We talk often about IDeaS’ advanced analytics, but there’s a human side to all this science, so IDeaS’ manager of advanced analytics testing is here to tell us a thing or two about what she does and how she got here.
First off, Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month! And as promised, there will be beer, but first a little bit about me. On the formal side, I work for IDeaS as an R&D manager in our Advanced Analytics Testing department at our Bloomington, Minnesota headquarters. I have developed and tested projects in forecasting, optimization, statistical analysis, graphical data analysis, and quantifying revenue benefit from IDeaS’ revenue management solutions.
I received my undergrad from the University of Minnesota in math, physics and astronomy and pursued graduate degrees in statistics—in a much warmer area of the country—at North Carolina State and Duke University. I began my 14-year tenure at SAS’ headquarters in North Carolina in the Statistics Department. As a native Minnesotan though, I was one of the few people who would strive to work away from the company’s headquarters and move to a colder climate. That said, I am pleased to have been with IDeaS now for the past ten years and enjoy being closer to my family.
Now, to the less formal stuff. Why did a young girl like me choose to get a degree in math? Simple. Math was the one subject I could always get an A in and it would pad my GPA for when my parents would see my report card. I decided to get a minor in physics because it was one college subject that would challenge me. I remember being in some very large physics courses at the U of M and looking around to see I was the only girl in the class. That did have some benefits as I never struggled to find a lab partner.
And I decided to minor in astrophysics because, well, just the sound of it made me feel smart—and space is pretty cool, too. I would not be able to do a lot of rocket science with a minor, but I could dip my toes in it from time to time. Again, like physics, the proportion of women to men getting astronomy degrees in the early 2000s was very low. At times, when the classes were hard and awful, I felt like I had to stick them out and do well to demonstrate women could hack it!
While I was a graduate student at Duke in statistics, a friend of mine said I should get a job at SAS. Everyone in The Triangle knew what a great company SAS was to work for, especially in the statistics department. A friend from my running group knew some SAS developers were playing darts at a bar in Cary and said I should go meet them and see what the company was all about. It was a good decision.
One of them recommended the Statistics Graduate Internship at SAS—and it’s a small world because that same guy is now part of the Revenue Management and Pricing Optimization group I currently work with 14 years later. I worked as a developer and tester in SAS for over three years. Then, in 2010, I got an amazing opportunity to stay in research, stay with SAS, and move home to MN by joining the research department at IDeaS, a SAS subsidiary.
IDeaS has been wonderful, giving me the chance to move into a management position, get a patent in reputation pricing, and be part of the company’s strategy committee. I am pretty used to being one of the few women in most settings, and working in R&D is no different. That said, working at an innovative company like IDeaS empowered me to help start our company’s Women’s Initiative Network (WIN), an employee resource group focused on supporting women in the technology field. My hope for WIN is that, over time, the group becomes a bit of a relic and something we someday laugh about ever needing—sort of like ashtrays on airplanes. As we progress toward inclusion and equality, the concept of “women’s initiatives” should diminish to just pure “initiatives.”
I have also been fortunate to be a part of the Advisory Board for the Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) department at the U of M. The ISyE is lucky to have Dr. Lisa Miller as their director of undergraduate studies, and she is passionate about keeping the female attrition rate in their department low. I feel proud to do my part to help her in that endeavor.
Last, on to some of the more “fun” things in my life. There has to be some of them if you have a career in R&D, right?! Well, in keeping with my trend of being one of the few females in a male-dominated industry, I became part owner of a microbrewery in 2017. My responsibilities there are mostly related to finance and event planning. I don’t actually make the beer, but I do spend an awful lot of time “testing” it with my friends. I was even able to marry up my two professional lives when HITEC and ROC came to Minneapolis in 2019 and we served up some limited-edition IDeaS brews for our hotel industry friends—RevPAR Superstar Kolsch and Hoptimize Pale Ale. Mmm, can we please do that again soon?