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Pallas Horwitz, Manager of Data Science at Mayvenn, Discusses How She Got Into STEM

We talk to Pallas about her career, and the problems facing women in the field

18Apr

Pallas Horwitz manages the San Francisco Data Team at Mayvenn. Her team focuses on marketing analytics, user segmentation and acquisition models, and economy optimization. Pallas believes that her primary role is as data advocate and that companies benefit from everyone having direct data access. She works with her team to build user-friendly data tools that ensure everyone is comfortable performing simple analyses. Prior to Product Madness, she worked at Blue Shell Games and TinyCo. She will be presenting at the Women In STEM Summit, taking place in San Francisco this June 8 and 9.

How did you get started in your role?

It was a bit of a fluke. I studied math and economics at Berkeley. I originally intended to go into finance, but changed my mind after the recession hit in 2008. I put my resume on the Berkeley career website and was contacted by a gaming company the next day for an Associate Data Analyst role. Within a month, I knew that data was the perfect fit for me. Although I have moved on from gaming, I’m passionate about finding patterns in user behavior. This basically applies to any company with customers.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?

My father was very proficient with numbers. I remember as a child, we would take summer road trips and he would give me algebra problems to pass the time. I just thought of them as fun puzzles. I continued to focus on math in high school and undergrad because I knew it would help me stand out once I was on the job market. Math never felt hard, because I always associated it with playing games in the back seat of the car. I really have my father to thank for that.

Female scientists & engineers make up 41% of entry and mid-level professionals, yet 52% of women in STEM quit their job by mid-career. What do you think is the biggest factor in this high attrition rate? What do you think is the solution?

I’ve mostly worked in startups. The hours can be brutal. Generally, none of my colleagues have kids. Those that do are usually men and their wives only work part time. I don’t think it’s fair to say that this is why women aren’t more prevalent in mid-career STEM roles. However, I don’t know of any women with kids where the husband only works part time.

What advice would you give to the next generation of girls and boys looking to enter STEM?

If you have a STEM background, you are very versatile. If the tech bubble bursts, you can move to healthcare or finance. I think it’s important to focus on skills that will make you relevant ten or twenty years from now. Also, not all companies are the same. It’s important to build and contribute to an inclusive company culture. There are some companies with very few females and when I talk to them, I realize I would not be a good culture fit there. Regardless of whether you are male or female, just be mindful of the type of culture you want around you.

What will you be discussing in your presentation?

I will be covering how data consumers and data producers can approach complex business problems collaboratively. I see lots of companies using their data departments for producing charts and graphs. While a data person can easily do this, this type of workflow doesn’t necessarily lead to insights. When both sides take a collaborative approach, you can improve the bottom line and job satisfaction for the data department is much higher.

You can hear more from Pallas, along with other leading women in STEM industries, at the Women In STEM Summit. To register your interest, click here.

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