Jeanette Shutay knew nothing about data science when she began her doctorate in research methodology. What she did know is that she loved leading research teams to solve complex problems using data.
Fast forward 20 years: Shutay is Senior Director of Advanced Analytics at HAVI, which uses data and analytics to help companies around the world optimize their supply chains and marketing. Her team of researchers and engineers work to keep the company on the cutting edge through research and development while also providing support for HAVI’s existing solutions.
Shutay's career in data and analytics was made possible in part by ignoring advice given to her at an early age.
“In high school, my academic counselor tried to talk me out of taking an advanced math course,” she said. “My mindset was that if I got a C, it was better than not taking the course.”
We recently sat down with Shutay to learn more about her work at HAVI, the persisting underrepresentation of women in analytics and her advice on how to enter the field.
You left HAVI in 2007 and returned five years later. What brought you back?
HAVI has some of the most dedicated and hardworking people I have ever met. From a tech perspective, HAVI was doing big data before the term was common. Over the past several years we’ve been advancing our data science capabilities through machine learning and artificial intelligence applications, as well as implementing cloud solutions that include predictive and prescriptive functionality. We’ve really evolved.
Can you talk about that evolution, as well as other emerging tech HAVI is keeping its eye on?
We’ve incorporated several sophisticated machine learning algorithms into our advanced analytics practice. We’re also building out predictive and prescriptive analytics software to better solve customer problems. One thing we’re keeping an eye on is machine vision and its various applications.
Women need more female role models and more general awareness of what is out there for them in the world.”
Tech is a notoriously male-dominated field. As a female tech leader, what do you think it will take to change that?
It’s definitely better than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Women have historically been less likely to be encouraged to enter math and science fields, although that’s changing. In high school, my academic counselor tried to talk me out of taking an advanced math course. My mindset was that if I got a C, it was better than not taking the course. Women need more female role models and more general awareness of what is out there for them in the world. All children do.
Does HAVI have any initiatives dedicated to addressing that challenge?
HAVI is addressing these issues through succession planning, development programs and female-sponsored employee research groups. I’m on an internal gender intelligence team looking at research to understand the challenges females are facing and how we can best provide coaching, mentorship, development programs and a work-life balance culture to mitigate them. HAVI also provides flexible working arrangements, like summer sunshine hours and flex work programs.
What advice do you have for women who want to enter the field of data analytics?
Network as much as possible, even if you’re introverted. Second, never stop learning. Take Coursera courses, go to workshops and attend webinars. Third, stop apologizing for being who you are. It’s okay to be assertive. Don’t be afraid to push back when you feel you need to and do your best to know your audience.
Emotional intelligence is just as important, if not more so, than technical and analytical skill sets. The relationships you build and the influence you have in your network will get you farther than your technical capabilities.
What do you look for when hiring?
We look for people who build each other up and who work well with others to drive innovation and solve business problems. You should also have the desire and the capability to learn the business side of things. Show the potential to solve problems and work well with others.