A data scientist and pharmacist, Wuraola Oyewusi, tells BLESSING ENENAITE about her career, achievements and other issues
What influenced your decision to become a data scientist and pharmacist?
The shortest story about it (what influenced my decision to be a data scientist and pharmacist) is that, when I was reading job descriptions, I saw one about data analysis and thought I could definitely do everything on the list except Structured Query Language (which is a standardised programming language that is used to manage relational databases and perform various operations on the data in them).
I decided to find out what it meant online and take a free course about it. Then, I stumbled unto python programming and data science, which I decided to give a try.
I studied Pharmacy at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State. I began my career in Clinical Pharmacy, then, I transitioned into Data Science, which I learnt online. I actually got to know about data science and artificial intelligence by chance.
What are your notable achievements so far?
I led my team in 19 publications related to data science, AI and crowdsourcing on Nigerian data in research and innovation within two years.
I was also involved in a project related to the use of AI for handwritten prescriptions which made the United Nations Educational, Scientific Cultural Organisation’s Top 100 early stage AI projects.
I have been named among the 80 African women advancing artificial intelligence in Africa and around the world. Additionally, I am a contributing author for the AI in Medicine textbook by Springer. Also, I am the author of Hands-On Natural Language Processing, an AI course on LinkedIn Learning.
I made the Top 100 Women in Tech in 2020 as a Nigerian Female Leader in Artificial Intelligence for Development as well.
What is your career trajectory?
First, I will like to say that I have enjoyed every phase of my career; from clinical pharmacy to data science, data curation and AI research and innovation. However, I am presently working as a researcher in data science and data curation at Imperial College, London, England.
From 2019 to 2022, I was the Research and Innovation Lead in Data Science Nigeria. Prior to that, I was a pharmacist in eHealth Africa.
You recently got accolades for teaching data science in Yoruba language. What inspired you to do so?
There wasn’t a big philosophical reason. I was just goofing around and enjoying myself. I speak Yoruba very well and I am great at data science. So, I felt, why can’t I teach data science in Yoruba? It is a series on different technology concepts explained in Yoruba. I guess people loved the one on data science more.
How would you describe the reception of your work so far?
It has been great. If no one loves it, I would still do it. I am grateful for the outpouring of love. I have been creating technical/academic content related to application of data science/AI methodologies in Yoruba for a long time. It is nice that non-technical people could relate to it and technical people can also enjoy it.
What are the challenges you face as a data scientist/researcher?
I really don’t have any to make a good story. Challenges are exactly what I am paid to solve. My general philosophy is to deliver excellent work and that’s what I always do.
What does it take for one to be a data scientist?
One needs expertise to derive insight from data, and ability to convince one’s employer or client that one can deliver on that.
Data Science is not as common as other courses in Nigeria. In what ways can its study be encouraged in the country?
While data science may not be common, the courses that make up data science are already there. They include computing, statistics and mathematics.
However, there should be more awareness on data science education to encourage the work of organisations. That would help to bring the knowledge of the concept to the mind of Nigerians. The market is global and the internet is generous. So, young people or anyone interested should get on the train.
As an advocate for artificial intelligence, what steps can Nigeria take to make it more dominant in the country?
(The country should) be intentional about it. The lowest hanging fruit will be data curation, not just data gathering; curating useful and usable data.
Some people have said that adopting AI will only cause more unemployment for humans in Nigeria. What do you have to say concerning this?
AI will not cause more unemployment for humans in the country. AI is not magic. New roles will emerge with its presence and the best thing to do is to optimise for it. The market is also global. It is worth paying attention to.
There is an assumption that people who study data science have a higher level of Intelligent Quotient. What is your take on this?
I don’t know about that assumption but it is not magical or mystical. It is a set of skills.
As a pharmacist, have you ever been involved in the development of any drug?
No, I have not.
Some persons have said that tech companies should use locals for their indigenous works, including Google Maps, especially for pronouncing local names. What is your take on that?
If this is related to how data is curated for AI models, the typical process involves a native or fluent speaker. Maybe what the concern is, is for better representation in training data. If it is about that, then there’s a global push for this inclusion.
What do you think the government can do better to support data scientists in the country?
It is the same need for every other type of innovation. The need includes light (electricity) and great academic schedule.
More women are making waves in fields that had hitherto been categorised as male dominated. What will you say is the cause of this?
Mastery and expertise are gender agnostic. People are great at what they do and women are people who have been great, and are still great at what they do.
How will you describe the reception of your work among Nigerians and non-Nigerians?
I don’t have this data (about the reception of my work by people) but the impact of my work as a researcher is global.
What keeps you going as a data scientist?
I enjoy great work and I also eat (to keep me going).
Did your parents support your choice of career?
Yes. My dad and mum have always been supportive.
Who are your biggest cheerleaders?
I have a great family and solid friends. They are my biggest cheerleaders.
What are your memorable moments as a data scientist/pharmacist?
My first foreign job offer as a data scientist was memorable for me. I knew I had taken the right shot when a team found me via a technical article I wrote. It was nice.
What are your hobbies?
I love staying calm and having great conversations.