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September 20, 2019 | Inside Thomson Reuters

An Interview with Laura Skylaki: A Rockstar Data Scientist and Superhero Mom

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Laura Skylaki, a Data Scientist working at the Thomson Reuters Labs in Zug, Switzerland. Her story gave us a sneak peek into the life of what it’s like to work as a Data Scientist at Thomson Reuters while balancing motherhood at the same time. 

A bit about Laura 

From a young age, Laura had a passion for technology. Born in Athens, Greece, Laura took her lifelong passion to the National Technical University of Athens where she obtained her Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. From there, she took a step further to obtain her MSc and PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Edinburgh. 

As a woman in technology with more than ten years of research experience in leading European universities, we were excited to dive in and get insights on what her daily life entails. From her beginnings in the technology space to best advice for women in the field, Laura tells all.

Her journey in TR started in 2018, when she registered for a women-friendly hackathon called Hack’n’Lead – a 2-day non-profit hackathon specifically aimed at women to improve diversity in the Swiss tech sector. In Switzerland, only 15% of professionals in the Information and Communication Technologies sector are women, yet 84% of competitors in the 2018 Hack’n’Lead were women! Thomson Reuters is proud to show its commitment to diversity and empowerment of women in technology as sponsors of the 2019 Hack’n’Lead hackathon. 

As a new mother on maternity leave, Laura missed the intellectual stimulation part of a data scientist’s daily life and wanted to get back in the game. She felt that the Hack’n’Lead aligned well with her values and was the perfect opportunity to challenge herself and see what she was able to accomplish through the competition. 

Laura’s greatest takeaway from the competition was how rewarding it was to be a part of a diverse team filled with innovative thinkers and what they were able to accomplish. Even with an unknown topic, an unknown group of people and unknown challenges along the way, the team was still able to win in all aspects. Taking home the gold was a tribute to how important collaboration and diversity truly is to build a dream team.

After the competition, Laura learned about the parallels in the culture at Thomson Reuters with an inclusive and innovative environment that she had just thrived in during the conference. She saw the same thought processes in the minds of the TR employees as her own. 

Fortunately for us, we gained an amazing colleague as Laura joined the Swiss TR Labs team last year.

In today’s world, we see the rising presence of women in technology. Laura is the ideal example of a driven female who defies gender stereotypes and is valued at TR for the knowledge and passion she brings. Laura appreciates the open and inclusive work environment TR fosters. When asked about her industry and what changes excite her, she answered: 

“The efforts to increase female leadership in tech are encouraging. When we can see ourselves in our leaders we feel more empowered and confident. More effort and faster progress are still required though. With the latest advances in AI shaping our future in once deemed unimaginable ways, we need to ask ourselves: how can we enable diverse voices to participate impactfully in this transformation right now.”

Curious about entering the industry and what being a Data Scientist entails?  As a technologist, you are given a problem, must analyse data and find a solution. Sounds simple? The technology landscape evolves at such a fast pace that Data Scientists must always be adapting and learning new methodologies. Trends are tracked, and learning is constant as nothing is ever stable.

However, the chase is also one of the most rewarding parts. Being able to think creatively and outside the box, adds excitement to every problem. The biggest motivation, according to Laura, “is the eureka moment once you have reached a solution. Getting there often entails cumulative effort and necessary shifts in approaches, and the whole process is part of the thrill.” Working on impactful projects that prioritize customer value gives Laura a sense of fulfillment as she knows her work is contributing to our customers’ everyday lives. Teamwork, leadership, a sharing mindset, and encouragement throughout each day create the positive environment she works in at Thomson Reuters.

Laura hopes that other young women looking to break into the tech landscape are not discouraged and are confident in their abilities to succeed. “If the passion is there, they should go for it as they have nothing to lose. By focusing on the positive and recognizing their accomplishments, it will ensure that women do not feel underqualified and can overcome the so-called “impostor syndrome” that can potentially hinder their progress.”

Beyond technical knowledge, the soft skills needed to work in a data science environment are equally as important. Communication is key as the global team is comprised of teammates from all around the world with different backgrounds, languages and ways of thinking. Laura believes you must be able to communicate about your work clearly and understand your audience. Embracing a learning mindset and challenging the status quo at TR has encouraged her to continuously test and adapt her ways of communicating to develop her skillsets.

Additionally, accepting the fact you do not know everything and are willing to learn a new skill based on the task is critical. No one is perfect, but it is hard to admit you need additional help along the way. Finally, understanding the customer and putting them first is overlooked but critical to success. It is easy to get lost in the business processes when your blinders are up while working. Keeping the top goal and priority in mind at all time will save you resources and create better results.

Working at TR, Laura loves how she can balance her career with being a mother. Our maternity and paternity policies offer the flexibility many new parents are looking for. With a culture focused on empowering yourself and others, Thomson Reuters is proud to have women like Laura, who are positively impacting current and future women in tech.

We wanted to thank Laura for taking the time to talk with us and hope that her message is loud and clear. Explore your passions, do not sacrifice what you love and work hard!

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