Data with a Purpose: Career Advice from Prudential's Kjersten Moody

In today's rapidly evolving job market, getting career advice from successful professionals in your field can be invaluable. This is especially true for those interested in data science, where technologies and approaches are constantly changing. It’s even more important for those from underrepresented backgrounds, who may lack access to networks and mentors in the industry that others take for granted. 

That's why we were delighted to have Kjersten Moody, Chief Data Officer at Prudential Financial, offer her guidance to graduates of Data Science for All. Moody joined us as a keynote speaker for a recent graduation of our DS4A / Empowerment program, offering support to diverse young Fellows in need of advice as they advance their data careers.

Moody’s address is just the beginning of Prudential’s partnership with Correlation One, and their ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion more broadly. To effect lasting change, Prudential believes, it is important to continually examine how individual, structural, and institutional racism could be inadvertently reinforced in business – from policies and practices to products – and use these levers to promote inclusive growth, particularly for people of color. As a DS4A Employer Partner since October 2022, Prudential supports diversity in data by helping to offer free training for people coming from underrepresented backgrounds. 

With her extensive experience in the data industry, Moody offers valuable advice that can help aspiring data professionals succeed. If you're an aspiring data professional looking to take your career to the next level, keep reading to learn from one of the industry's most influential leaders.

Understand Your Purpose

The first piece of advice Moody offers: “Understand your purpose, and work for companies that complement that purpose.” It’s a lesson she wishes she had taken to heart herself earlier in her career.

The turning point came in 2014, when she read a Harvard Business Review article by Nick Craig and Scott Snook called “From Purpose to Impact,” which offers a step-by-step framework for leaders to identify their purpose and translate that purpose into meaningful results.

By identifying her purpose, Moody was able to gain clarity on what she wanted to achieve and the impact she wanted to make in her career. This clarity helped her make more informed decisions about the companies and roles she pursued, ensuring that they aligned with her values. 

Understanding your purpose is particularly important in the data field. Without a clear understanding of the “why” behind their work, data professionals risk getting lost in the vast amount of data and losing sight of the problem they are trying to solve. By aligning their work with their purpose, data professionals can stay focused, motivated, and ultimately make business decisions that drive impact.

Be Proud and Restless 

In addition to understanding your purpose, Moody stresses the importance of balancing two seemingly contradictory ideas in your career: pride and restlessness. “I think it's healthy to have an appreciation for what has been accomplished and its impact,” she says. “It's also healthy to be restless.” 

As for what Moody means by restless? "I mean to learn continuously, to meet new people, to seek new opportunities out of your comfort zone," she says. "To have the curiosity to make connections that may not be obvious to others but have great potential—to explore ideas, to fail and recover, and to succeed." 

Taking risks, pushing your limits, and being proud of what you accomplish are all important in the data field in particular, where the pace of technological change can be overwhelming. Continuous learning and staying up-to-date with the latest technologies, trends, and methodologies are critical to success. 

Moody's emphasis on being restless and continuously learning highlights the importance of embracing new challenges and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Data professionals need to be able to adapt to new technologies and constantly seek out opportunities to grow their skills and knowledge.

Seek Creativity in Teams

Finally, Moody highlights the importance of teamwork and collaboration in driving individual success. “Find and build teams that spark your creativity, and the creativity of each member,” she says. She encourages learners to seek “teams that trust each other, have fun together and encourage the best in each of us and are working towards common goals with high ambition.”

One thing teams like the ones Moody is describing have in common, she says: diversity. "These types of teams tend to be inclusive and diverse teams; they can put the problems and the opportunities on the table and engage in healthy and effective challenge,” she notes. 

Never underestimate the power of simply meeting people with different backgrounds. Research shows – and Prudential’s own experience reinforces – that when people of different societal and economic backgrounds spend time together, all parties are enriched in ways that go far beyond economic measures.  

Moody's advice to build teams that encourage creativity and inclusivity is crucial when dealing with data, where businesses must rely heavily on collaboration and teamwork to tackle complex problems and generate insights. Creating a team environment that fosters creativity and encourages teammates to push each other can lead to innovative solutions and breakthrough discoveries.

Conclusion

Aspiring data professionals can learn a great deal from Moody's experience and expertise, and we encourage our DS4A graduates and anyone interested in pursuing a career in the data field to take her advice to heart as they pursue their career.

If you're interested in supporting the next generation of data professionals, we encourage you to reach out and learn more about how you can support the Data Science for All program. This program is designed to provide underrepresented groups with access to high-quality data science training and career opportunities. By supporting this program, you can help create a more diverse and inclusive data science community, one that is better equipped to tackle the complex challenges facing our world today. To learn more about how you can support DS4A as an individual mentor or corporate sponsor, contact us today