Infinite possibilities

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Dana Hakman is a sales engineer at Dataiku, an AI and machine learning company. But her journey started quite differently as a literature and art student. Dana is a nominee for the RightBrains Digital Talent awards

What is your current role?

As a sales engineer and technical project lead, I work together with clients and partners to enhance their Enterprise AI strategy. I am based out of Amsterdam, and cover both the Netherlands and Nordic region. Enterprise AI is closely connected to enterprise software, and it uses advanced Data Science techniques to drive digital transformation. In Enterprise AI, the fundamental challenge proves to be not software, it’s rather siloed data, siloed processes and mostly siloed people. I would argue that digital transformation is mostly about people.  

Tell us more about your journey?

I started my academic career at Amsterdam University College, where I studied liberal arts and science with a focus on literature and art. I did a semester abroad in California, where I studied photography. 

After obtaining my degree, I worked mainly for marketing and creative companies. But after a few years, I wanted to build and enhance my analytical skills. So, I decided to enrol for a pre-masters and master’s degree in computer science. I did a graduate internship at SAS, an international software and service company. To fully reflect my academic career, my master’s thesis was based on a creative and technical project; building immersive experiences with experimental marketing or so-called Data Science Escape Rooms. After my role as a sales engineer at SAS, I moved on to Dataiku. 

What intrigued you about digital technology to make this career direction change?

I was attracted to the field because of its undeniable and widespread effect on society. My life was constantly being affected by digital technology, but I did not understand how it worked exactly. I wanted to figure that out and be able to understand the language of tech.

The field is experiencing rapid growth, which keeps it interesting and keeps you on your toes. There are infinite possibilities, you constantly have to learn and adapt. And I want to be a part of it! 

You are a nominee for the RightBrains Digital Talent award. What was your reaction?

I was pleasantly surprised and excited! I think the mission is very relevant, and I hope more women will be involved and use this platform to boost their and others’ careers. 

Do you think there is a need for more female role models?

I think there is a need for more diverse role models who are not afraid to speak up. Role models don’t have to be only women; they can be anybody who believes in an equal and diverse workforce. 

Even though I don’t consider myself a role model, I try to help others who ask for advice like graduates who want to work in the digital technology field. Even in a small way, we can all help each other. 

Who is your role model?

My mom! She is with me every step of the way as my mentor, I often ask her advice. Sometimes it is advice for my personal development, but also advice on how to handle specific complex projects or clients. She is a regional managing director, so she has very keen insight into business, different people and international perspectives. We often speak about emancipation and to be honest, it makes both of us sad to look at the current situation, particularly in the Netherlands. My mom has been in business for over 40 years, and a lot has unfortunately not progressed yet. I am having the same discussions at work as she had 40 years ago. That’s ridiculous. 

So, what would your advice be to young women, students and girls who are interested in digital technology?

Go for it! You don’t have to have all the skills to apply for a job; you need curiosity and enthusiasm and determination. If you work hard, you can learn the skills along the way, and always be curious to learn more. And on a personal note, stay true to yourself and to who you are.