female data scientist, woman leading team

Article by Peggy Pranschke, Global Business Analytics at Vista

I loved math from the moment I could count. Then my dad taught me to read binary and from that point on, it was pretty clear I was going to follow a career path where I was able to use numbers every day.

Like many data professionals, I studied math and computer science at college. My first job was as a data analyst with the U.S. Federal Government. From there I moved to the private sector to help build out data science and AI for Advanced Auto, a Fortune 500 company. I recently joined Vista, the design and marketing partner for small businesses, to lead global business analytics. The company’s supportive environment and mission to put data at the heart of everything we do, has helped me grow as a professional.

Data professionals, including teams of data scientists, analysts and engineers, drive an emerging discipline. We help tell stories in numbers by finding and interpreting patterns in this stream of information and through understanding what’s happening in businesses, across markets, and among customers. It might sound counter-intuitive, but data unlocks and inspires creativity.

Digitisation has made immense amounts of data available to companies. Understanding this invaluable information and extracting customer and business value from it has become a sought-after capability that creates strong competitive advantages for companies in virtually every industry.

As the amount of data increases and the demand for passionate professionals grows, the need for diversity will become more important than ever. We need people who can bring different perspectives, creativity, and unbiased problem-solving to the discipline.

Female professionals from different areas of technology might be curious on how to embark on that journey. From years of experience working in this field, I think there is a combination of ways which can help develop their skills and broaden their opportunities. If you’ve ever wanted to turn your talents to data and analytics, I’d like to share my top tips which helped me accelerate my career in this field.

Taking part in a mentorship scheme

Mentorship programmes can be an incredibly rewarding experience whether you’re a seasoned professional who’d like to share their experiences or someone looking to gain knowledge from others. Being a member of Chief’s powerful network of executive women, enables me to learn from the different experiences top female leaders had and lean on them for advice. Their shared experiences help me grow as a leader.

As a mentee, you really can learn a lot from a mentor – get a perspective that you don’t have from your own experiences and benefit from learning about your mentor’s challenges.  As I learnt through my own experience, having access to a supportive adviser can set you on the right career trajectory and help become a leader in any discipline. It was my maths advisor who empowered me to pursue computer science and challenge myself in the field. His advice made me believe in myself and taught me that searching for answers takes not only knowledge but patience and determination. These critical skills were fundamental as I began pursuing my career in data and analytics.

On the other hand, becoming an adviser yourself and seeing a mentee apply something they’ve learned from you to their career is very fulfilling. I coach many mentees on various aspects of people leadership, analytical thinking, and data-driven decision making. Hearing about their success and, ultimately, contributing to improving the technology industry is the biggest reward.

Taking advantage of networking opportunities

Attending networking events has been a key factor in achieving success as some of the best advice I’ve received came from the many amazing individuals I’ve met.

What helped me get the most out of networking events is being open to meeting others. However stressful meeting new connections may sound, I try to remember that everyone is there for the same reason so don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. At these networking events, I’ve received an amazing amount of advice from incredible people just by starting with “Hi, I’m Peggy, it’s nice to meet you!”

At Vista, we’re fortunate to have three employee resource groups (ERGs), which provide a great opportunity to build professional connections, serve as forums for the exchange of ideas and experiences and offer educational opportunities.

However, in some cases, there might not be any relevant networking gatherings at your workplace or in the area where you live. I think this could be a great opportunity to take initiative and run such events on your own. Set aside the time to discover what is available and if it is not available, start it. But more than start it, keep it going. Committing to developing and constantly improving networking opportunities doesn’t just benefit you but benefits every individual who takes part in those events in the future. Pave the path!

Leading by example

Another key component of creating more inclusive space in technology are vocal leaders. Their unique stories can influence thousands of other female professionals. For instance, I’ve always looked up to the Wojcicki sisters, Susan and Anne. Not only are they technological innovators and powerhouses, but they are also constant advocates for diversity, inclusion, and equity of women in the workplace.

Women leaders in data and analytics bring unique perspectives to the table which can unlock significant business value. Through working with a trusted advisor, building your network and seeking inspiration from other leaders, you can carve out a successful career path in this emerging and dynamic discipline.