Constructing Meaning: A Q&A with Castelline Tilus, Data Lab Co-Founder

Castelline_Tilus

The following interview is part of a series of conversations with young change-makers across the Western Hemisphere. From women’s rights to education to good governance, these leaders, founders, and creators are advocating for social good in a variety of ways across multiple platforms.


In this Q&A, Castelline Tilus, the co-founder and CEO of Ayiti Analyticsdiscusses how she fell in love with data science and went on to found Haiti’s first data science lab. Ayiti Analytics is focused on addressing challenges in Haiti through data science education, consulting and research. It leverages the potential of data science and analytics to connect youth in Haiti with meaningful employment opportunities and to co-create solutions to community identified challenges.


Can you describe your background?  What inspired you to found Ayiti Analytics?

I am a master’s graduate in International Policy and Development. I also did my undergraduate degree in International Relations, so I am not your traditional techie. I stumbled into data science in 2017 after conducting field research in Southern Haiti. I fell in love with population-level data and its potential to inform development programming. At that time, while completing my master’s thesis, I remember wanting to do more.

Fast forward three years later, and I have been fortunate to build a data science lab with an exceptional team in Haiti. More importantly, I have always wanted to use my talents and resources to advance development in my home country. Ayiti Analytics is one small contribution towards that larger end goal. 

Can you give us your elevator pitch? 

Ayiti Analytics is Haiti’s first data science lab headquartered in the capital city in Port-au-Prince. We are working to elevate analytical capacity in Haiti, and we are doing this through three core pillars, through data science education, consulting and research.

I have always wanted to use my talents and resources to advance development in my home country. Ayiti Analytics is one small contribution towards that larger end goal.

Why is data and data science important? 

90% of the data in the world was generated over the last two years (Forbes, 2018). Data science is thus of relatively great importance as stakeholders begin relying on data to make better decisions, to optimize resource allocation, and to implement better public policies. Across all industries, practitioners are working to construct meaning from their newly available data.

What are your long-term goals for Ayiti Analytics? What have been the most significant challenges you’ve encountered? 

The long-term goal is to become a premier data lab in the Caribbean, with research and consulting projects that span beyond Haiti. At this stage, we will be principally staffed by Haitian data analysts, data engineers and data scientists, and they will be the ones pioneering a range of new services (data reporting, data warehousing, data analysis and visualization) across the developing world.  

In terms of significant challenges, the most pressing has been pivoting to meet the needs of our target population. We are launching our first data science boot camp in March of 2020 and preparing for this boot camp has been a major growth opportunity for our team. We are now expanding our range of education services to better meet the needs of individuals and organizations in Haiti.

Nothing great can be accomplished alone. Ayiti Analytics is the product of an exceptional team.

If you could wave a wand and instantly solve one of the world’s problems, what would it be?

If I could wave such a wand, I would end extreme poverty. This is the problem that I have always considered most unjust. If it could be done away with, so much of the world would be better off.

Which people, places, books, etc. have inspired you? Why?

I am inspired by fiction. Films and novels with strong female protagonists are my favorite kind of fiction because they imbue me with confidence.

The movie that I have on repeat is the historical drama film Agora. The female protagonist has such confidence in her brilliance and in her assertions of the world that it makes me see myself differently. The lead actress in the film who plays the Greek philosopher and teacher Hypatia (Rachel Weisz) is brilliant! She is my newest role model!

What is your favorite place you’ve been to in the Western Hemisphere? Why?

I have yet to travel extensively within the Western Hemisphere. Haiti and the United States have been my base for most of my adolescence and adulthood.

I spent New Year’s Eve in Ecuador in 2018 and I had a remarkable time. It was my second trip to a Spanish speaking country, and I enjoyed everything about it, from the food, to the people I encountered, to the mountains of Baños de Agua Santa, it was a remarkable trip.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know? 

Nothing great can be accomplished alone. Ayiti Analytics is the product of an exceptional team. I have my co-founder and business partner, Morgan Mendis, and three data science consultants, Gaetane Julmiste, Yvel Marcelin, and Fabrice Mesidor.

We also have a number of ecosystem partners in Haiti that have made all of this possible and we are tremendously grateful for the support we have received.

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Tilus with her hardworking team in Port-au-Prince.

 

You can find Ayiti Analytics online:

Facebook: @ayitianalytics