A new generation of African data scientists learns and grows through Zindi mentorship

Image for post
Image for post

“The Zindi Mentorship Programme was a journey worth taking; I’ve really learned a lot that I can put in practice. My group helped me understand the power of working together; we enjoyed it and ended up on the top of the leaderboard together.” — John Godday, Nigeria

John Godday is one of 18 junior data scientists selected for Zindi’s first ever Mentorship Programme, which ran in July and August this year. Along with his teammates Anthony Mipawa (Tanzania) and Njeri Maina (Kenya), he learned the basics of practical data science from his mentor Lawrence Moruye (Zindi Ambassador and senior data scientist on the platform) through group sessions, webinars and practical data science challenges. Our first cohort of mentees came from countries all over Africa: Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

At Zindi, we appreciate that data science can be daunting. Beginners especially, may feel that everyone knows more than they do. And when their code stubbornly refuses to “play nice”, the temptation to give up can be overwhelming.

“I’m new in this field; I had never even made a Zindi submission when I started. This journey has been rewarding, and definitely a boost to my career. I hope I am an encouragement to people just starting out or struggling with data science. Keep working hard, keep practicing and tackling problems.” — Njeri Maina, Kenya

Technical skills aside, data scientists at all levels, might also struggle with the softer aspects of their craft. From the basic, ‘What details should I include in my CV?’, to the thornier matter of ‘How to translate my analyses into a simple and compelling story that keeps my stakeholders engaged?’, data scientists will need to know how to navigate these issues if their careers are to remain on track. That’s why our Mentorship Programme covered soft skills as well.

“There is no single path to mastery in data science. What matters is taking on different challenges and problems, learning to extract insight; that’s how you will grow.” — Anthony Mipawa, Tanzania

Zindi prides itself in being much more than a machine learning competition platform: a place where data scientists can come together and hone their skills in an atmosphere of fun and collaboration. And while doing this, they advance solutions to problems that really matter. Here’s what our first batch of junior data scientists (many of whom had never entered a data science competition before now) got out of the Programme:

  • Eight weeks of structured mentorship where groups of three young data scientists were matched with an experienced mentor
  • Regular mentorship sessions with scheduled group calls and 1-on-1 online meetings
  • Exclusive access to three private Zindi hackathons, used as teaching experiences to embed important algorithmic and programming techniques
  • three webinars that addressed soft skills relevant to a young data science, such as good coding practices, how to build a great CV, and presentation skills
  • Mobile data bundles to ensure uninterrupted access, provided by our partner and programme sponsor Fonbnk

To achieve this, we enlisted a select group of experienced data scientists, all of them winners and rockstars on Zindi, to help support and guide newer Zindians towards bright and fulfilling careers. We’d like to say a huge thank you to our phenomenal mentors Rose Wambui, Helmi Klai, Lawrence Moruye, Johno Whitaker, Davis David, and Michael Okeyode for the passion and experience they imparted on all of our junior data scientists.

We’re enormously grateful to our mentors who’ve willingly offered their time and expertise. We also congratulate our first cohort of mentees for raising their hands and coming through a rigorous selection process. Lastly, we’re thankful to our sponsors Fonbnk and Microsoft Azure, whose support went a long way in making this programme possible.

“Thank you for the opportunity to work with people outside my nationality, it was really awesome to see other peoples’ approach to a problem. I wish this Mentorship Programme wasn’t ending, but the relationships we built will not end here.” — Adetoro Adedeji, Nigeria

Like Adetoro, we see this as the start of something really special. We’re excited by Zindi’s potential as a platform to share ideas, skills, and experiences across cultures and borders, in a safe and nurturing way. And we’re committed to making Zindi the place that Africa’s data scientists come to learn and grow.

Written by

Zindi is a competition platform hosting a community of data scientists dedicated to solving Africa’s toughest challenges through machine learning & AI

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store