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WiDSTORY | January 4, 2022

WiDS Ambassador in Jordan Empowers Women in her Region Through a Datathon Workshop

Dr. Zaher Ali Al-Sai, a WiDS Ambassador in Jordan, says creating and leading a workshop for the WiDS Datathon expanded her skills and confidence by empowering women in her region.

Tell us about your background.

I am from Amman, Jordan. I received my B.S. degree in computer science from the Al-Zaytoonah University of Jordan and the M.Sc. degree (Hons.) in MBA e-government IS from Florida University and BAU Jordan. I completed my Ph.D. in Computer Science in Big Data Science and Engineering at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). My main research interests are in big data, business analytics, data science, and data engineering.

How did you get interested in data science?

Big data and data science were the focus of my Ph.D. Also, I worked as a teaching assistant for the Master Data Science program at USM. I dove into big data and data science, trying to discover and learn all that I could, and started looking for new topics, workshops, courses, and ideas.

What are you currently working on?

I am an Assistant Professor of Big Data and Business Analytics, working on several research projects related to data science and business analytics in industries. My main interests focus on publishing several research papers related to data science and healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a research ambassador at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), I present several workshops related to research support topics and the Systematic Literature Review in the domain of Software Engineering. I am also the founder/CEO of the non-profit community-based organization Big Data Minds I MENA, and a founder member of the Artificial Intelligence and Entrepreneurship Association (AIEA).

Since we have a lot of public schools for girls in Jordan, I will start the new chapter of 2022 from there to inspire these girls about data science and WiDS. Also, I hope I can help to educate many women about data science and its importance in other developing countries.

How did you first discover WiDS?

I was working on some non-profit big data initiatives in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region and established an initiative and a club for women in big data and data science. During my search for other data science initiatives, I found the WiDS global initiative at Stanford. I liked how WiDS is motivating women to have active roles in data science. I applied and was accepted to become a WiDS ambassador in Jordan and am happy to have a role to inspire others and increase awareness about data science.

Have you been involved with WiDS since that first experience? If so, in what way?

At the beginning of last year, I started my research and planning to put together a workshop in Jordan for the WiDS Datathon 2021. Creating and leading the workshop was an amazing experience. I needed to get a lot of work done in a short time before the deadline. I worked day and night—looking for co-ambassadors and speakers, getting approvals, meeting the team, organizing the event, working on the WiDS Jordan template, looking for sponsors, and sharing the information about the events globally and in my region. The WiDS Worldwide team at Stanford was always there to support us and provide us with the materials that we needed.

I was looking for co-ambassadors in my region with good knowledge in data science and it wasn’t easy to find them in a short time. When I found the speakers for our WiDS Amman workshop, I realized they could be great co-ambassadors on our team. After seeing what a great job they did on the workshop with wonderful audience feedback, this motivated me to select our speakers to be the co-ambassadors for WiDS Amman.

The datathon and workshop were very helpful for the women in my region because it opened a lot of opportunities to start their journeys as data scientists. We received great feedback from the audience, and they asked us to organize more events soon.

How has WiDS made an impact on your life and/or work?

Through this experience, I discovered a lot of things about myself that I did not realize before. Working hard and empowering other people made me feel happy about myself and gave me the power to discover and reach my potential. Being an ambassador and organizer for the WiDS Amman datathon workshop expanded my competencies, skills, network, and increased my ability to have an effective role in empowering women in data science globally and in my region.

What comes next for you? And what are your hopes for women in data science in the future?

As a WiDS ambassador, I will plan several events in Jordanian schools and universities. I will prepare WiDS workshops in the small villages in Jordan about technology and data science. Also, I have several plans to inspire women about their potential in the field of data science. Moreover, I am working on writing a book about big data that will be open source and free for everyone to help people learn more about data science.

I hope that WiDS can achieve their objectives of inspiring and educating data scientists worldwide, regardless of gender, and supporting women in the field of data science. I hope WiDS can reach all counties and villages in the world, educate all people and be an evangelist for data science.