Women in Science

Interview: Women in Science - Pamela Adede and her hope for future generations of women to thrive in science

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Women in Science Data management Research Science Technology

Adede is a seasoned computer scientist and data professional known for providing high quality service whilst employing her multi talents which include efficiency, analytical thinking, and fast learning.

This is evidenced by various performance awards and nominations during her career, including being among the top 10 short-listed nominees for the company’s award for outstanding contribution last year. Currently a data operations programmer at Phastar, where her core work entails programming databases for data capture, validation, and extraction for clinical trials.

Pamela holds a BSc degree in Computer Science from Kabarak University in Kenya and is advancing her education by currently pursuing an MSc in Data Science. She is passionate about empowerment through mentoring and knowledge sharing. When she is not being a techie, she enjoys dancing, nature walks, writing and winding down with a good book. 

OSP:You obviously work in the science field now, were there any signs from an early age that this might be the route you'd take?

Adede:​ According to personality tests, I have an analytical mind. From a young age, I have been driven by curiosity to get to the root cause of things to find answers or solve problems. I was that child who loved to explore things, something I did under my mother’s watchful eye. I have carried this into my adulthood, thinking and analysing things thoroughly, contemplating advantages vs disadvantages, looking at different angles, and exploring details before making logical decisions.

OSP: Once you'd finished school, what path did you take? 

Adede: ​It made natural sense to study Computer Science, so I did so for my undergraduate. This gave me the skills that I needed to embark on my career in science and technology. More than 10 years ago, I started out managing a minimal amount of data at a telecommunications company, moving into the non-profit industry where I gained experience in collection and management of larger data sets. The project I was working on came to a successful end just as I was getting to the end of my maternity leave. Whereas the news of me being out of gainful employment elicited a lot of ‘pole’ which is Swahili for sorry, reactions from people, I remember keeping a positive attitude and thinking of it as a prolonged maternity leave. When I spoke to my dad about this, he cheered on my reasoning and encouraged me to keep my head up.

My parent’s unwavering support has always fortified my positive attitude. I happen to be passionate about financial literacy and empowerment but that is a story for another day. Though for this reason, I had some emergency funding to keep my children and I going for a while. I spent the next several months focussed on raising my children while thinking long and hard about what kind of work I wanted to dedicate my career to. Granted, I still wanted to be in science and technology but more than that, I desired for it to be something to do with improving the quality of life, either directly or indirectly. There I had my mission – to job hunt at companies that have a mission that goes beyond making a profit. Imagine my joy when I received an offer to work at Phastar, knowing that I will be involved in data management for clinical trials.

OSP: Tell us about your time with Phastar... 

Adede: ​It has been four fruitful years of working at Phastar and my role has changed a few times since I joined, but all within working with data. My current experience working as a data operations programmer enables me to utilise my skills in ensuring that the data is being captured, maintained, processed, analysed, and communicated in a manner that ensures the greatest quality and by so doing, meets the aim of all clinical trials that are to deliver medicine and medical interventions that are efficacious and safe. It has also given me insight into how data science adds value through visualisations that provide early warning of anomalies thus increasing efficiency in data management. My mother often said that prevention is better than cure. Whilst she meant this in terms of practicing healthy habits to minimise chances of contracting diseases, I now see how this saying can apply to other areas of life. For instance, in data management, data science tools can be used to build systems that learn from available data and thus help to shift decisions from reactive to proactive.

OSP: How did you find yourself specifically in the data science field? 

Adede: ​When I am not being a techie, I like to walk. I find long walks in nature quite therapeutic. During the COVID-19 pandemic when most people’s social lives were interrupted, this wasn’t realistic. I instead spent some time undertaking some online learning, one of which was a short ‘Introduction to Data Science’ course that helped define the importance of data science in today’s world. Through it, I gained an overview of how data science is revolutionising research around the world. I was intrigued by how data science is used to uncover the true value of data by harnessing it in new ways and making information-driven decisions.

OSP: Have you experienced any difficulties in getting where you are with your career?​  

Adede: ​As you can see, a career in this area of expertise is an opportunity to drive change and make an impact in various areas of life. This noble career should not be designated to - or presented as a reserve for - a particular gender. Phastar is an equal-opportunity employer and I have not experienced any gender bias in opportunities. I am judged purely on the merit of my work, and I have gratefully had the opportunity to be mentored by amazing women scientists. Nevertheless, I am cognisant of the fact that not everyone is this fortunate as research indicates that only 28% of the workforce in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are women. What this translates to is minimised chances of having mentors who can support the younger female generation as they navigate the field.

OSP: And finally, where is your career taking you next and any messasge for other women either already in science or who have set their sights on this type of career? 

I am currently furthering my knowledge by pursuing a master’s degree in data science. My goal is to be able to utilise both my analytical and creative skills, to be innovative and an astute problem solver while being at the heart of using technology to make intelligent inferences. While at it, I hope that I inspire more women to do so as I envision a world where women have more representation in STEM where there are larger networks to empower one another to achieve scientific excellence. This can be achieved by having increased visibility of women scientists, more discussions and talks through conferences that encourage women to showcase their work and expertise, and more communities where we come together to exchange ideas, encourage, and celebrate one other, as we pave the way for future generations of women to thrive in science. 

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