Meet Robin! He’s new to DataKind, volunteering for our recent DataDive® event in Nairobi. As a founder of a data company, he was looking for ways to use his skills to help tackle social issues, and he found the opportunity with DataKind. We’re thrilled to have him as a member of the community. Check out Robin’s DataKind journey below!
You’ve recently had your first DataKind volunteer experience. What motivated you to get involved in this project?
I’m the founder of a company called Fourbic, which offers innovative data as a service, and when I saw that there was a DataDive event, I was interested because DataKind’s work is just so interesting, more so the types of challenges that you get to solve, particularly in terms of social issues. I thought it’d be a good opportunity to use my skills for something that was interesting, meet other people who felt the same way, and use this in my professional career as well.
How did you hear about the opportunity?
I saw it on social media first, but I’m also involved in organizing community groups in the data and tech space here in Nairobi, and we do workshops and things like this, so I knew it would be a good group. Other people in the community had signed up, so it seemed like a good networking opportunity and a way to learn something new.
In your career overall, what nontechnical skills have you found essential?
At this DataDive event, the big challenge was really that it was so short! We only had one day, and we needed to be really focused and narrow down things quickly to get to something helpful by the end of the day. It’s important to have a holistic view of everything, it’s not just about numbers, it’s also about people, and you need creative problem solving skills to do this work well. Critical thinking plays a huge part, you have to adapt based on the challenges you get.
What particular issues or problems that you’ve come across – with DataKind or in your work – that you think really benefit from a data science approach?
Public health is one I think about a lot. There’s so much data that exists that can be found around public health facilities that would be a major challenge to collect, but it’d be incredibly helpful to create some predictive models and be able to better manage crisis response. There’s a lot of space for innovation there.
I also really liked the projects we worked on at the event about helping young people connect with work opportunities, putting the information together in a way that if they have specific skills or interests, they can find paths forward on one webpage or in a way that they can access without data science skills.
How did this experience help you in your career?
It was really helpful in broadening my scope beyond the theoretical to actually see how we can approach big problems. It also gave me some new ways to engage in how we address problems, how we approach it at the start. Also, of course, the people that I met, from DataKind and in the Nairobi community, were really great to expand my network and just see how other people work and how they approach these issues – working in the teams really enriched the experience and it was just amazing to work together like that.
Other than data science, what are you passionate about?
Nature. I love taking hikes, I have two small kids, and I usually spend my weekends in nature with them. It’s something I’ve always loved, to go out and spend time in nature, but now with the kids it’s even better that I get to show them. I’m also into photography, I love taking photos of nature around my neighborhood. I’m not professional or anything, but I think photos have a way of telling stories, and I like that so much.
What advice would you give to someone interested in volunteering with DataKind?
I would say do it! There’s just so much more potential than we tend to give ourselves credit for, and just being able to sit and work with other bright minds and immerse yourself in a tangible challenge gives you such insight into the full scope of how this can impact actual lives. You shouldn’t need more convincing than that!
About Volunteer Spotlights
Our volunteers are the lifeblood of our mission. They’ve inspired people to use their skills in ways they never dreamed of. They’ve slayed misconceptions. They’ve shown organizations trying to make the world a more humane place how data science and AI can change the game. We’re honored (and thrilled) to feature their stories in DataKind’s Volunteer Spotlight series. Follow this series to learn about their impeccable skill sets, their work with our brilliant project partners, and what inspires them to give their time, resources, and energy to causes that matter.