Spotlight Saturday: Sara Bernard

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 pursuit of her true passion, Sara co-founded Smart Kids Educational Club. She believes that technology has the unique ability to change Trinidad and Tobago’s dependency on the oil & gas industry which she considers a dwindling non-renewable resource. She believes that with Smart Kids, children can start using technology to innovate which will, in turn, create a reservoir of tech talent in T&T. Sara is currently working on a project called Stay in STEM (SIS) by Smart Kids. It is a 4 to 7 year free afterschool program for Caribbean girls to develop advanced digital skills. When they leave the program they will not only have a solid foundation in Python, HTML and JavaScript, but they will have countless STEM projects under their belt and a community of mentors, peers and allies to support them throughout their STEM careers. The SIS program was developed on the fundamental ideas that developing digital literacy is a process, not a one-day or short term event, and that when women get into male-dominated fields, they lack organic support structures. In her own words, “Our girls need skills, which take months and years to develop. You need to introduce simple concepts then build more complex ideas upon it. Students then need time and space to practice what they’ve learnt…. We also need to create frameworks for women to support one another. And so the SIS program will focus on developing community-building skills and a network pipeline.” Sara and her team are actively looking for funding for the program which will cost $1,200 USD per year or $100 USD per month per student/year. One of the things Sara recognized later in her career is why women don’t succeed in STEM. She said, “It’s not because men are holding us down, but because no one is lifting us up. The best thing you can do for yourself as a woman in a STEM field is to build a network. For example, I asked a senior female engineer to be my mentor. I didn’t wait for one to be assigned to me. I started a women’s group and got conversations going about the challenges we faced. The lesson learned is that Women need support structures (community) to Stay in STEM fields.” This is the kind of support the SIS program will provide.

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 sara@smartkidsclubtt.com.