Taking Risks and Futureproofing with a Nonlinear Career Path Part 2

posted by Abby Glenn |

According to the World Economic Forum, “the time needed to close the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit women disproportionally hard.”

Despite our efforts to achieve equity in the workplace, there are many challenges that women still have to face while advancing into leadership, especially in the more male-dominated industries such as data. However, having women in positions of influence to serve as role models is critical to the professional advancement of women. It also stands to generate broader societal impacts on pay equity, change workplace policies to benefit both men and women, and attracts a more diverse workforce while allowing companies to see a higher profit.

Join Bianca and Quyen in the second part of this discussion as they discuss integrating their passion for data in their current leadership positions, how they pivoted into data analytics, ways you can support other women in your workplace, and obstacles minority women might face as they look to advance into leadership.

About Bianca

Bianca grew up in a multiracial home – Black and Mexican – in Richmond, VA. She later graduated from Virginia Union University with a degree in Marketing and Spanish, then Purdue for her Master of Science in Consumer Behavior. Currently, she is at BET Networks in New York City, where she spends her day as the Vice President of Content Optimization and Marketing Strategy. In addition to testing TV pilots at BET, she chairs the Insights Association IDEA Council to help address the lack of representation in the insights profession, is a member of Black Women in Artificial Intelligence to draw further on her passion for data, and is a mother to her son, Everton. You can usually find the two cargo biking around the Bronx. Bianca is also the co-creator of the Believe Her App and Dr. Shalon’s Maternal Action Project after her best friend, Dr. Shalon, passed away from complications after giving birth to her daughter. To learn more about Bianca, watch her introduction below.

About Quyen

Quyen immigrated to the United States post-Vietnam War with her family as a child. That experience and seeing how hard her family worked to get where they are today pushed her to take risks and every opportunity available to her. Essentially, her family risked everything to get them there, which was always very powerful to her. She believes that where you come from, your upbringing and the things you have been through all add a unique perspective to who you are and who you become as a leader. Currently, Quyen is the Vice President of Swoon’s new entity, Swoon Consulting, which allows her to merge her passion for data and leadership. Through this position, she helps their clients solve data and analytics challenges with solutions driven by globally diverse industry experts. In addition to that, she also is an advocate on Swoon’s DE+I committee and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. To learn more about Quyen, watch her introduction below.

Megan: What piqued your interest in data, and how are you integrating your passion for data into your current career?

Bianca: This love affair is deep. It goes back to graduate school when I was at Matthews Hall, the computer lab at Purdue, studying to get a master’s in consumer behavior. There were many long nights of programming during this time, which we now call coding.

The way data works in my mind is like a puzzle. I want to keep figuring out where the code is off, where the script is off, and troubleshooting that. But, the most rewarding part is when you are scripting something out and trying to get those descriptive statistics or creating a histogram, and you see it pop up. For me, it was so exciting.

I believe that data does not lie, which applies to my job today with testing all the content at BET. Based on the logline, we can determine its probability of doing well. That is why I love data; it does not lie.

For example, on LinkedIn, if my profile were to say, “I managed a team and ran a book of business,” it would not be impactful because there is no quantifiable evidence there. However, if I rephrased that to say, “I managed a team of fifteen and ran an almost five-million-dollar book of business,” it is now quantified. So, it allows them to geolocate you in their mind to say, “she’s a heavy hitter” or “she needs a stronger book of business for me to consider her.”

Quyen: Data really does not lie, which also drew me to it. As humans, we make emotional decisions, and we tend to think through things very differently. However, when you have data that tells you something specific, it does not lie. I believe it recenters you and your business decisions. That is why I love my pivot into Swoon Consulting and the focus on data analytics.

As leaders, we can make emotional decisions about someone, but you have to look at their body of work. That is the data they bring to the table to showcase what they have done and what they are capable of doing. That same concept can also be taken over to the business side. This move has empowered me to take that passion a step further and be able to work with data engineers and data scientists while looking at Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence because that is the wave of the future.

Looking back at the Harvard Business Review article I mentioned earlier, one of the top three things companies are looking at is using data to make more informed decisions. There is so much advancement that will come in the future from that. I think of myself as a businessperson more than a practitioner. This helps me make informed decisions and helps future-proof my own career because I know this is coming, and it will be exciting to see all the new advancements while growing Swoon Consulting.

Megan: Did you always know that you wanted to go into data analytics, or did that stem from your work in market research?

Bianca: It stemmed from my work in market research. But back in the day, there were two paths you could take:

  1. You nestle yourself into a small, advanced analytics team who have the PhDs, which was hard to do
  2. You did what I did and went the leadership path to grow books of business.

To return to it, I am taking this amazing eight-week course through Black Women in Artificial Intelligence sponsored by Nvidia, the inventor of the GPU. I have been learning so much, but what is really exciting is on Wednesday night, I coded my first line of script in JupyterLab. I have not coded, programmed, or scripted something in over a decade. Yet, here I am, a senior leader with this passion for machine learning and artificial intelligence, and I finally had that same feeling I had back at Purdue. That feeling is why I love data science, and hopefully, I will get there one day.

The exploration needs to be done to find what you love. Right now, I love the media and entertainment space, but at the same time, I love data science and, specifically, what I am learning with machine learning. So, it goes back to curating something for myself, and how do I bring those two worlds together? I love the saying that two things can be true. If those two things can be true, how do I create a world for myself where those two things can coexist?

Quyen: I want to clarify one point: you do not always need to know. You just have to trust yourself and do what feels good to you. But, it is important because sometimes we feel like we need to know everything, and we do not.

Megan: How can women support other women within their organization?

Bianca: There are three points I would like to make on this:

  1. Share your mic and be conscious of your power – know how much you have and share it. Do not hoard it, and do not take up space that could be shared with someone who has not had that moment to shine.
  2. Fix each other’s crowns – I believe in going into conversations with love, encouragement, kindness, and openness, and sometimes it requires having crucial conversations. Brene Brown says it best. Being clear is kind. Sometimes we have to be clear and have those crucial conversations because that is kindness.
  3. Find other queens or kings. Not everyone will be for you, and as I shared earlier, be in places and surround yourself with people who celebrate you. Find the ones that do right for you, fix your crown, and let it spread from there.

Quyen: Lift as you rise. It is essential for us as we grow in our careers to help others because everyone faces obstacles. We have all worked for men and women who do not lift as they rise and lead by fear or do not want to help other women grow. That is probably one of the worst environmental cultures to be in. Looking at that, just think about how you can help others as you grow in your career and develop yourself. One, it builds the future and gives us more equity as women, and two, it finds people you can intrinsically trust, be honest with, and be vulnerable with. As women, we think that we cannot have a chink in our armor; we have to be perfect and show how great we are at everything. However, that makes us less relatable. We need to set the example that it is okay to have weaknesses. Everyone does, and it is okay to be vulnerable.

A moment of vulnerability for me recently was with launching Swoon Consulting. I had been hiring for these high-level roles for our new entity, and most of the people who are qualified to set up and own these practices are older, White, or Indian men. In these conversations, I am on video with them. I had people call me “young lady” or tell me that they “have been doing this at such and such company before I was born.” In a way, I do not think they realized what they were conveying to me. I consider myself to be a strong, confident woman, and, at first, I kind of laughed it off. I called my peers and my leader and talked about how they do not understand the culture we are trying to build. Even if they were qualified on paper or had the experience, they do not align with who we are. Without realizing it, self-doubt crept in, and I started doubting my qualifications and ability to do this. Then, I had a conversation with Andy Baker, our President, where he told me to stop and take a step back. It is not about doubt. It is about the fact that you have the awareness to know your strengths and weaknesses. You need to surround yourself with people who can bridge the gap between your weaknesses because it is all about the team you build around you. It is okay to show your weakness as long as you surround yourself with people you can trust and bridge the areas you need help in.

Megan: What are some of the biggest obstacles minority women face as they look to advance into leadership roles?

Bianca: Do not feel like you have to do it all. There is this expectation of being the office mom and taking care of everyone when you are a woman. I have experienced it, and I think it is perpetuated by society and media. You are the doer. You are the generalist. You are the tactician. You are the office mom. “Oh, Bianca will take care of it and order the lunches. She will organize that and do her own work as well.” But, what happens is it steals away the opportunity, in those moments, to sharpen the strategic chops.

To be in leadership, you have to create the mental space for strategy and big thinking. You also have to have time to build the networks, but if you are organizing the office party, how can you do that? So, it becomes these choice points. You are put in these positions to do the grunt work, which impacts your learning ability. In these instances, all the makings of a senior leadership person are taken away from you because you are forced just to do operational, tactician, and project management tasks.

There is also an invisible playbook where there is a certain way you need to move in these spaces that require observing. If you are not invited into these spaces so you can study and understand what that playbook is, it will be very hard. If you spend half your time planning the office party or mentoring such a big team, you will not have room to be in those senior spaces. All of that presents a vast opportunity to analyze corporate spaces and the barriers to entry for Black, Latina, Asian Pacific Islander, etc., and determine how we can knock those barriers down.

Quyen: As women, we are caretakers by nature, and we want to do all these things. However, the one thing I want to go back to is a conversation we had with Vidya Peters, where she talked about striving for impact. Do the impactful things you care about. The things that drive you to your career goals, and if that is leadership, then do the impactful things for leadership. Also, it is not about being the loudest or speaking the most in a meeting. It is who provides the most impact. As strong woman leaders, we always need to think about how we can bring the most value to the conversation.

Bianca: To add to that a bit more, it is okay if your superpower is not being vociferous and speaking up all the time or being extroverted. There are many other ways to move. One of my superpowers, for example, is that I am a master connector. When I see people, I can match them up nicely with someone else, and all that requires is brokering an email between two human beings. So, you can create an impact in many ways.

Meet Our Panel

Bianca Pryor

Bianca Pryor

Vice President at BET


Quyen Pham

Quyen Pham

Vice President at Swoon Consulting


Megan Hari

Megan Hari

Director of Marketing and Sales Operations


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