Meet Ria Persad: Space Physicist, People Person, and Climate Science Expert.

I chose to enter the world of analytics from a love of science. When I was age 6, I heard in school about NASA and people going to the moon! I was immediately captivated, and I wanted to be an astronaut! We were an immigrant family in New York from Trinidad and Tobago. When I told them that I wanted to be an astronaut, they thought I was being crazy! But that dream remained in my heart, and 15 years later, I was working at NASA in Houston as a Space Physicist during the Mission to Mars (Pathfinder) program. I advise girls to be convicted in their dreams and don’t give up on them: with commitment and perseverance, doors open in the direction of our passions and our efforts so that we can fulfill those dreams.

When we apply ourselves with passion in the direction of our dreams, it’s amazing how it attracts people and opportunities to us. One door tends to open leading to another. I’ve learned to be patient and enjoy the journey every step of the way. I entered the field of analytics when computers were very new to the world, and I was programming algorithms in Artificial Intelligence when nobody knew what “Predictive Analytics,” “Data Mining,” or “Big Data” was, because computers could not handle anything that “big.” It was the dawn of supercomputing. It has been an exciting few decades to live through, seeing technology emerge and “grow up.” Nothing stays the same—the world is always changing, so we grow and change as well. Innovation has been key to my growth, as I’m always thinking of new things to develop and bring to market, new solutions to introduce to the world to help people. So life is an exciting, enlightening adventure.

The person that most inspires me is Mahatma Gandhi because he renounced ideals focused upon materialism in favor of service to his people. Often we can think that success is based on how much money we have in the bank, how big and pretty our house is, what kind of car we drive, and such material things. But success can be defined differently. Health, contentment, simple joy, peace, and a sense of freedom are non-material blessings which are far more valuable than money. So this should be our foremost pursuit—to be at peace within ourselves and have inner tranquility even in the midst of challenging situations with having an inner compass which directs us.

One of my passions is music and playing the piano. As a woman whose work is focused upon analytics, exercising the right hemisphere of my brain (creative, verbal) gives me balance and helps to invoke creative problem-solving which is a hallmark of all great mathematicians and scientists. In analytics, both sides of the brain are engaged in creative problem solving, from whence “genius” comes. So for me, it is important to keep my creative self-engaged through things like art, music, reading, meditating, and so on. It keeps me balanced and rounded as a person also.

At the end of the day, I want for my work to be of sociological and humanitarian benefit to people. I spend so many hours of my day sitting in front of the computer, but my goal is to be of service impacting people in a positive, life-changing way with my work. I am so thankful to work in climate science and modeling, because not only do I find it fun and interesting, but it brings great benefit to people all over the world who need this information to lead more fruitful lives. Truthfully, I am a “people person,” and analytics gives me that vehicle to be able to impact a global community and connect with many people who need what I have to offer. A career in analytics has been perfect for me in balancing my analytical skill-set with my desire to bring solutions to the world.

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