Frincy Clement - Senior Data Scientist, TELUS Business and Ambassador for Canada, Women in AI - says:
”Shiyamali is an exemplary leader and highly enthusiastic professional who is goal-oriented, focused and a great team player. Her commitment to contribute and build women in AI, especially in the city of Toronto has resulted in well-received events and activities and fruitful partnerships that have greatly added value to our community and pushed us a step closer to the goal of increasing female participation in AI.”
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a versatile leader with an entrepreneurial spirit who is recognized consistently for leading innovative and challenging projects with a calm, grit, and result-oriented approach in fast-spaced, transforming environments.
I have more than 9 years of Canadian global cross-discipline business operations experience and extensive knowledge in data-driven approach which allowed me to implement cutting-edge digital analytics technologies to support long-term sustainable success for organizations. As much as I focus on the organization’s growth, I am passionate about building a positive and high-performing team to deliver extraordinary results.
I naturally like to share knowledge with others which led me to establish a platform, “Learn with Shiya”, where I help empower individuals from all walks of life to build confidence with the Internet, digital platform, and AI technology.
I am currently leading the Toronto Chapter for Women in AI. I hold a master's degree in Applied Psychology, Hons. BSc in Neuroscience and certification in Data Science.
Q: Would you have any advice to other people who may want to follow your path in Industry?
I started my early career as a researcher in health and community settings and then years later transitioned into data analytics using my transferable skills. My journey began as a data analyst with Tesco, one of the largest retailers in the UK and eventually I became part of the performance marketing team where I undertook projects in implementing cutting edge analytics technology to measure online marketing data for the business.
After moving back to Toronto, I worked on similar projects for Canadian retailers like Loblaws and Canon. All my experience and knowledge allowed me to become a data strategy consultant and some of my previous encounters with Canada’s largest financial institutions and e-commerce chains include innovative data - driven projects.
My curiosity and thirst for learning led me to where I am today. It was not a linear progression. I took practical steps and resources to move forward. I worked at constantly updating myself professionally by doing accredited certification courses and taking on hands-on projects. Also, self-learning definitely helped to progress in my career.
In addition, I have learnt to hone on people skills and started shifting towards holistic business approach styles which allowed me to understand and integrate with wide- range of functional teams.
My advice to you aspiring data strategist would be - if you are passionate about doing something for yourself, you should do it - “ Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Q: What motivated you to take an active part in WAI?
I attended an AI conference and met one of the former global WAI ambassadors’ who introduced me to WAI. I soon learned that WAI provides community, visibility, and resources for women in AI & tech. More importantly, it gives the opportunity to work with talented women across industries and continents. I felt supported and empowered to be part of this community and decided to get involved.
Q: What did you do when volunteering for WAI?
I am one of the first few members who was part of Women in AI Canada since its inception. I commenced the first WAITalk in Canada and launched the Toronto Chapter on December 15, 2020. We had prestigious speakers from Academia, Tech Company and Woman-led non-profit organizations in Toronto to share their experiences and knowledge on the topic: “Advance your Career in the World of AI”. It was a widely received and successful event which started to bring more awareness among the community. Our member base started to grow and women have shown interest in taking part in our activities. Within a year, Toronto has the highest number of members from diverse backgrounds making up to 35%.
Following that, Toronto city introduced and launched the event type “WAIConnect ” to connect Data Science hiring managers with potential hires in a networking event where they had the chance to interact one on one. The outcome was fruitful as hiring managers openly shared opportunities within their teams and connected outside the event.
I onboarded professional women on my team and assigned specific roles to recognize their work. Through those efforts, we are able to partner with educational institutions, organizational sponsors and community partners which help to increase female representation in AI.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer role?
After growing up as a refugee in my own country and coming to Canada in my late teens for a better future, I faced many hardships and roadblocks as a first generation immigrant. Being a coloured woman added its own challenges but I started my volunteer journey very early and it still continues. Through such interactions, I had the opportunity to work with talented teams and projects which opened doors for me early in my career. I have met amazing people along the way. It is partly personal satisfaction in helping fellow women and giving back to the community. And, it’s a great way to build a supportive network and camaraderie.
Q: What have you found challenging when volunteering?
As soon as we launched the Canada chapter, I was appointed as a Toronto city lead which came with such great responsibilities. With very few resources and as a solo player, I hosted two major events with high-profile speakers within short periods of time. Although it turned out to be a successful event, it had its own challenges. Eventually, I expanded the team with talented women which helped to coordinate various activities in our city in a timely manner and brought a diverse approach. Also, we have a fantastic Canadian core team who is very supportive of our initiatives.
Q: Would you have any advice for anybody looking to volunteer?
Volunteering can be a stepping stone to other great opportunities. Whether you're starting your career in AI or being in the transition phase from another industry or an expert in the field, there is a place for you in the WAI community. Be realistic about your goals, allocate set hours and get involved. It is a very supportive community where you will have a chance to meet and work with high calibre women from a broad range of industries across the globe. It definitely adds different dimensions to your professional and personal growth. Join the WAI community and get inspired!