Today is March 1, 2023; welcome to the first day of National Women’s History Month. This time is dedicated to celebrating the achievements and excellence of women. To kick things off, we’ve decided to shine light on one of our very own data scientists, Kelli Cooksey.
Women represent nearly half of the U.S. workforce, yet are still greatly underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce. Thanks to women like Kelli, the gender gap is lessening. From 1970 to 2019, the amount of women in STEM grew nearly 20%. In this interview, you'll learn about Kelli's path to data science, her thoughts on hybrid work, and her experiences working in a male-dominated industry.
🚺 Can you share with us what it is you do for FanThreeSixty?
I'm a data scientist. I use data to solve problems. Usually that involves connecting information from a lot of disparate sources to produce lists of fans to target, track revenue and whatever else.
🚺 What does being a “data scientist” mean to you?
I’m really proud of the work I do. I’m happy that the people I work with value my opinion and what I do. I feel really privileged to be able to do something that I like, and that lets me provide for my family.
🚺 What three words would you use to describe your role and why?
Flexible problem solving. The main thing I do is solve problems—all kinds of problems—across different content and using different tools. I get the flexibility to solve them with whatever tools and solutions I think are best. My team is really great at collaborating and bouncing ideas off each other, but ultimately we trust each other to make good decisions.
🚺 What does a typical day look like working form home versus in the office?
Almost all of my meetings take place on in-office days which is nice. I get to really focus on problems without distractions or interruptions at home. I also get to talk aloud to myself, which can be really helpful when writing code.
🚺 What's your favorite part about being a data scientist at FanThreeSixty?
I love that I get to do a lot of different stuff like experimentation, create value for clients, solve problems for my co-workers and work on a lot of technical stuff. I get to work with pretty much every other department in the company, which means I'm doing different things all the time. It's fun and exciting.
🚺 Tell us about your alma mater. What school did you attend and what activities were you involved with?
I got my bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Kansas. ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK! I got my master's in data science and analytics from the University of Oklahoma, but KU is my favorite alma mater.
🚺 Did you always know that a career in technology was for you? How did you get into data science?
Not at all. I started college with no clear path or focus. I spent a lot of time in undergrad without a declared major. KU had a great teacher prep program that let you get a STEM degree, and a teaching certificate without being stuck teaching forever if you weren’t sure about it. Math was always one of my best subjects, so I ended up with a mathematics degree and a teaching certificate. I didn’t consider any kind of technology based career until after I’d taught high school mathematics for four years.
🚺 You work in a male-dominated industry. Have you ever faced imposter syndrome–the feeling of doubting your own abilities?
I doubt my own abilities all the time. I’m not sure that it’s because of the male-dominated industry though. I doubted myself all the time when I was teaching too.
🚺 How has the tech industry changed for women since you first started?
Being able to work from home consistently has been a huge change. I feel like it’s made it easier to advocate for better flexibility.
🚺 What advice would you give to women aspiring to have a STEM career?
I would say that it’s important to leave a job or a school if you’re unhappy there or don’t feel like you’re being treated with respect. I think lots of time we expect too much of ourselves, like we have to PROVE how worthy we are and that we can persevere. But really, being happy and fulfilled in your job is way more important than proving that you can handle a bad situation. Life’s too short, find a boss that values you.
Kelli thanks so much for chatting with us about your experiences in the STEM industry. We wish you the best!