Diana Akanho

Customer Insight Manager - Upper Streets Events

What is your role at work?

My role is quite new and it’s to utilise all the data there is to help the company get a better understanding of their customers.

How did you get into data and technology, and why?

I’ve loved maths ever since primary school, and my dad worked in I.T, so from the age of five he would teach me programming. I studied maths at university and it was from here I started to see how it could be applied to the real world and how I could use it. This led me to want to work with data.

How has a setback or obstacle shaped you?  

A few years ago I wanted to study a masters degree in medical statistics but my application was rejected. At the time that felt like a major disappointment and huge setback in terms of my career and where I wanted to go. But I know that if that didn’t happen I wouldn’t be where I am now. That path led me to a masters in applied statistics and that gave me the stepping stone to where I am now and exposed me to a lot more data related issues.

How do you feel about doing things differently?

Entering the industry as a young woman was quite challenging to begin with. In my first role, there was a point when I was the only female working in the company. There were times when I felt frustrated and that my voice wasn’t being heard. I found it difficult to express myself in a way that didn’t come across as too emotional or forceful. If I thought something wasn’t right I’d get my point across, but if I look back, my approach wasn’t always the most mature way to handle things. From those experiences, I’ve learnt not to take things too personally.

 

The bonsai tree represents life and is my chosen object. You go through different seasons and the tree may lose its leaves, but it doesn’t die. Life keeps going.
Are role models important to you?

There needs to be more role models in this field. There are not a lot of women working in data and tech, especially in high positions, and more specifically there are not a lot of black females in this industry. But I look at it from the point of view that if there’s something you want to be, and you don’t see it, then it’s an opportunity to try and reach that position so that someone else can see that it’s possible. So I asked myself: What am I passionate about and am I going to go for it? What’s going to hold me back? And the answer is nothing.

How do you lean on others to gain strength?

When you’re starting out it can be difficult and you don’t know where to go so it’s nice to have a network and create friendships at work. I’ve been fortunate to have people look out for me or teach me something in each of my roles. I’ve always had support at work where someone has been rooting for me to do well because they’ve seen my potential. I definitely want to pay it back and help others.

What advice would you give to girls and young women interested in a career in data and technology?

Remember that things don’t always progress in a smooth way and life is full of struggles. I didn’t roll out of bed to where I am now and it’s not always been plain sailing. Focus on your abilities, have a strong support network and go for it. If you feel passionate about the field you can create opportunities for yourself.

Can you tell us about the significant object that you’ve chosen?

I’ve chosen a bonsai tree because it’s something that needs to be nurtured and looked after – like a career. For me it represents life. You go through different seasons and the tree may lose its leaves but it doesn’t die, life keeps going.