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Teaching and Learning Data Science in Latin America

Lesly Zerna

Google Developer Expert at Universidad Privada Boliviana
About this episode

Lesly Zerna, Google Developer Expert at Universidad Privada Boliviana, is a Bolivian researcher, teacher, mentor, content creator, and software developer. Shares her passion for learning and teaching data science and artificial intelligence. Lesly says learning works best when you know your personal learning style and apply that to practical topics you are interested in.​


Lesly Zerna earned her undergraduate degree in Telecommunications Engineering at the Bolivian Catholic University and then traveled to Brussels to complete a Masters in Computer Science. After returning to Latin America, she began teaching data science and AI both in universities and virtual platforms and today her courses have thousands of online students. She brings insights from her experiences working in large companies overseas to her students in Latin America.

For those just starting in data science, she says you must first identify your personal learning style (e.g., visual or text) to improve your learning experience and start with a general overview of the field. Next, find a practical topic you’re interested in, and look for projects, examples, authors, researchers who are working in that area. Do all of this while continuing to develop the fundamental skills you need (e.g., languages, platforms, frameworks) in data science.

Lesly transmits her passion for learning to her students by using real scenarios instead of theory in textbooks. She lets them experience what works, shows the development process, and where common mistakes are made. She says it’s important for students to find where the problem is, know how to solve it, and make decisions. She believes there’s a lot to learn from the world of entrepreneurship as you not only develop a project, you also have to develop the skills to explain and present the project, sell it, and negotiate.

She believes that mentoring is essential to break down barriers for women. It can help dispel myths and biases about women in science and technology jobs, and learn from successful women that in spite of a hard path, they were able to achieve and follow their dreams.

Read the full episode transcript, in English.

About the Host
Cindy Orozco Bohorquez

Cindy is an applied mathematician who is currently working as VP Applied AI and ML Payments at JPMorgan Chase & Co. Originally from Colombia, she loved applied math, and did a master's in applied mathematics from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), in Saudi Arabia, and a PhD in Computational and Mathematical Engineering from ICME at Stanford. She met Margot at Stanford and has been contributing to WiDS for many years at conferences, workshops and datathons.

Connect with Cindy Orozco Bohorquez on LinkedIn.