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From Individual Contributor to CEO: Learn how Lillian Pierson defined a clear path to AI leadership

(Episode 1: Trailblazer Series with Women in AI)

Women remain an untapped resource for AI and data science expertise worldwide.

The World Economic Forum, shares that 97 million new jobs mostly requiring skills in AI, engineering, and programming will emerge by 2025. [1] Yet, women make up less than 25 percent of people working as AI specialists.

In a survey conducted by Women in AI towards women working in the field of AI and data science, the infancy of the industry is the main driver of the gender gap as “rules are still being defined” regarding the roles, career paths, and education that are needed within the industry.

As the field takes form, it’s vital to address the gender gap early as research has shown that the lack of attention towards the development of one gender reduces the quality of human capital and hinders economic growth. [2]

Through the Trailblazer series, Women in AI in partnership with Discovering Data, aims to help women bridge the gender gap by helping them discover a career path towards becoming an AI and Data leader.

In our first episode, WAI Chief Partnership Officer, Debbie Botha, and Discovering Data founder and host, Loris Marini, join Lillian Pierson as she shares her step-by-step approach that aspiring AI leaders can replicate if they want to get started.

Lillian Pierson started as an individual contributor in 2012. By 2022, she has become the CEO and head of product at Data Mania, a company that supports data professionals to evolve into world-class leaders and entrepreneurs through e-learning products about data science, data strategy, and business. To date, her company has been consumed by more than 1.3 million learners and generated $5.5 million in revenue.

Some key points from Lillian Pierson’s interview include:

  • Finding where you can actually make an impact

  • The value of community in today’s world

  • Taking the risk and starting your own company

  • Saying “no” to a lot of opportunities

  • Working with mentors to help you discover what you can specialize in

Inspired to get started? Listen to the whole episode below.

Problems playing the video? Visit Discovering Data to play the episode with the script.

About the Trailblazer Series

Trailblazer is a series of short interviews through the Women in AI and Discovering Data partnership that is designed to inspire more women to lead the data conversation.

About Women in AI

WAI is a nonprofit do-tank working towards a change and inclusive AI that benefits global society.

About Discovering Data

Discovering Data is a community of data leaders that believe in curiosity, empathy, and inclusion. Visit to learn more!


[1] - World Economic Forum (2021, March), Global Gender Gap Report 2021.

[2] - Khurshid, N., Fiaz, A., & Khurshid, J. (2020). ANALYZING THE IMPACT OF GENDER INEQUALITY ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN PAKISTAN: ARDL BOUND TEST COINTEGRATION ANALYSIS. International Journal of Economics and Financial Issues, 10(4), 264–270.



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