Meet the Nigerian data scientist who teaches useful tech hacks in Yoruba

This week’s Everyday People article saw me talking to a Nigerian data scientist teaching some abstract terms in Yoruba, a Nigerian language. Wuraola Oyewusi first studied clinical pharmacy before a ‘click’ led to a job posting looking for a data analyst. The need to give back to a bountiful internet and a tendency to be playful has led to a growing YouTube playlist of tech concepts explained in Yoruba.

I am an expert. I try not to brag, but I’m an expert on this. And most topics are just a tiny fraction of what I do. I usually do my best, and when they fail – because things fail – that’s fine with me as well.

I don’t tie the world to my chest, as they say in the Nigerian language. I’m a private person and usually don’t have much to say to many people. So it’s cool that it went viral, but if I had done it and it was only ten people, it would still be fine with me.

It’s good when you do something. And, sure, there are bad reviews, but you know, it’s going to be unfair to complain about bad reviews if 95 out of 100 are awesome.

I’m not saying that I haven’t failed. I failed at many things. In fact, what I’m really good at is knowing how to practice and iterate.

I’m just one of those people who can practice a thousand times. I’ll just try again. I’m usually in no rush. So I don’t take failure just like that. I don’t need to be first in life.

Taking the long but satisfying road…

Nigerian data scientist, Wuraola Oyewusi

I started my career in clinical pharmacy. And I always add the caveat that I appreciated.

I always love what I do. So I got into data science by pure chance. I was reading job descriptions, then I saw a data analyst and I was like, “Okay, I can do a lot of things on this list except SQL”

And then I decided, “Okay, let me take a look.”

Then I took the first class and said, “Okay, so there’s data somewhere, and there’s stuff you write to get it.”

I just thought, “Okay, that’s cool.”

And then I looked around and found Python and learned that there are things you can do with it. There’s data science, then there’s AI, and it was just fascinating.

I was just studying and studying and studying. Until I got the random job offer. And then I thought, “Oh, that’s cool.”

…and enjoy every moment

Wuraola Oyewusi

I always tell the truth; it was intense. I was learning a range of concepts. I was learning machine learning. I was learning to program (I didn’t program before); I used to joke that people who knew me in school knew I wasn’t even a computer scientist.

I was learning math. I was learning machine learning principles and methodologies. I learned the basics of computers. I was working or coding, but it was cool. Like, I’ve said it a billion times, the internet is generous; everything is online.

The learning principles are similar; this is how learning works. For example, in pharmacy school, we were used to a range of courses that seemed disparate. We were doing pharmaceutical microbiology and we were the same group of people who were doing pharmaceutical chemistry.

We were doing forensic pharmacy, which has a lot to do with law. We were doing pharmacology, that is, drugs. We were doing pharmaceutical technology, which is how drugs are put together. So let’s say I’m used to learning from different sources, so it didn’t matter.

And that’s an amazing skill for me in AI research. Much of pharmacy school was spent in the laboratory. And for the most part, I worked in research. So it’s incredibly useful for reporting, finding patterns, etc.

A Nigerian data scientist with no regrets

I am a determined person and I love life. So I’m usually not the one doing something right now and wishing I was doing something else. I enjoyed all my time as a pharmacist. I’m enjoying my time now. If I ever change my mind, one thing is constant; I will still have fun.

The team I’m currently working with is the faculty of medicine. Most of the data we work with is therefore clinical.

And no one else fits that as much as me because I understand the clinical data. I understand AI and I understand machine learning. So I was able to transfer a lot of knowledge.

Teaching Data Science in Yoruba

Wuraola with people from Google UK and some colleagues from Data Science Nigeria (DSN) on DSN’s fifth anniversary

There wasn’t much about it. I understand AI and data science, and I’m quite a gamer. I was just having fun and having fun because I’m this friend who speaks a lot of Yoruba.

I have also done academic work related to the application of machine learning methodology to Yoruba language data.

We speak Yoruba well at home. I usually laugh with my friends that my parents really wanted us to master our English. But my siblings, my parents and I speak Yoruba just because we can.

Plus, teaching is an opportunity to give back. I will usually tell you that you should write. You should write articles, write about how you think about things.

It’s both a way to build a strong portfolio and give back. Like I said, the internet is extremely generous and life changing because it allows you to switch teachers if you don’t understand my methodology while teaching you a concept. If you don’t like the video itself, you can decide to follow a tutorial.

If you don’t like the tutorial, you can decide to go for a Twitter feed.

And the feedback has been fantastic, from people who simply love the language to people who find it complex.

Someone said, “Oh, I didn’t have any stats before. Thanks for explaining.

Most of the people who give their opinion are not necessarily people who speak English; I’m not trying to do a robotics textbook. So there is mixing of code, there is change of code. There is a bit of contemporary language.

It’s low-key for people who said, “No, you didn’t catch that exact word.”

I am not trying to teach the exact word as some concepts are a bit more complex.

I did a series on careers in technology, and someone said, “Oh, I tried to explain what I do at home. I share this with my mother. I share this with my grandmother.

I shared about different industries where you can work in tech [in Yoruba]. If your mother speaks Yoruba, you can share that.

Like, “Hey, mom, see the kind of stuff we do in tech?”

And it will work.

Sean N. Ayres