Yasha Sharma

Yasha Sharma is an experienced data leader with 5+ years of experience in data management, predominantly helping enterprise customers get value from their data.

She provides expert advice and guidance on how customers can use Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence technologies to accelerate and develop data pipelines. Yasha has implemented machine learning algorithms in healthcare, as well as delivered large scale strategic projects to organisations in a variety of industries, including big pharma, oil and gas, and large beverage manufacturers.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role:

After completing my Ph.D.at Boston University and while I was doing Postdoctoral Work at Harvard, I believed I would become a Professor. But my plans changed when my son was born. That put everything into focus for me. At that point, I wasn’t seeing many role models that were young mothers in academia, although I have found some since then. I enrolled in the ‘Insight Data Science programme, which helps people in academia transfer to technology. This is where I made a strong support network of women on the course with me. From there, I worked in various roles, including at large companies like Biogen. My current role is DataOps Engineer at Tamr, where I love the culture as it’s smaller and fast-paced, which is great for teamwork and collaboration.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?  

I never planned out the next 20 years of my career, and I certainly couldn’t have told you five years ago that I would be where I am now.

I do, however, plan what I’d like to learn and experience next. I always keep in mind that I want to be valued and treated fairly, so as long as I am advocating for myself and what I need from a role, I know I can forge a positive path forward.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these? 

I fell sick for several months during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a difficult personal challenge as it was an invisible illness that my doctors couldn’t figure out initially. This is where my support network was crucial — my friends and family helped me through the tough period. Once I was on the other side of the illness, I became more conscious about what I wanted to do with my career and I started pursuing opportunities I knew would challenge me.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’m extremely proud of how I have shaped my career and moved away from roles that weren’t working for me.  This mindset has led me to where I am now at Tamr. I get to work on large customer accounts and collaborate with my brilliant teammates every day. I’m proud of what we achieve together – and I couldn’t have gotten to this point without putting myself first and chasing the next challenge.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?   

For me, this has been speaking up for the people who don’t have a voice. This first happened at Harvard, where two Professors in my mostly male lab would always ask what I had to say and wouldn’t let people speak over me. Over time, you learn to do this for yourself, and eventually, you reach a stage where you speak and advocate for others. Being kind and looking out for other people helps to change your mindset, and from there you can see when certain situations aren’t as fair as they could be, and do something about them.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?  

Anyone who has inspired you during your career in technology, no matter how senior, is just a person and you can always ask for their advice. Even if you haven’t spoken with someone in years, reach out to them and the worst they can do is not respond. I’ve spoken with CEOs who weren’t even aware they were intimidating, so all you need to do is approach people and start a conversation.

What barriers for women working in tech, are still to be overcome? 

A lot of people can be blind to their privilege. It’s easy to see where you are being held back, but it’s not as easy to spot where you’re getting a leg up. It was so refreshing when I joined Tamr and observed three people acknowledge their privilege within my first week, but this isn’t always the case. That’s why I recommend everyone actively consider their privilege and look for where they can give women and other disadvantaged groups a leg up.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology? 

Companies can create an environment of self-advocacy and encourage people to stand up for others. They should always be thinking about diversity and aim to represent different perspectives and views when decisions are made, and at all levels. Even with customers, they need to consider how diversity can be represented and that will help people to do their jobs better.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech? 

In reality, there is no ideal world for women in tech. And this is why I like to focus on small resolutions rather than looking at the overall picture. Correcting one moment where someone is treated unfairly can have such a huge impact. And all these individual moments add up to give women in tech a voice.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc? 

Different resources work for different people, for me, going local works. For example, when I worked in the US, I took part in the ‘Women in Data’ mentorship programme with the EDM Council, which was an amazing experience alongside multiple women at various levels at the time and also two senior mentors with C-level experience. So, keep an eye open for any resources or opportunities.

It’s also vital to never discredit your peer mentors. Each person you interact with has something they can teach you based on different experiences, so always make the most of that.