Dr. Chantel A. Perry aka Dr. C
Tell us about yourself.
I currently work for a Fortune 100 company as a fraud fighting Data Scientist and Product Owner developing Big Data Analytics solutions and overseeing their successful deployment. Before 2017, I worked as a statistical programmer and researcher in Strategic Planning & Institutional Research for West Virginia University, Texas A&M University – CC, Del Mar College, and UT Health San Antonio. I simultaneously ran a private, part-time research consulting firm (that I started as an undergrad in college) developing machine learning apps and performing quantitative analysis for nonprofits, government agencies, and graduate researchers. I've been honoured to team up with talented people from various backgrounds to utilize the power of data to help leaders gain funding to open 6 healthcare facilities, protect over 14 million banking members from fraudsters, as well as improve college campus safety conditions and enhance academic programs to promote student success for over 250,000 students.
I have over a decade of experience in the research & analytics industry and now serve as a diversity in STEM advocate and mentor several future tech leaders who specialize in industries such as machine learning, big data analytics, design science research, and software development. When I'm not nerding out behind the computer I enjoy travelling, horseback riding, weight lifting, and competitive aerial pole.
How did you decide to get into technology?
I fell in love with technology when I took the 1st computer science class ever offered at my high school. I was 15 years old, the only girl, and only minority in the class. I didn’t really accept tech as my path at first because I thought I wanted to be a biomedical engineer and make prosthetic body parts. The school I chose to go to didn’t have biomedical engineering so I opted for chemical engineering instead. About 2 and a half years into a chemical engineering program, I found myself hating it but I loved all the MATLAB programming courses we took. So I switched my major over to computer science and have been happy with my decision ever since. I still don’t know how I passed all those organic chemistry courses.
How would you describe your experience in the industry so far?
My experience so far in the tech industry has been positive overall. I've been granted a lot of opportunities to lead, innovate, and learn new concepts.
But the best part is that myself and all the teams I’ve worked with have been able to make a large positive impact on people through data analytics and technology.
My career hasn't always been an easy and straightforward path but it's definitely been rewarding.
What does a typical day in your job look like?
I have a dual role so my days are usually pretty hectic. My typical work day starts with about 90 minutes to 2 hours of meetings. Depending on the day I'm either meeting with leadership to help manage priorities, working on developing or reviewing new algorithms, or creating presentations until lunch. After lunch, I typically spend the remainder of my time programming, doing code reviews, and approving demos to make sure IT is able to continue putting new Machine Learning solutions into production.
Has your expectation of what the tech world is like matched the reality? How?
No, my expectation of what the tech world was like has not matched the reality of what I see today. It's honestly a lot simpler than I thought it would be most of the time.
There's a lot of awesome data analytics, software development, and project management frameworks out there to help organizations understand what processes to use and how to efficiently and effectively complete their work. Plus the teams I work with are super easygoing so they make work really fun and a lot less stressful than it was when I was working in higher education administration.
How do you navigate working with men daily (if you do) and how do you make sure to get your voice heard?
I listen way more than I speak, so when I do speak up, the fellas tend to be quiet and listen. They typically know I have something important to say. I am usually pretty strategic about which battles to fight at work and and don't try to fight them all.
I also take time to get to know everyone on the team personally. That way I'm able to identify social and emotional cues which allows me to build a deeper connection with my male team members.
I also make it a point to make critiques constructive and solution focused. If I have to give negative feedback I will pull the person to the side and not voice my opinion loudly in a meeting as to not embarrass them.
If you could change one thing about your journey in tech so far, what would it be?
I probably would have taken more contractor positions so I could work on a different types of projects or tried to combine my creative passions with technology. I really enjoy working on new things from time to time and get bored easily.
What was the best professional advice you ever received?
Don't ever let somebody else decide your career for you. You can't let people's opinions hold you back from what God has in store for you.
What advice do you have for younger ladies aiming to pursue a career in technology?
Before you start learning every skill on the planet, save yourself some time.
Figure out what audience you want to serve and what problems they solve with technology.
This will help you understand which skills to learn and craft an incredible service or product. From there you can more easily market yourself because you'll know exactly who you're serving, specific solutions to their problems, and how to craft a winning resume or pitch so they'll choose with you.
I would like to send a massive thanks to Dr. Chantel for taking the time out to answer the questions above. I think your story is pretty amazing and unique, and please do let us know when you figure out how you managed to pass those organic chemistry courses!
I thoroughly enjoyed learning about your journey into tech and what you do. You painted a very detailed picture on what can be expected if one finds themselves in the data analysis/machine learning part of tech. I look forward to learning more from you.
You can follow Dr. Chantel on her social listed above.
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