient, and how they are at a real disadvantage by not having access to the right technology.

“Over the course of a few months, the idea came together,” she says.

At Dexibit, she is able to utilise a raft of technologies like cloud, Internet of Things and analytics. “We are shifting data from the physical environment. It is very much driven around using analytics and enabling that to bring efficiencies.

“We have got a data team on board,” she says. “We work with data analysts, architects, scientists and developers, to pull together our web products to take to the world.

Angie Judge with Dexibit data architect Alex Garkavenko at the Auckland Museum.

Overcoming ‘unconscious bias’

Judge speaks at various forums like the Microsoft Women in Tech to encourage people to pursue a career in STEM.

“I think that is just about sharing stories and getting them really excited about the opportunities with careers in STEM, in terms of travel and science and research and career progression.”

Judge is a volunteer mentor for the First Foundation, an educational trust that helps outstanding students from low decile schools to transform their lives through tertiary education. The young New Zealanders get financial assistance, paid work experience or mentoring.

Everyone can do “their little bit” to encourage diversity in the sector, she says.

“What we can do, whether we are parents, teachers, employers or even investors, is to be mindful about ‘unconscious bias’,” she states. “How do we overcome it?”

She cites, for instance, looking at data science as a career pathway. She points out how pop culture, like television’s House of Cards, shows data scientists as middle-aged men.

That is something a young woman choosing a career can not identify with, she says.

“That is where unconscious bias sets in. You are surrounded by images in pop culture. You have a picture in your head of these types of people and these are not helping you to make decisions, or encourage you to shift career pathways into STEM.

“Getting over that and being aware of and questioning it, pushing it and making a really conscious effort to promote [a STEM career] is important,'' she concludes.

At a Microsoft Girls in Tech event, Angie Judge shows off her sword collection to Indigo Parker.

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