The 30% Club is a campaign group with a single goal; to achieve better gender balance at all levels in business. One way the group strives to increase gender diversity in Irish businesses is by partnering with third-level institutions to offer scholarship programmes.
NCI's 30% Club Scholarship aims to address the under-representation of women in postgraduate STEM education by offering a fully funded place for one female candidate on any full or part-time master’s course in our School of Computing.
Joanna Dufrat is the most recent recipient of the scholarship and is currently completing the MSc in Data Analytics part-time at NCI while working full-time as a Commission Analyst with software company Ivanti.
Originally from Poland, Joanna has called Dublin her home for over a decade while gaining professional experience in companies including Microsoft, Veritas Technologies and Airbnb. While working with various technology companies, Joanna developed an interest and passion for data analytics as she recognised the important role data plays in today’s world. Having discovered the potential hidden in data, she wanted to be able to unlock it. For this reason, she decided to pursue academic training to learn methods and techniques that would allow her to become skilled in this field. This led her to the 30% Club Scholarship, and she decided to apply to fund her postgraduate education.
Joanna shares her experience of studying data analytics at NCI with us along with how the scholarship has benefited her as she works towards gaining her second qualification in this discipline.
How has the 30% Club Scholarship helped you achieve your goals?
The 30% Club Scholarship is a fantastic opportunity which I have been very fortunate to receive, for which I am very grateful. It has provided me with a chance to progress my education and pursue a master’s degree in the area of my great interest - data analytics.
Upon completion of the Higher Diploma in Science in Data Analytics (Level 8) at NCI, I knew I did not want this journey to end as I felt that there is much more to learn and explore in this field. Thanks to the 30% Club Scholarship, I have been able to take my education in this area to the next level. The skills and expertise I have gained have helped me perform better in my current role as well as offering better future career prospects. The Level 9 credential that the MSc in Data Analytics will provide will open more doors and offer a wider spectrum of professional options.
Tell us about your experience studying data analytics at NCI?
If someone is considering studying data analytics, NCI is definitely the right place to pursue a qualification in this field. I knew I wanted to continue my studies in this area and, when I heard of the 30% Club Scholarship, I was very happy to have the chance to do that at NCI.
Data analytics courses at NCI are comprehensive and delivered to a very high standard. The higher diploma has given me a solid foundation in programming for data analytics, as well as expertise in statistics, data visualisation, databases and data mining. The master’s programme explores data analytics more in-depth. I was thrilled to see that it offers two modules dedicated to data mining and machine learning as these are my favourite areas.
What I like about the courses at NCI is that there is a good balance between theoretical and practical elements. The most enjoyable aspect of studying data analytics is applying what you have learned in the classroom to your own research and being able to unravel what is hidden in the data. Through various projects and assignments, students are given many opportunities to practice their skills in different contexts.
What advice would you give to women who are considering working and gaining a qualification in this area?
I would strongly encourage any woman who feels that this area interests them to recognise the opportunities that gaining a qualification in computing, or more specifically data analytics, can represent. However, keep in mind that you need to be ready for a challenge!
There are two points I would like to raise here: managing a part-time academic programme while working full-time and completing the course with no prior experience in data analytics or the STEM discipline.
Firstly, I would like to address the concern of those women who doubt that they can manage work and college. It is true that gaining an academic qualification while working full-time is not an easy process. If I could draw an analogy, I would compare it to trekking in the mountains (this came to my mind because I spent 12 days trekking the Himalayas last year). The right mindset is key here. You need to prepare yourself mentally for the hard work, commitment, self-discipline, good time management and organisation that will be required. When I was doing my trek in the Himalayas, I did not expect it to be easy. I was aware that for almost two weeks I was going to trek a few hours per day in high altitudes carrying everything I needed in my backpack, sleeping in poor conditions, feeling cold, suffering from the lack of oxygen and there was a possibility of developing altitude sickness.
Joanna spent 12 days trekking the Himalayas last year
At first thought, it may seem scary and discouraging but to a mountain lover, this doesn’t matter too much. It’s important to remember what the trip is actually about. These challenging points are something you need to prepare yourself for in order to succeed but they are just part of something bigger - an amazing journey of discovery and development which, despite its hardships, is absolutely worth taking and very rewarding. My trek in the Himalayas was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. In fact, it was not as hard as I expected, and I have already been planning another trek. Similarly, I am back in college working towards a master’s qualification while working full-time. The hardships are just temporary and will pass but what you have learned and achieved will stay with you.
Another side of this question is that some women doubt they can pursue a data analytics/STEM qualification because they lack relevant professional experience or have the suitable academic background. I am a good example that this is not a barrier. I come from a totally different academic background (I have a master’s degree in philosophy) and had no prior experience in coding, databases or data mining.
NCI programmes accommodate students with diverse backgrounds. One example of how the college supports people with no computing experience is with various bootcamps that are run before the start of the programme. There are also support classes available throughout the course, for example in statistics. In addition, NCI students are provided with access to DataCamp which is a fantastic resource that helps you develop your skills outside of the classroom in your own time. And last but not least, there are your classmates – they provide invaluable help and support during the course.