A data science mentor can be critical to a rising professional’s success. Yet the mentoring experience can benefit employers and mentors, too — as this story featuring Best Buy demonstrates.
When Ha Bui and Anne Helleson met this summer through the Data Science For All (DS4A) / Women program, their first mentoring session was complicated by something we’ve all experienced randomly in our digital lives: glitchy technology.
“That day, neither Zoom nor Google Meet would work for us. We tried to call one another on Slack, too, but we couldn’t get my camera to work. It was crazy,” recalled Ha with a chuckle. “Through it all, Anne impressed me because she was still so open, so eager to talk with me. I’d looked her up on LinkedIn before our first meeting, and I’d thought she was very impressive and would be very formal, businesslike. But she was very open, even in the beginning.”
Connecting rising data talent from traditionally underrepresented groups with successful, encouraging mentors is an integral part of Correlation One’s award-winning DS4A training programs, all of which are offered 100% free to learners.
For Ha, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in economics at The University of Texas at Austin, the 2022 DS4A / Women program was an opportunity to refine her data skills as part of her career readiness preparation. She regards data science — an interdisciplinary field that helps business leaders collect and extract beneficial information for their organizations — as being crucial to her success. At the same time, she also values the emphasis DS4A places in lifting up people traditionally underrepresented in the discipline, specifically women.
“In my field, there are few female professors and professionals. Meeting Anne and talking with her about data and entering the workforce was great. She shared her past experiences with me, what she learned, how she overcame challenges. It has been a great experience, having her as my mentor.”
Research has shown that mentoring across the lifespan can be transformative, especially at critical points along the way (e.g., when one is planning a career transition). Within the workplace, mentoring can enhance personal and career development for both parties.
At Correlation One, we’ve developed a fresh approach to mentoring, one that targets the data workforce specifically. It’s part of our ultimate goal of building a robust, global network through which rising talent from diverse groups (e.g., Women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, Veterans, and Refugees) find critical onramps to jobs and long-term careers.
Some of our DS4A Mentors come to us on their own, motivated by a desire to help guide emerging professionals. Others arrive through our Employer Partners, companies that rely on Correlation One's “inskilling” solutions to solve recruitment problems at scale through pooled training programs.
Many of our partners — including Anne’s own employer, Best Buy — invite their mid- and senior-level staff members to provide data science mentoring through the specific DS4A initiative(s) that the company elects to sponsor.
“One of my coworkers is responsible for outreach related to data science. When they first approached me about mentoring through DS4A / Women, I kind of brushed off the idea. I’m careful about where I spend my time for ‘extracurricular’ work activities, as there are a lot of opportunities that come up and I have to balance where I spend my time,” said Anne, who is based in Minnesota and serves as Best Buy’s Senior Director of Decision Science-Services. “But then they said, ‘Anne, it’s for women.’ That got my attention.”
Initially, Anne wondered if her more senior position might present a challenge. Would she and a Fellow have anything to discuss?
“My role involves broader analytics, partnering with stakeholders, operations, which means I have a higher overview of analytics than a data analyst or data scientist. But I figured, hey, if this was an opportunity where I could share my professional experiences with someone — especially a woman — and make a difference, then mentoring for a few hours over several weeks would be time well spent.”
Reflecting upon their shared journey, Anne and Ha shared how they followed the recommended topics provided by the DS4A / Women team leaders — and then riffed a little as they warmed up. From the stories they shared on our recent call, it’s clear they both committed fully to the experience, ultimately making the most of their time together and building an easy rapport.
“Ha has incredible enthusiasm, and she took our time together so seriously,” said Anne. “She is bright and would often bring extra questions and topics to explore. Her energy was amazing, and I had a terrific time talking with her.”
>> Think you’d like to mentor rising data talent, too? This month, we’re recruiting for DS4A / Empowerment Mentors.
Looking back, both women noted how their perspectives had changed thanks to their time together.
“In the beginning, I thought mentoring was going to be an experience where the Fellow said ‘I need a job. Help me out.’ It wasn’t like that at all,” said Anne. “Sure, everyone’s going to come to the table for different reasons, but I feel like I’ve been so successful because I’ve had women mentors and bosses who have elevated and advocated for me on my behalf. From them, I’ve learned how to grow, be successful. This experience proved to be an opportunity for me to pass that on.”
She added that, through Ha, she gained a fresh perspective on the world of data.
“Talking with someone even a little different than you can lead to revelations: ‘Oh, I never thought of a problem that way.’ Mentoring is a way to broaden your experience, perspective — especially if you have great personal chemistry.”
That her company’s DS4A / Women sponsorship connected her with Ha reinforces what Anne says she values most about Best Buy: the company’s commitment to openness and inclusivity. It also reflects the organization’s dedication to ”doing a world of good” — a phrase illustrative of Best Buy’s commitment to “doing what’s right for our employees, customers, and communities.”
“I absolutely love being able to work everyday in such an accepting and inclusive culture that is Best Buy,” said Anne.
Now, thanks to Anne’s mentoring, Ha — who’d previously only thought of the multinational consumer electronics retailer as a place to pick up a laptop — also understands what sets the company apart as an employer.
“They look out for women at Best Buy, and, as a company, they’re interested in young talent. I didn’t really know anyone who worked there before, but now I do. I know Anne.”
Curious to learn how you or your company can partner with Correlation One in late 2023 to create equal access to the jobs of tomorrow? Talk to us.