Being an avid learner and an enthusiast about acquiring knowledge and sharing it with others, Claire is paving her way as a female data scientist in Africa;
Hi Claire, thanks for accepting to open our year with an interview about your journey as a data scientist
Hi Winnie, thank you for inviting me. What you are doing is an amazing and empowering initiative for young girls and women. It is an honor for me to take part.
Briefly tell us about yourself
My name is Claire Matuka. I am a data scientist, statistician, AI enthusiast, and Global AI speaker based in Nairobi, Kenya. In short, I love all things math and tech.
My career has seen me serve in startups as well as a freelancer or consultant. I have been front and center in seeing the positive effects that big data, AI, and data science have on businesses and clients across the globe.
When I am not coding, I am very passionate about education. I currently serve as a data scientist, Global AI speaker, and PATF (Pan-African Tech Foundation) Kenya country representative where I regularly participate in boot camps as an AI trainer. In addition to this, I run a blog where I occasionally share really fun AI and data science tutorials. My goal is to educate, encourage, as well as participate in the development of AI systems right here in Africa.
Walk us through your journey of becoming a data scientist
Just like every kid growing up, I went through phases where I thought I would be a doctor, pilot, or engineer. The one thing I was consistently good at without even trying was Math. I enjoyed it so much that I chose to pursue a career in the field. I ended up pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics. At this time, I had never even heard of data science and did not consider myself as being computer or tech-savvy.
As I was doing my degree, I discovered that I enjoyed coding and did a short course on Big Data. I then began freelancing online as a data analyst and later on as a data scientist. This helped me build my confidence and gave me some invaluable practical skills and knowledge.
Immediately after I graduated, I landed a role at a startup here in Nairobi as a data science intern, which soon progressed to me being a data scientist. I got to interact with the data science and AI world and ended up being a Co-founder of AICE (Artificial Intelligence Centre of Excellence); an AI startup. Thereafter, I pursued roles as a data scientist in different industries such as Health, Finance, and Venture capital.
What can you say have been some of the most challenging times on your path as a data scientist?
The greatest challenge has been in terms of practical education. When I first started practicing data science, I had a lot of theoretical knowledge but was unsure of how to translate this knowledge into solving an actual real-world problem. I am glad that there are currently numerous online resources that exist to learn these practical skills.
Everyone has a source of inspiration especially when things get tough. What would that be for you, Claire?
Two things inspire me the most in my life. The first is my family and the people I love. Nearly everyone around me is trying to be the best version of themselves. This motivates me to break the barriers I have in my own life. If they can do it, then so can I.
I am also inspired by the constant need to learn, grow and achieve more. I find the process of setting new goals, failing, trying again, and eventually succeeding to be quite exciting, although painful at the same time.
Tell us about some of your prestigious moments on this journey as a data scientist
I am honored to have been chosen as one of the Swiss Cognitive Global AI Ambassadors in 2022. This enabled me to connect and learn from a lot of people in the AI space.
Becoming a Global AI speaker has been one of my greatest achievements. I have been invited to speak at several AI and Data science conferences such as the GITEX Global Conference and the Global AI Summit. These conferences have enabled me to share the knowledge I have, as well as learn and explore the possibilities of tech and AI from professionals around the world.
We have seen Claire with the hat of a data scientist but, who are you outside of work?
Outside of work, I enjoy cooking, working out, and spending time with my family. I also love pets and I am both a cat and a dog person. I love DIY projects and often dabble with the idea of being an interior designer.
Wow! I need the confidence to showcase my DIY projects, haha.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Excuses are tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness” ~ Barack Obama.
How would you encourage a young African girl who is interested in becoming a data scientist?
To any young girl in STEM, keep believing in yourself, have confidence, keep learning, and never settle for less. There are no limits to what you can achieve.
Thank you, Claire, for taking the time to walk us through your journey. I also thank Tatenda Emma Matika for highlighting your journey in her space. It led me to you.