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The Women of DataDrive- Kaela Dickens

The Women DataDrive- Kaela Dickens

Women of DataDrive Kaela Dickens

Kaela is a double-threat within DataDrive, serving as an Analytics Consultant as well as our resident people person and Client Lead.  Sitting in the DataDrive “People” seat, she enjoys recruiting awesome and genuine people to the team, coaching her peers in their career dreams, and honing and supporting our company culture. Her favorite parts of her job are the people parts. Even when it comes to the technical parts of her job like dashboard development, she views it as a means to make a measurable difference in someone’s day. Her favorite parts of her job are training, consulting, presenting, and coaching. 

Kaela describes her younger self as a ‘dancing, singing, whirling wild child’. She was interested in music and sports, and was the go-to computer troubleshooter at her house. She enjoyed video games like Mario Kart and the Sims, and took a robotics class in the fifth grade, but had little exposure to tech beyond that. In high school, she leaned into art, graphic design, theatre, music, debate, and more of the arts, and credits those clubs to her exposure to every part of consulting aside from the tech-y piece! 

Kaela didn’t leave high school with the intention of studying tech. In fact, Kaela graduated high school with the intention of skipping college to become a missionary. After a heart to heart with her mom, Kaela made the decision to attend Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, where she studied Sociology and Spanish. Her senior year, as part of her Urban Studies Minor, Kaela took a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) course and presented a project to a non-profit that helped them to identify areas of the community that were underserved.  She loved how GIS gave her a fun and satisfying way to make social dynamics physically visual by mapping them. She considers this project to be the basis of her love of data visualization, and the entry point to her career as a consultant. 

kaela dickens

As for where Kaela will land in the future, Kaela says “I am a public servant for life! As a DataDrive consultant I get to see and learn from all sorts of companies, teams, and industries. I plan to take all of the experience I'm gaining back to the public sector to be even better equipped to contribute back to my community. I am having an absolute blast as a consultant. And I cannot wait to jump back into the fray of government and politics.” 

DataDrivers know Kaela as a bright (in both brilliance and general sunshine-y-ness) and compassionate leader who brings us all together in weekly, monthly, and quarterly team events. She gives our team her energy and love as she plans and leads events, encourages us as a coach, shows us new ways to connect with each other through personality assessments, and passing along affirmations from herself, clients, and other members of the team. In short, Kaela is a hub of energy and light that gives so much to our DataDrive family, as well as the clients she works with. In addition to being our people person, Kaela is an expert at her craft and is eager to jump at any opportunity to help our team solve technical problems, share data visualizations that inspire her, and create stunning dashboards and landing pages that inspire the entire team.

Team in Las Vegas

An Interview with Kaela

What were your first experiences with Tech/ STEM- Did you find a community that was supportive?

My sociology program was full of really smart, badass women. I had phenomenal professors, both women and men, and was incredibly supported by them. I loved that about my small university - people really go to bat for each other, because you have very close personal relationships. I feel so lucky to have gone to Trinity and had mentors and peers who encouraged me!

Do you have any advice for your younger self?

Oh girl...don't focus on deciding 'what to be'. Instead, focus on the type of person you want to become, the things you want to be learning, and the strengths you want to be using. The right roles and industries and accomplishments will fall into place.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered thus far? How are you working to overcome it?

Like many other women in my life, my biggest challenge was and remains imposter syndrome. I would find myself zoning out when conversations would get technical because I had internalized bias that I'm not smart enough to learn that. (Not true!) Reading the book "Getting Naked" helped me a lot because it showed that (most) people value authentic leadership more than unwavering expertise or mastery. Knowing that allowed me to lean on my authenticity, curiosity, and determination with clients, rather than feeling I had to put on a problem-solving show. I still struggle with it from time to time, and talking about it with peers (men and women) helps a lot.

Why is inclusivity important in tech?

There are so many smart people out there working on inclusivity in tech who I am constantly being challenged by, namely Elizabeth Adams and Marika Pfefferkorn. I can regurgitate a little bit of what they say and teach. Tech, like anything else, is shaped by the people who make it. Tech in the US has long been dominated by white men, and because of that the culture, the products, the algorithms, contain bias toward making it work for them. Anytime we have a homogenous group creating something, we are ignoring the needs/wants/joys/burdens of everyone else. Tech is becoming so high-touch that it is replicating the bias of the people who make it. We cannot let that happen. 

Tech is ALSO a very lucrative, rewarding, and (physically) safe career, and its homogeneity means that we're mainly excluding people of color and women from the lifelong benefits of working in this field. My focus is opening the door for more folks to come in and join the party! And to scoot over to make room at the table! And to support folks who are different from me in leading the conversations and busting down broken systems! RAWR!

What does DataDrive do to facilitate those improvements? How would you like to see us grow?

DataDrive has always supported me as a developer, a consultant, a person with ideas, a woman, a human. That starts from leadership, and is lived out every day by the amazing people I get to work alongside. I would like to see us continue to grow in how we recruit, how we spend time in and with the Twin Cities community, and over time mentor in the next generation of tech professionals. 

kaela and family

Celebrate Each Other Often

Kaela recently celebrated her second year with DataDrive, and considering all the work she does to build up our little family, it’s no surprise that the team jumped at the opportunity to give some love to Kaela. Here’s what the team had to say:

"Happy anniversary, Kaela! I appreciate your energy and the positive attitude you bring to our team. Your enthusiasm is infectious (in a non-COVID kind of way) and I really appreciate the time you invest into each and every one of us to challenge us to grow and become the best consultants we can be."

-Sam Epley

 

"Kaela! Congrats on your 2 year DataDrive-versary. Thanks for embracing the adventure of a rag tag team of data nerds and being such a big part of making our culture what it is today. It’s been fun to see your professional growth over the years and I look forward to the road ahead!"

-Luke Komiskey

Team loves fro yo

"You've done so much to make DataDrive feel like home for all of us.  It's been so awesome to watch your journey over these past two years.  I've witnessed your transformation into a Rockstar consultant, viz queen, and phenomenal leader in what I can't believe is just (AND already!) two years.  You've helped me, and so many others on our team and beyond, grow as both professionals and people in general.  SO glad you choose to spend your days with us.  Cheers!"

-Trent Haun

 

"Congratulations Kaela!!! I'll never forget chatting with you at a HH following a TCTUG awhile back and just thinking, DAMN she is awesome and so fun to be around!! Thankful that these days I'm lucky enough to be around your infectious energy and enthusiasm every day!!"

-Jeff Plattner

Kaela, Megan, Meg

"Happy anniversary, Kaela!! The energy you bring to the team is contagious (the only "contagion" that is welcome these days winky face)  I love that you treat everyone like a part of your extended family! I truly can't imagine what my DataDrive experience would have been like without you here. Let's take a raincheck to celebrate with a whiskey on the rocks (or 2?)  in a few short months."

-Megan Lukonen

 

"Congrats on two years Kaela! I'm so glad I met you, you make everything so much more fun smiley face Thanks for always bringing the team together and sharing your positive energy with us!"

-Meg Johnson

Kaela and Meg

"HAPPY TWO YEARS Kaela!! You are the heart of DataDrive and I am sooooo grateful to be able to work with such a wonderful and wholesome person! heart"

-Mahzabin Khan

 

"Happy two year work anniversary Kaela!!! It is crazy how time flies. I have appreciated a lot about working with you but have especially appreciated the great conversations that we have had over the last two years.

From our discussion on how to frame and overcome imposter syndrome at LifeTime Work, how to balance work and life at WeWork, to a an awesome general talk about life while looking over Las Vegas. I have grown so much from our conversations. Thank you for your wisdom and for being awesome. praise "

-Brad Werner

Team plays golf


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