Peggy PranshckeI am a data and analytics leader whose vast experience in the applied mathematics and AI fields has spanned multiple industries from federal government to private-sector.

I began my career in the federal government as a data analyst in 2005 where I worked in a variety of roles on various projects from analysing missile systems to analysing tremendously large data sets.  It is here that I evolved into a data scientist before data science really became a field, racking up awards which include a Director of National Intelligence’s Meritorious Unit Citation in 2010.

After more than a decade in the US government, I moved on to lead AI and Data Science in the private-sector for Advance Auto Parts, a US-based Fortune 500 after-market auto parts retailer.  At Advance, I built a world-class data science team and created and implemented an AI strategy unique to the automotive industry. As the VP of Data Science and AI, I led the development of a recommendation and personalization engine to successfully change and enhance the customer experience.

I went global for the latest chapter in my career adventures and began working as the VP for Global Business Analytics at Vistaprint, the marketing and design partner to small businesses around the world. I lead a global analytics team to drive performance for Vistaprint and the small businesses it serves.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Absolutely! I think often about my career and build it in a timeline fashion. I place my past roles along the timeline and think about the future timeline and where I want to be. During this, I take time to reflect on what I’ve done along the way. I reflect on what I’ve learned from each role, how I’ve grown as a leader, and what I still would like to learn to get to my goal career.  Writing down my aspirations helps me set milestones along the way. And it’s alright to not hit a goal or take a detour, but a regular assessment and reflection has proven to be a powerful tool for me and my career.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I see challenges as learning opportunities, and I’ve found that career challenges are just opportunities to learn and grow in disguise. One of my biggest challenges have been tackling my own fears and insecurities. I’ve questioned myself many times on whether I could handle the work, was the best candidate for the job or was a good enough leader for my team. I find that my career challenges were almost always my own personal challenge. To overcome this, I often bring my data to the table. I like to write down the reasons why I am qualified for a task and then sum up what data supports or detracts from that. I find that this empowers me to see the full-picture and helps me overcome any fears or insecurities in the process.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement is in my parenting career where I am a mother to two boys.  During the pandemic, I’ve found it challenging to keep them up on their schoolwork while balancing my professional career. But while stepping up to that challenge, I realized that I could teach them so much more beyond their schooling in the time they were at home.  They could see how I drove teams to build innovative products, how I negotiated contracts, how I used mathematics every day to help businesses be there for their customers. For me, teaching my children about my career from a very first-hand experience, is the greatest achievement so far.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I find myself regularly pushing myself outside my comfort zone and I believe pushing myself has helped me grow as a leader. At times I’ve thought, “this is comfortable” meaning I know what is expected and I do the job but what I find is that I gain excitement from learning and I learn most when I’m pushing myself in new challenges. Whether that challenge is solving a tech problem or trying a new way of doing something, it’s these opportunities that really have helped me achieve success.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Never stop learning. Technology is constantly changing and if you are not in a constant learning mindset, you may feel as if you are falling behind. Carve out some of every day to learn something new about technology related to your field. Even just fifteen minutes a day can add up to a wealth of knowledge in a year.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Although many barriers have been moved for women working in tech, there is still room for improvement to make tech jobs more appealing to women. I feel there is an opportunity to continue to encourage young women to pursue STEM fields and support women who may want to make a career transition into a tech field.  Keeping a development dialogue with women team members can be incredibly supportive to these women.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Companies should continue to help women in the technology fields connect and network with other women. Employee resource groups are a great way to accomplish this. I’m happy to be a part of Vistaprint’s WIT (Women in Technology) resource group and a part of Chief, a women’s executive networking group. Beyond resource groups, companies can continue to push training on diversity, inclusion, and equity. The more you know about where you have opportunities to be better, the earlier you can start the journey to successful outcomes.

It’s important to see women in leadership positions, both as role models and as decision-makers. Companies can work to ensure that women have career paths to leadership, that bias is removed from promotion decisions, and that the value women bring to leadership roles is understood. At Vistaprint, increasing representation in leadership is one of our top priorities.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

With a magic wand, I would create more visibility of the amazing women currently working in the sector, especially in leading tech companies. Showcasing their work can highlight for generations to come the ability to be in a similar position in the future. I’ve looked up to my own list of numerous female technology leaders as I’ve paved my path. The more women we have on the industry path the better, as I think this will inspire more young women to pursue a STEM career.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’d highly recommend networking by attending local women in tech meetups, connecting with other women at conferences, and listening to other women’s experiences in podcasts.  When faced with a challenge, reach out to these connections and ask if they’ve been in a similar situation. Explore with them what they did and why and then adapt it to fit your style. While we are all women, we come from various backgrounds and experiences, what works for one woman, may not work for the next. I believe we can learn and grow from each other’s shared experiences.

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