Queen Mary Alumni

Alumni profile - Sadiqah Musa

I am a co-founder of Black in Data. I work on data strategic projects and provide actionable insights that impact decision making to increase revenue. The data world is new, fresh, and young, which fuels my passion to see more people that look like me in the industry.

(Environmental Science BSc, 2005)

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Why did you study Environmental Science at Queen Mary? What sparked your interest in this specific degree?

I chose to study at Queen Mary because it is one of the best universities in the country. The university is based in one of the most vibrant areas in London. I was particularly impressed by the richness in culture of the students and the surrounding community.

I had a deep interest in the natural environment from a very young age which led me to study Environmental Science. I have always been curious about how the earth formed, how it has evolved and the human impact on our natural environment.

What aspects of your degree did you find most enjoyable and how has your degree remained relevant and helped shape your career to date?

The most enjoyable aspect of the degree was the many field trips that we went on. The trip that stands out the most was a week in Florida. We visited the Everglades to study the remarkable biodiversity of the park. This was my first insight into how to work as a productive team in an unfamiliar environment. This is a skill that I rely on every day when working with various stakeholders from different industries.

I am proud to be me because I am not afraid to have difficult conversations. These conversations are fundamental to personal and professional growth. We will not see change in our communities by being silent.

Can you tell us more about your current role? How does this job allow you to explore some of your passions?

I am currently a Lead Data Analyst for The Guardian News and Media, and I am a co-founder of Black in Data. I work on data strategic projects and provide actionable insights that impact decision making to increase revenue. The data world is new, fresh, and young, which fuels my passion to see more people that look like me in the industry. I support many organisations in their strategy to increase representation in data through their hiring and retention processes.

Can you tell us a bit about Black in Data, how it came about and why you wanted to start this initiative?

Devina Nembhard and I started Black in Data from our own personal experiences of feeling isolated in a fast paced, white, male dominated working environment. Devina is my colleague at the Guardian and is the first black woman I have ever worked with in my fifteen-year career. Devina and I have made it our mission to create a safe space for people of colour in data to come together to support each other in their data journey. We set out to make people like us feel like they belong and give them the courage to be their true selves so that they can thrive in their chosen field.

In your opinion, what are some of the most pressing issues faced by black people within your industry and what do you think needs to be done about it?

The biggest challenge that we face as black people in data is accessibility into the roles. There are far too many hurdles in the application process that negatively impact black people. Some of these challenges include being eliminated at the CV stage because of your name, address or the school you attended. We also face discrimination at the interview stage. There is evidence that shows people are more likely to hire others that look and sound like themselves. We do not have enough black people in senior leadership positions to pave the way for the younger generation to follow.

Organisations need to commit time and resources to educate their staff in how to attract, hire and retain black talent. They need to create measurable diversity business objectives that are accountable at every level of the organisation.

How does Black in Data try to combat some of these specific issues?

Black in Data firstly speaks and highlights these uncomfortable issues to industry by engaging in round tables, events, and conferences. We support our community through the Black in Data training programme, which trains candidates in technical skills such as Python, SQL and Data Viz, then places the candidate into a work placement with our partners. We further support our members through a mentoring scheme that pairs mentors with mentees for a duration of three months. This relationship is designed to give the mentee confidence to accelerate in their career and the mentor a deep sense of satisfaction that they are supporting future leaders.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black history month for me means a month for conscious non-black people to educate themselves about the vast contributions that black people have made to make this country what it is today. It is a month to take pride in ourselves and to reevaluate what we are doing to support our community.

The theme of this year’s Black History Month is ‘Proud to Be’ and its aim is to celebrate being black or brown, and to inspire and share the pride people have in their heritage and culture. Why are you ‘Proud to Be’ you?

I am proud to be me because I am not afraid to have difficult conversations. These conversations are fundamental to personal and professional growth. We will not see change in our communities by being silent. As Elie Wiesel said “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.”

Are there any historical or current black figures you wish more people knew about?

I wish people had knowledge of inventors and scientists such as Marie M. Daly and Garrett Morgan.

Can you tell me about a key turning point in your career?

I started my career as an Interpretation Geophysicist analysing seismic data. This was the plan that I had laid out for me from university until I retire, so I thought. After about ten years of being a geophysicist I was deeply dissatisfied with the excessive work hours, constant redundancy threats, lack of recognition and progression, so I quit and went on a two-year jolly! During that time, I retrained and became a data analyst. I used the time to reflect on what was truly important to me such as my young family, my friends, and my physical and mental health. By leaving an industry that I worked so hard to get into at the beginning of my working life, I thought my career was over. It is only now that I realise it was the beginning of an amazing data journey that would touch the lives of thousands of people.

What was special about your time at Queen Mary? Can you give one or two examples of your most memorable moments?

Queen Mary gave me lifelong friendships. One of my most memorable moments was going to my friend's dorm for lunch and she fed us an exploded egg! I did not know until that moment that it was possible to ruin an egg dish. I learned my lesson to always bring my lunch with me when I visited her.

Based on your own time at university, is there anything you feel that Queen Mary can do to improve the student experience for black students?

The university could improve by allowing the voices of black students to be heard, to be visible and to be celebrated. I would also encourage the university to track and publish data on the number of professors of colour that they have. Decolonising the curriculum should also be at the heart of the university's strategy if they want to be seen as a truly inclusive institution.

What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

I am motivated to get out of bed in the morning to show girls that look like me, that come from the same place as me, that they have the right to occupy any and all spaces. We deserve to be here because of our skills and talent. We are here not only to survive but to thrive in our working environments. Increasing the pace of change is my motivation.

Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates considering their career options?

Try not to limit yourself to the degree course that you studied in your search for a job. Cast your net out very wide and be courageous with your selection. Finally, do not be afraid to have multiple careers.

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey. If you would like to get in touch with Sadiqah or engage her in your work, please contact Nathalie at n.grey@qmul.ac.uk.