We were very excited this week to sit down with Rachel Bradley-Hass. Rachel is the Senior Manager of Business Analytics & Data Engineering at Heroku. Prior to joining Heroku, Rachel worked at Cisco after getting her B.S.E in Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan.
Hi, Rachel! Can you tell us a bit about your background, and how it lead you to career in data?
I studied Industrial and Operations Engineering at University of Michigan, which was a combination of supply chain, statistics, and business. While in school, I fell in love with how applying math, especially statistics, to processes to optimize systems and increase customer experience, profit, and efficiency. Initially, I was resistant to investing time on developing computer programming skills, but during an internship I realized that automated systems and scripts would allow me to scale my efforts to a magnitude I could have never imagined. I haven’t looked back since. My coding skills combined with my analytics skills have enabled me to support a wider range of customers, products, and systems all while continuing to work on passion projects.
What has been the biggest surprise in your career?
When you remove self-doubt from the equation, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. Sometimes you just need to jump into the deep end and hope you can swim. Worst case scenario, your team will throw you some adorable floaties to help you get along until you get the hang of it. When you stop making excuses for why you can’t do something, the world is your oyster.
How do you think women can help build the foundation for successful careers?
Similar to what I mentioned above, it is so important to never doubt yourself. There will always be people that doubt you, don’t let yourself be one of them. Pushing yourself and putting yourself in challenging environments allows you to grow at a rate you didn’t think possible.
Do you think data can help support this foundation??
Data helps tell a story. Data supports arguments. Data is a universal language. When pushing for funding on a new project idea or asking for a raise/promotion, data allows you to tell a compelling story supported by facts that all individuals are able to interpret. Similar to what Cady Heron says in Mean Girls, I love math (and data) because it is “the same in every country.”
“When you remove self-doubt from the equation, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.”
What advice would you give to other women who are interested in pursuing a similar career path to yours?
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and never stop learning! There are so many paths that lead to the same destination and there is no “right” path. There were 3 major areas of development in my career that have gotten me to where I am; math/analytics, computer programming, and business acumen. Without each of those development areas, I wouldn’t be able to apply my skills and build creative solutions for real world problems.
What are some of the biggest challenges in leading today?
One of the biggest challenges in leading today is creating a healthy balanced team. In order to tackle difficult problems in a fast moving environment, it is critical that you have a diverse set of skills, mindsets, personalities, and passions. Similar to darwinism, the more diversity you have on a team the more likely you will be able to survive and solve whatever problem gets thrown at you. The reason I view this a a challenge is because surrounding yourself with individuals similar to you comes naturally. This can lead to redundancy and leave major gaps unseen. To address this challenge, it is important to take the time to recognize the value in attributes different from yours and how those differences can positively impact the dynamic on your team.
Do you think that data can help build this kind of diverse workplace?
I believe that data can definitely help build a more diverse and equal workplace. The most powerful part of data is it allows you to surface real information when making decisions rather than relying on assumptions. While I do not think that data is the solution to building this diverse and equal workplace, I do believe that it has the ability to ignite change. Just by showing simple workplace statistics, it causes individuals to think twice when faced with decisions that may impact diversity and equality.