Africa, Interviews

Zaheeda Tshankie – Data Scientist and Entrepreneur

For achieving gender equality (in tech) there has to be a lot of unlearning within communities regarding gender roles.

Zaheeda Tshankie is a young mother, problem solver, data scientist and aspiring serial entrepreneur.

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

I’m a Data Scientist and Entrepreneur. I see myself more as a problem solver that uses Data and Technology as a tool. In order to handle Data and be able to use it in an effective impactful way technology is required. I use technology to explore and assess Data, create meaningful graphs and insights, create predictive models and develop Apps to support and guide business decisions.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

I’ve been passionate about Mathematics and Computers from a very young age, so it was a natural progression to major in Computational and Applied Mathematics after high school. I did not complete that degree due to life’s happenings; marriage, traveling, widowhood while being pregnant and motherhood – at the age of 22.

After a 3 year battle with depression and grief, by God’s Grace, in 2018 I received an amazing opportunity to study and specialize in Data Science with the Explore Data Science Academy in Cape Town, South Africa. This kickstarted my journey into the field. While being a single mother, I was one of the top performers in that program which resulted in a full-time job opportunity with on of the Academy’s sponsors.

I also embarked on completing my Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Degree where I currently have a Cum Laude/distinction average in my 2nd Year.

Today, I left my fulltime job after a realization that I need more autonomy over my life, my child’s life. The corporate world is not a fit for me and my go-getter personality type. I am currently focused on building one of many of my businesses to come – “MobiMechanics byHer” which is aimed at using Technology to disrupt the male-dominated Car Repairs Industry. It’s like an Uber for Mechanics which provides online WebApp car Diagnosis, fixed and fair pricing, and the ability to request a repair and a Mechanic to come to your home or workplace.

The focus is on empowering women and those vulnerable to being taken advantage of by some unscrupulous car mechanics.  We aim to introduce a form of regulating the Car Repair industry and provide a fair service regardless of gender or any other label. Launching in October.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

Automation. Human interaction and effort have reduced when it comes to completing tasks. This has added agile, faster, more effective deliveries and delivery times that save industries from prolonged periods of manual time-consuming input and services. The world is trending towards automation, our aim as people should be to adapt to technology, learn required skills such as programming and see where in the equation of Automation we fit in. We do fit in, we do have a role.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

Men who can’t handle strong intelligent women. Unfortunately, “men” are my first thought. Men hindering growth and progression, men putting their egos first before objectivity. These are the obstacles capable, intelligent women in Technology tend to come across. Men who find it shocking for a woman to be able to lead and achieve within a Scientific field, as much as, if not more than they are.

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that, which steps should be done to achieve gender equality in tech?

A lot of unlearning within communities regarding gender roles. Understanding society and mental stereotypes begin at home but the ultimate change needs to happen within systems and institutions. The impact of inequality is felt more and is embedded more within institutions. In order to afford equal opportunities to women and equal compensation, laws and company policies need to be put into place that ensure fair treatment and opportunity to women in general and more especially women of colour.

Which was the best decision in your career?

The best decision I’ve taken is to take the step towards self-learning, adopting and perfecting new skills to prove to myself that I am capable of anything – no matter the task, no matter the industry. Learning and education have empowered me.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

I would tell her that she’s is gorgeous beyond belief, she has a beautiful warm heart, a character that takes up space, a bold fearless young lady – capable of achieving greatness even in the darkest of times.

Zaheeda Tshankie is a young mother, problem solver, data scientist and aspiring serial entrepreneur.

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