Jennifer Momoh graduated from the School of Information with a Master of Information Management and Systems in 2020. Prior to the I School, she completed a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria.
At Berkeley, Jennifer was a lead graduate student instructor in the Department of Statistics and she served as a data science tutor at the I School. She also completed the I School’s graduate certificate in applied data science. Her MIMS final project, Malloci, was a Chen Award-winner, and she received a grant from the Center for Technology, Society & Policy for her project “Disability Disclosures on Online Communities.” She currently works as a data scientist at LinkedIn.
Why did you choose the I School?
There are a number of reasons that collectively informed my choice of the I School. The major reason was the interdisciplinary nature of the MIMS program which provided the opportunity to basically define my own path and explore different areas of interest at the same time. Other reasons were the impressive alumni career reports; the reputation of the I School’s faculty, most of whom had made invaluable contributions to research on socio-technical issues; and, lastly, the proximity to Silicon Valley which I believed would provide incredible career and networking opportunities
What was your focus at the I School?
I had a dual focus on data science and UX research. While data science was my prominent focus, I was also keen to understand its applications in the design and development of products through usability studies. Learning how the effective analysis of data gives insight into user behavior and helps to shape the way that tech platforms evolve based on these insights.
What was your favorite thing about the I School?
Being at the I School felt like being a member of a close-knit community of a very brilliant set of people. It was exciting to collaborate on projects with members of the I School, all of whom had diverse and outstanding backgrounds and brought such rich experiences, skills, and talents to the table.
Another aspect that I think is quite amazing is how actively involved the alumni are. They participate in mentorship and networking events and provide seasoned perspectives that made it so much easier to navigate career choices while at the I School and beyond.
The effectiveness of the I School’s career services also deserves a mention. Whether it was organizing resume nights or exclusive career fairs or scheduling one on one’s, the career services department was committed to making sure that no one was left behind, even post-graduation.
What was your favorite class?
It is honestly difficult to pick just one favorite class because there are a good number of classes that were equally impactful for me. However, Coye Cheshire’s Quantitative Methods of Research turned out to be one of the most helpful classes I took at the I School. It equipped me with the foundational concepts I needed to build on as a data scientist and gave me a sense of direction venturing into the very broad and complex, yet fascinating world of statistics. The knowledge I gained from this class turned out to be indispensable to other I School classes like Experiments and Causal Inference and Applied Machine Learning.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the User Experience Research class, especially because it was practically hands-on from start to finish. It gave me the opportunity to apply both research and analytic skills to observing and uncovering patterns in human behavior, their preferences, and even biases, generating insights through data to better understand human-computer interactions.
What is an information or data science challenge that intrigues you?
Algorithmic bias is an information challenge that despite the leaps and bounds by which technology has grown, requires a lot more work to achieve a state of fairness. Taking classes like Applied Behavioral Economics and Social Issues of Information opened my eyes to how biases are embedded into systems both consciously and unconsciously and how these systems can be weaponized to perpetuate injustice and discrimination in society, especially against marginalized groups.
Separate but strongly related is also the aspect of data ethics and privacy. It seems as though the lines here become more blurred despite how much more intuitive technology is becoming. This calls for an increased level of proactiveness in the regulation and protection of data.
You’re currently a data scientist at LinkedIn, what compels you to work in the field of data science?
If I had to choose one thing to wake up every day and work on forever, it would have to be something data-related. It’s one area where my instincts come completely alive. One thing I love about the field of data science is how widely applicable it is and how indispensable its uses are. Across the various data-focused roles I have worked in, I observed firsthand how proper utilization of data has revolutionized system processes, fueled technological advancement, informed more effective approaches to work, and even improved quality of life. I have learned how to put data to work and I am compelled by how much guesswork is taken out of the equation once data comes into play because even if you can trust nothing else, you can be sure that data would never lie as long as it is not mishandled.
You have always spent time giving back to the community—by serving as a tutor, sharing resources in the I School Medium publication, and now serving as a mentor. Why do you volunteer your time to the community?
At different stages of my career journey, I have crossed paths with incredible people who have provided guidance and mentorship, helping me to navigate this path. I sometimes think of how things may have turned out differently if these people hadn’t believed in me or my dreams. I do not take the opportunities I have been afforded for granted and I take every chance I get to pay it forward.
Also, giving makes me happy, especially when it is to a community that has been instrumental to my success. Helping people and impacting lives in any way I can is something I find purpose in.
Can you share any thoughts on how your identity has shaped your path, contributing to challenges and opportunities, or unique skills, strengths, or perspectives that you bring?
I’m no stranger to being the only woman in a room full of men, being denied positions with the excuse that women were not focused enough for certain roles, or being blatantly told that I could not negotiate salary because I am a woman. Even more absurd is how normal these experiences are for any woman pursuing a male-dominated career in a deeply patriarchal society such as the one in which I lived most of my life. In western society, although gender-based discrimination may be less jarring, it is certainly not absent as it morphs and manifests in not-so-subtle forms. Additionally, moving to a country where I have never been more aware of the color of my skin and the level of discrimination that it comes with is another barrier I have had to navigate.
While these challenges have been daunting, they have also made me resilient and more intentional about my support for other women seeking to advance their careers. I am committed to providing mentorship, sharing perspectives, and facilitating professional connections to the best of my ability.
Does it get easier? I cannot honestly promise that but every day I make the decision to rightfully take up space wherever possible, setting myself up to be the representation that I lacked, and hopefully inspiring other women to challenge the biases they face in their respective journeys. It is to say “we are a lot alike. I made it this far, you can too!”
What advice would you give your past self as an I School student?
Do not be afraid to explore. One thing about experiences is that they are meant to challenge what we think we know and open our minds to the possibilities that could be. Approach your time at the I School like an experience, let it shape you. Even if that means embracing change and exploring a path different from what you had planned.
Also, remember to enjoy the journey. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the activities: Classes, projects, deadlines, readings, interview prep, career fairs, GSI-ing, etc. Two years go by so quickly and by the end of your MIMS journey, there is a sense of satisfaction that will come not just from receiving your degree but also from the out-of-classroom experiences you were able to gather.