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My Data For Good Journey: Misty Tommei

April 2024, Melbourne

 

Introduction


From immersing myself in top-tier Learning & Development seminars to working with some of the brightest minds in data from Australia and New Zealand on my very first NFP hackathon, my experience in 2023’s Data 4 Good Cohort has been unforgettable. Here’s a quick glimpse into what it’s like to leap into using data science for social good with GDI.


Application & Interview


The first step of the application process was the online application form, which gave me an opportunity to talk a little bit about myself, my career, and why I was drawn to applying for GDI. After submitting, I had a few weeks of nervous waiting - I was so happy to later receive an email asking me to join an online interview with some of our GDI Fellows. The interview was a great experience. After chatting with the Fellows I truly realised not only the world-class calibre of projects created by the GDI but the genuine passion and drive the volunteers hold for working with our NFP partners. I couldn’t have been more excited to be invited to join the first 2023 Data For Good cohort program.


Orientation Webinar


Our first touchpoint as a cohort was our orientation webinar, where our director of People & Culture, Shakeel, and our Director of Comms and Project Excellence, Andy, took us through GDI at a closer look. This included what a usual project lifecycle involved as a GDI volunteer, and what the next 12 weeks would look like for us. We also joined some breakout rooms to get to know each other better. By this point, I was definitely getting a bit of imposter syndrome. Our cohort was made up of senior execs, Ph.D. holders, highly experienced data scientists, consultants, project managers, and more across almost every field imaginable, but all connected by our passion for data and our goal of creating social good. I braced myself for a jam-packed 12 weeks of learning, if I was going to keep up with this awesome bunch I knew I had to bring my A-game!


The Orientation Webinar with the Data For Good 2023 cohort. Everyone is smiling with their cameras on.

L&D Seminars


To assist us in preparing to tackle our first GDI project in the hackathon, L&D sessions were organised spanning a huge range of topics run by thought leaders in the GDI community. A big highlight for me was the session on Ethical & Fair ML run by talented GDI Fellow and 2022 Volunteer of the Year Raul Bermejo, who took us through not only a brief history of AI/ML but how we can incorporate Fair ML into our future projects. Another highlight was the seminar hosted by Mala Kumar, a global leader in tech for social good who drew upon her extensive experience to discuss how technology can address global challenges. Each seminar left me with valuable takeaways and sparked engaging discussions among all of us. The online format made it very easy for me to hop on from wherever I was, and balance the sessions on top of my usual professional workload.


Networking Events


As I’m a Melbourne branch member, I was also fortunate enough to attend one of the regular GDI catch-ups for both new and current volunteers in my D4G journey. We met up on a cold Melbs winter night for some drinks and nibbles in the CBD.


A mixture of GDI 2023 cohort members and the wider GDI community are posing for a photo in a bar. In the words of my fellow cohort member Samuel Lee, “the most data enthusiasts I’ve ever met at a bar!”

Hackathon


At about halfway through the twelve weeks, it was finally time for the nitty-gritty, the hackathon! This year, GDI had the privilege of teaming up with BioGro, New Zealand's leading certifier for organic produce and products. We met BioGro at the hackathon kick-off, where we were able to understand what they were looking for from us through a few key questions. We split into four teams with a Fellow assigned as project support to each, and away we went.


What an amazing experience! My team all came from vastly different backgrounds (and even time zones at some points) but after countless Google Meets catch-ups, brainstorming sessions, and research into the organic sector in New Zealand and beyond we came together to create some recommendations for Biogro to help the organic sector grow, benefitting their licensees and end consumers.


GDI held a fantastic finale for us, where each team had the opportunity to present their work to Biogro. I was absolutely blown away by the calibre of my cohort - the creativity, deep understanding of BioGro’s business landscape and needs, and just plain technical brilliance displayed were very inspiring. Congratulations to all teams but especially Team 3 and Team 4 who came first and second place respectively. It was a mammoth effort from all of us and I’m so proud of what we were able to achieve - I definitely spent the day after the hackathon finale just reading about everyone’s work in awe (which you can do here, too).



The hackathon presentation call

GDI Life After Data 4 Good


After the hackathon finale, I’ve kept in touch with everyone through branch social events and our GDI Slack channel, where I recently found the opportunity to jump on a project with some very talented GDI-ers for one of our fantastic New Zealand charities, Hui E!. We’ve been working on a dashboard refresh and some exciting exploratory research using their community survey data, so keep your eyes peeled on GDI socials for more updates on our project.


Being a member of the Data 4 Good cohort program is a massive personal and professional highlight for me. I couldn’t recommend the experience more and I feel like I’ve walked away both technically enriched in my data and analytics career, but also as a more socially responsible human. I’m endlessly grateful to both GDI and my D4G cohort for both their time and effort making it all happen, and how much I was able to learn from their expertise throughout the program. My experience was the perfect example of what GDI is all about - innovation, learning, and a great group of mates working on some pretty incredible data projects.


Author:

Misty Tommei (GDI Volunteer)






About GDI:

The Good Data Institute (established 2019) is a registered not-for-profit organisation (ABN: 6664087941) that aims to give not-for-profits access to data analytics (D&A) support & tools. Our mission is to be the bridge between the not-for-profit world and the world of data analytics practitioners wishing to do social good. Using D&A, we identify, share, and help implement the most effective means for growing NFP people, organisations, and their impact.




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