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Priya Chotalia on her personal and professional growth with UM – Mediaweek


• Plus what she hopes to achieve in working with UM and in her career
Priya Chotalia graduated from Macquarie University in November 2021 with a Master of Data Science, and recently joined UM’s Business Analytics Engine (BAE) as a data analyst.
 
The main goal of BAE is to help brands futureproof through integrating their marketing data, technology and analytics and unlock growth and increase effectiveness.
 
Chotalia spoke to Mediaweek about breaking stereotypes, claiming her space as a woman of colour in data science, and what she hopes to achieve in working with UM and in her career.
 
 
The data analyst, originally from India, credited her family – particularly her father – for fostering her interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
 
“My dad didn’t listen when society said ‘don’t spend uni and tuition fees on your daughter. Save that money for a wedding, as she will get married and go away,’” she proudly shared.
 
“I would say I am the first girl in my entire family, entire community to be able to finish my bachelor’s degree and fly to another country to pursue my dream career as a successful data analyst,” she said.
 
Chotalia explained that data analysis was an optional unit while studying for her Bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. Her interest in the field grew, which spurred her to pursue a Master of Data Science from Macquarie University.
 
The data analyst shared that her experience studying away from home as an international student wasn’t without its challenges, such as homesickness and the language barrier. “It wasn’t always easy – in fact, I failed two of the main units of my Masters’s degree, but that just made me work harder,” she said.
 
Chotalia eventually overcame her language challenges as she made friends with her batchmates and joined study groups. She said, “Everything eventually became worth it after I realised my main goal.”
 
 
Chotalia joined UM in June and has been enjoying her role with the media agency. She said: “UM walks the talk. Its multicultural environment is reflected through its website and portfolio and in everything they say and do; UM empowers women.”
 
The data analyst shared special kudos to Michelle Yeates, head of BAE, and Dianne Radaza-Lapez, senior analytics manager of the analytics hub in Manila, Philippines.
 
Chotalia said: “Seeing people like Michelle and Dianne from BAE, two inspiring women blitzing traditionally male-dominated positions, encouraged me to jump at this opportunity. I’m so happy I did.”
 
As a data analyst, Chotalia helps the BAE team build predictive and prescriptive analytics solutions that deliver key business initiatives using machine learning, mathematics, and other techniques. “Sounds so boring, but it’s not!” she insisted.
 
Chotalia explained that data analysis has a tremendous impact on media. “There are tons and tons of customers’ data which can be used to understand customer sentiments, improve customer service, and behavioural analytics to understand the consumers’ needs. 
 
“If data analysis and media are merged, so much more information can be obtained and understood,” she said.
 
Chotalia added that data analytics helps media agencies unlock hidden insights and build predictive models to test advertising, pricing, and sales forecasting. 
 
With the help of these insights, media companies can better understand and target specific audiences, improve users’ experience and identify new products,” she added.
 
 
Chotalia noted that working in a STEM field as a woman and person of colour has its challenges, particularly working in a different country to her home. She said that uprooting her life and adapting to a new culture and lifestyle to follow her career dream was hard.
 
“I come from a very conservative society where being a girl child is often considered a burden and getting her married as soon as she reaches a certain age is a priority, so I believe I am very lucky to have had my parents’ immense support throughout my journey,” she said.
 
“Seeing them fighting with the culture and breaking the patriarchy gave me more courage to achieve my goals in this field, plus I had the support of my boyfriend, who went with me to an unknown country and has supported me every step of the way.”
 
Chotalia is currently working on a project using census data about Australia and Australians that looks into a range of areas such as the languages spoken outside English, number of immigrants, and changes in religions compared to 2016 data.

 
“It’s exciting work, and will enable brands to have a greater understanding of what their customers actually want,” she said.
 
Chotalia is also working on a research project for the Cancer Institute NSW by assisting with sourcing and cleaning datasets to make them useful for further analysis.
 
“For this project, we are identifying stigma and beliefs which may lead to low uptake of cancer screening and a delay in getting symptoms checked within multicultural communities in NSW,” she explained.
 
 
Recent research by the World Federation of Advertisers and MediaSense noted data and analytics as the “single most important” capability to prioritise for the next two years.
 
For women considering a career in the field, Chotalia encouraged it and said: “be on the cusp of change.”
 
“Careers in data analytics are not just for the boys; it’s a fantastic career path, so I’d encourage all young women to follow their dreams and find their dream job.  
 
In this fast-moving world of data and technology, there are jobs for analysts in all sectors. I love the media industry, but whatever industry interests you, be it consulting, automotive, or finance, is where you’ll find the most job satisfaction,” she said. 
Chotalia said she also hopes to inspire women and girls from her country to achieve their career and education goals.
“The hope of inspiring other women and other girls in our community to come to Australia and focus on their education and career before thinking about marriage will be the best achievement of my entire career,” she added.

Top image: Priya Chotalia

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