August 28, 2018
Escaping my family’s traditional views to forge a career in maths.
By: Jennifer Bramwell

I left home at a young age. My family had very traditional goals for me. They didn't want me to go to university. They always told me it's much harder for educated women to find husbands.

But when I got involved with Mathematical Olympiad, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in maths. The experience made me realise that maths is really beautiful and interesting. Up until that point I was very much into arts subjects such as fine art, classical studies, and art history.

But my love for maths had been ignited and through sheer determination, I turned my back on what was expected of me and followed my dream of a career in analytics. The more I studied and researched, the more I understood how useful maths is in everyday life and in helping organisations and communities improve how they work.

I’ve been working in analytics for more than five years and some of the projects have been very interesting.

A recent example was spending ten months on a maintenance optimisation project in oil and gas to understand equipment reliability. We used historical data to create a better way to change maintenance scheduling, and created new methods that helped interpret equipment behaviour to understand its failure.

Changing work for Rugby Australia

My next big project was with Rugby Australia. We use analytics to track player performance and ball movement to help Rugby Australia coaches for the Wallabies, Wallaroos and Men's and Women's Sevens teams. By using analytics, we aim to predict when players are more likely to be injured, so the coaches can switch them out.

I wasn’t that familiar with the game before this project but I’ve been reading Rugby for Dummies. I watch the video footage and then write the algorithm, and then get the computer to watch the videos to obtain insight.

Jennifer at Bledisloe Cup

This kind of analysis is much easier to apply in cricket and baseball. The players come on to the field, hits the ball and runs around. With rugby the team have different positions and roles so success in one position might not mean the same in another. This adds a lot of complexity.

What is apparent is that this sort of monitoring and technology is becoming an increasing part of players’ lives. Just like how we use activity trackers such as Fitbit to gain more insight into our activity and fitness, the monitoring and technologies will allow coaches and players to understand and quantify performance and weaknesses to come up with a strategy for improvement.

This also involves standardising the player matrix. It might not sound fair but traditionally, and somewhat ironically, players can be judged subjectively, even based on their looks rather than skill. But we’ll be turning that data into more objective numbers so decisions are made exclusively on performance.

Projects like this make me appreciate that my work at Accenture is always exciting. It’s never boring and always changes.

I love my career in analytics but there have been challenges.

At times, you don’t get taken seriously because you are a woman in a male-dominated field. But with my challenging background and after years studying and often being the only girl in the class, I had developed a certain resilience to it. In many ways it has been character building.

Jennifer and her colleagues.

I’ve consistently worked in male dominated areas and my advice to women who feel they’re working in a boys’ club is to work extra hard. Make sure that what you produce is better than everyone else’s so you can earn the respect you deserve.

If you're looking for a career in analytics at Accenture, here are my top tips for success:

  • Be willing to learn from others
    There are so many talented people at Accenture so keep an open mind. Don’t be too focused on the career hierarchy – be willing to listen to everyone who may have something to share.

  • Network then network some more
    It’s such a big company with so many experts so make sure you network. Finding people you can leverage knowledge from is important because you can contact them when you need to. You’ll find they’re always happy to help. It means you’re never restricted by what you know or what your team knows.

  • Don’t be a ‘yes’ person
    Don't always be a 'yes' person. Make your voice heard. If you're passionate about something, speak up. If you say yes to everything, you may miss opportunities that take you in the direction you want. The same applies to dealing with clients. Data Science is a science. The quality of your work speaks for itself and be willing to bring your critical thinking and stand by what is right. You will find that as long as you deliver quality work and can back up your argument the client will respect your opinion and be willing to be challenged. That being said, you should also be open to different views so you can continue to grow.

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