In this blog series to commemorate National Mentoring Month, we are celebrating some of our incredible mentors in the Data Science for All program.
Amaka Atinmo is a Program Manager, Diversity Equity and Inclusion for Google, and a mentor for DS4A / Empowerment. She answered a few questions for us about her experience, career advice and creating more inclusive workplaces.
Tell us about a pivotal moment in your career: what was the backdrop, what did you do, what did you learn?
Earlier in my career, I worked at a global brand and innovation consulting firm crafting inspirational customer and employee experiences for Fortune 500 companies. I was on a career high -- I had personally received praise (and a hug) from Southwest’s founder after rebranding the airline, had stellar career reviews and I had also taken on my first mentee. While I was bringing immense value to my company (I measured and tracked every contribution), I had stopped receiving the same returns. It was clear that I was stagnant in my learning and had hit a glass ceiling. I knew I needed to leave my comfort zone--and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I learned two things: 1) know your worth and your needs; calculate your net value to find your “walk away point”. 2) be willing to walk away at that point! I left for MIT to attend business school. Fast forward a few years after attending MIT and studying People Analytics, I now lead diversity strategy and operations for Google’s Go To Market team. At Google, I continue to measure my impact. Never be afraid to seek your next venture, even if it is within your current organization!
Who were your mentors and role models when you were starting out? What’s the best professional advice you received?
My mentors come from all backgrounds -- I even count my former Girl Scout Troop Leader as one! They all do share a commonality -- they are there for me even when it is only to tell me hard truths. Below are three truths that I live by:
- Find the win-win: Work to find a solution that helps as many stakeholders win as possible, even if it is not your “ideal”.
- Your job is to make your boss’ job easier: Make yourself indispensable by understanding how you can advance your boss’ interests. What keeps them up at night? Try to help with that.
- Know what’s in it for them: Always think from your stakeholder’s point of view. What will they get out of investing their time, talent, money, etc.? Clearly outline the benefit to them.
What have you gained from mentoring and coaching - both professionally and personally? Did anything surprise you when you started mentoring?
I am continually awed by the power of mentorship. It’s truly by lifting each other up that we lift ourselves! I would not have attended an Ivy League school, worked in consulting or landed a job at Google had it not been for the many mentors and sponsors throughout my life. Mentorship can come from all places. Some of the best coaching I’ve received has been by those younger than me.
Can you give us an example of how data skills are increasingly needed in your role and business?
Google is a type of company that measures everything. To quote John Kaplan, Vice President of US sales and operations, “At Google, you really don’t walk into a meeting talking about your gut feel on something. You need to have the data to back it up. And so data is another key tenet of what’s made our decision making really successful.” The need for data analysis from simple to complex will only continue to grow in the coming years as more companies take a Google-like approach to both the customer and employee experience.
You’ll be mentoring a group of Fellows in our inaugural cohort in the Data Science for All/ Empowerment program, an initiative to create equal opportunities to access the data-driven jobs of tomorrow. What can individuals and organizations do to help create more diverse and inclusive workplaces?
Change is messy, change is hard, but it is so worthwhile. I advocate for change on both the small (individual), medium (organizational), and large (systemic) scales. Below are some small and medium changes you can start to make:
- Examine your network and diversify it. Just like you wouldn’t put all of your money in one stock, think about how you can expand who is in your professional and personal networks. If you do, you’ll watch your capital rise.
- Intentionally focus on leaders: Managers are an integral part to any diversity strategy.
- Think globally. Diversity, equity and inclusion efforts need to be done both on a country-by-country basis, but also on a global level. As more companies become multinational it’s important to build a global culture that values inclusion.