[Women in Tech] It is critical to begin early, to educate and train women, says Zohra Ladha of Tredence

By Rekha Balakrishnan
May 02, 2022, Updated on : Thu May 12 2022 02:29:54 GMT+0000
[Women in Tech] It is critical to begin early, to educate and train women, says Zohra Ladha of Tredence
Creating a culture of belonging and equal opportunity for women will help retain them in the workforce, says Zohra Ladha of Tredence.
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Zohra Ladha is a senior analytics professional with over 18 years of progressive, multi-geography experience in the analytics industry, with expertise in customer analytics, marketing ROI optimisation, AI, machine learning, and big data.

She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in science from University of Mumbai, and is now Senior Director, Data Science, at Tredence Inc, a leading data science and AI engineering firm with vertical-first solutions that help firms bridge the last mile gap in data analytics. The company has more than 1,500 employees with offices in Foster City, Chicago, Toronto, and Bengaluru.

women in tech

Zohra Ladha

Prior to Tredence, Zohra served as Director at Fractal Analytics and worked in the Data Science team at Accenture.

Her expertise includes data science, machine learning, AI consumer and business banking, travel, retail and loyalty analytics, analytics consulting, client management, and business development.

In a conversation with HerStory, Zohra Ladha takes us through her career in STEM, her successes and challenges, and the importance of mentoring women.

HerStory (HS): Tell us a little about yourself and any incidents/experiences that shaped your career/interests?

Zohra Ladha (ZL): I grew up in Mumbai, India, but now call Toronto, Canada, home. I have a degree in statistics and a passion for data. My mother was a teacher, and my father was a small business entrepreneur. Ours was a modest upbringing, a.nd like any typical middle-class family, our parents placed a high value on education for my brother and me.

My favourite places as a kid were the library and the science lab. I was intrigued by the various science experiments, excelled in math, and was a voracious reader (and still am).

HS: Were you always interested in STEM?

ZL: I felt drawn to pursue a career in science. However, while pursuing my studies in statistics, I got introduced to the realm of analytics and data science, where I discovered that I could use data to develop a strategy, design a medical treatment, and anticipate your music or shopping patterns. This fascinated me, and I knew I wanted to pursue it professionally.

HS: Please take us through your career journey

ZL: I started as an analyst with HDFC Bank 16 years ago, designing descriptive, diagnostic, and predictive models to drive customer value.

After six years at HDFC, I moved into consulting, where I worked for companies such as Fractal, leading data science delivery in the BFSI and retail domains; Accenture, where I was responsible for data science (DS) & machine learning engineering engagements for retail and healthcare, building DS capabilities and partnering with Cloud providers for joint GTM strategies.

At Tredence, I now lead the Data Science and MLOps practice.

HS: Tell us about your roles and responsibilities in the present?

ZL: In my current position, my team and I develop new cutting-edge data science and machine learning capabilities for our clients, enabling them to make more informed decisions. We focus on the last-mile adoption, data activation, and insight operationalisation for real, tangible business impact.

It's not about designing the most complicated algorithm; it's about developing intelligent machine learning systems that drive value. I also drive Learning & Development for the organisation. I have always had a passion for teaching, and in my current role, I am responsible for elevating the data science quotient of our people.

I lead a team of 50 data scientists and machine learning engineers with various educational backgrounds and interests. This diversity increases productivity, fosters creativity and innovation, and improves the customer experience.

HS: How did you face the challenges of working in a pandemic?

ZL: I joined Tredence during the pandemic, and I had never had a remote onboarding before. However, I had a great support system in the form of my colleagues. I got through the harder days by sharing a joke over coffee or discussing a challenging day at work.

For all of us, working from home removed the constraints of time. So, to avoid burnout, I made a conscious effort to set boundaries. But most importantly, I took it one day at a time and worked hard until we could return to the office, which it is now!

HS: What can be done to support and sustain women in tech?

ZL: While "bro culture" still rules the tech sector, the good news is that more and more women are choosing STEM fields. However, a lot remains to be done. It is critical to begin early, to educate and train women about the wide options in technology careers.

This will help in building a more balanced workforce. Unconscious bias is a reality, and we should acknowledge it and work towards addressing it. Creating a culture of belonging and equal opportunity for women will help retain them in the workforce. We also need to create a culture that supports women with kids, offering flexibility and hybrid work options.

We won't be able to do any of this unless we actively involve our male allies. If we want equality, we must include both sides of the equation. Equal opportunity has always been a core value at Tredence, and we strive to uphold it in all we do.

I have been lucky to have experienced an inclusive culture in all my jobs. When I was working at HDFC Bank, I needed to relocate quickly to a city where they didn't have a corporate office, so I decided to quit, and my manager went out of his way to get me clearance to work out of the branch (which was not allowed then).   

HS: What have been your biggest successes and challenges?

ZL: The most recent one has been developing Tredence's Data Science practice. Building something from the ground up entails a lot of hurdles that I wasn't expecting, but the leadership took a leap of faith and gave me the space and support to set it up.

One of the most difficult aspects of my job as a data scientist is that it is an ever-evolving field with breakthroughs, approaches, and so on, and I need to stay updated. But it's a nice challenge to have because I'm always learning something new.

HS: Do you mentor women in tech?

ZL: I've been mentoring young women just starting their careers for the past 10 years, and seeing their success brings me great joy. They've progressed from strength to strength in their fields of technology and academia.

Some have gone on to be successful entrepreneurs. I also gain a lot from their perseverance and dedication to learning.

HS: Why do you think there are very few women in leadership positions in tech?

ZL: Unfortunately, men and women are sometimes evaluated using different yardsticks due to unconscious biases. I read a recent report that said hiring managers consider men based on their potential to perform during interviews. 

On the other hand, women are evaluated depending on whether they have previously held a similar role. We need to consciously address these unconscious biases. We also need to provide mentorship to women at all levels. As women, we need to be willing to question and call out such biases and demand a seat at the table. And if you don't get a seat at the table, build a bigger one for yourself.

HS: Why should every organisation have an equal opportunity mindset?

ZL: Organisations that adopt inclusion and diversity of all types eliminate bias and prejudice and foster a healthy culture of how people treat each other.

It brings new perspectives, ideas, and views that drive creativity and innovation. This culture also percolates from the workplace to home and society.

HS: Tell us about your biggest inspirations?

ZL: Different people have inspired me at different points in my life. My father taught me to laugh at myself and always be humble; my friends have an amazing ability to surmount adversities. As a professional, Indra Nooyi has always inspired and awed me.

She is a fantastic female leader to look up to. Mountains also inspire me, and their immense size reminds me that persistence and determination can conquer all.

Edited by Teja Lele