Meet Sara Bernard – a reflective, strategic, analytical, and future-focused woman from Trinidad and Tobago. Sara has years of experience in the Oil and Gas industry, and a BSc in Chemical and Process Engineering. She took a calculated risk and transitioned into the tech field where she is now building her legacy and creating impactful solutions in her home country as a Data Scientist. Sara is the CEO and Co-Founder of Smart Kids Educational Club – an organization based in Trinidad that facilitates the use of technology for innovation among young children and teens. This is her story.
When Sara ponders on how she would like to remember her life, she thinks about the legacy she would leave for her country and her children. Her frequent thoughts about this prompted her to leave behind a perfectly lucrative and comfortable career in engineering to pursue entrepreneurship. Sara transitioned from one career to another so that she could use what she gained from her first successful career to make a positive impact in her community that she could be proud of.
Sara always excelled at Mathematics and initially wanted to be a Mathematics teacher, but her mother, who was a teacher herself, was not fond of the idea. With guidance from her father, she chose to study Chemical & Process Engineering at The University of the West Indies due to the booming Oil & Gas sector in Trinidad & Tobago. For 15 years, Sara worked at a premiere oil & gas company that invested in her development as an engineer and supervisor. She decided to switch careers to Data Science because it was more along the lines of what she was always passionate about – Mathematics. Sara always wanted to do math all day long, and 25 years ago, she was ignorant to the fact that there are more options in natural sciences than just teaching and research. One of the biggest lessons that she has learned is that it’s never too late to find your passion and switch careers.
In addition to her own ventures, Sara has assisted others with advancing their projects in the last year. She believes in the importance of finding others with similar values and supporting them in achieving their goals. Two such projects are Recess by Kelly-Ann Bethel and MVP by Zed Labs. Recess is a virtual reality app that helps entrepreneurs and high performers improve their performance, while MVP is a free local coding bootcamp for youth. Although these are not her personal projects, Sara has been able to lend her expertise to other entrepreneurs through financial investment or drafting pitch decks or any other manner in which she can assist.
Sara shared that the thing that excites her the most about her line of work is learning something new every day. Because she is new to data science and because it is a relatively new field, there is still so much to learn and there is also the additional excitement of the unknown, like which trajectory her career will take. However, as someone who struggles to maintain a good work-life balance, Sara strongly emphasizes the importance of having an intimate community with like-minded people that challenge you to be the best version of yourself. She believes that it’s imperative that we all have networks with whom we can share our personal and professional goals. Her networks hold her accountable and challenge her to be a better mom, person and entrepreneur.
Her advice to women is that it has never been easier to switch to a career in tech. In addition to a traditional (expensive) masters degree, there are many more affordable options like coding courses, bootcamps and certifications. She also advises women that they don’t have to be a Math whiz to switch because there are many jobs in tech, and with a little research, they can find which discipline suits them best. Sara shared that it’s important that you don’t discard the credentials and expertise you’ve developed over the past 5 to 30 years even if they are non-technical skills. She advises young girls to find a strategy that they like and go for it because there is no wrong path. She stresses that if you end up working in a job you don’t like, it’s a valuable learning experience that will help you make better decisions later in life.
To keep up with Sara’s projects and ventures, follow her on Instagram at @databysara. If you want to know more about switching careers, digital skills and data science then follow her on any of your preferred online platforms. If you are interested in getting your child digital skills or you have funding for the Stay in STEM program for girls then visit www.smartkidsclubtt.com or email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.