Career Tails

Associate Spotlight: Tracy M.

Tell me about your career path to becoming a Data Scientist.

My career started in 2014 as an external contractor for the Quality Systems Group at Nestlé Purina where we focused mostly on research for the sales group and surveys about employee satisfaction. I was fortunate to eventually join the company full time as a Data Scientist on the Strategic Analytics Team.

What made you decide to join Purina? What did you do prior?

My grandparents owned and operated a small business as a Purina retailer that sold animal chow and pet food for over 50 years. As a result, I was raised around Purina products and grew to admire the important role this organization plays in the St. Louis area. I always hoped to continue the family legacy and join Purina someday. Prior to starting at the company, I completed a Master's Degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and worked in a research lab at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health. I decided to transition from an academic environment to industry and was fortunate to find a role here that used my research expertise.

What makes working in STEM at Purina different from other companies?

Purina has an extremely collaborative and supportive culture. I can be my authentic self and focus my energy on helping to improve the lives of pets and people who love them. My people leaders and colleagues are always available to provide feedback that improves the quality of my work. When a project is complete, leaders are quick to express gratitude and recognize a job well done. It really is a wonderful place to work.

What are your primary responsibilities day-to-day?

My role functions primarily as an internal consultant for projects across the company that may involve complicated data or statistical analyses. I guide the research design and analytical approach, extract and/or request data, and program the analyses in order to help others find new insights.

What unique skills make someone successful in the position?

Typically, data scientists bring programming and analytical skills to the role. I would recommend having a solid understanding of statistics and machine learning techniques, in addition to statistical programming tools. Because we work as internal consultants, it is also helpful to have well-developed critical thinking skills, research design experience, and strong written and oral communication skills. Having the ability to help project teams define a clear project purpose and scope is important is also helpful for ensuring efforts deliver measurable business value. I would say many of these skills, like strong communication skills and critical-thinking skills, would be very useful and relevant across a variety of roles at Purina.

Tell us about the most exciting project you've completed or are currently working on.

My most exciting project so far has been supporting survey research for some of our markets in South America. I had the opportunity to travel to Brazil and Colombia this past spring in order to train our sales and marketing teams on how to present the results to our business partners. I've enjoyed learning more about other cultures and how the experience of shopping for pet care items can differ across the world.

Our Founder challenges us with the 'Dare to Stand Taller.' How do you Stand Taller?

It is deeply important to me that I do all things with integrity. If I have concerns about a project, I make an effort to voice them so that key decision makers understand the strengths and limitations of any project we pursue. William Danforth, Our Founder, speaks at length in his book, I Dare You, about the importance of deliberate self-improvement. I am committed to lifelong learning and try to stay up to date with new best practices in the area of data science.

What advice would you tell someone considering applying for a role at Purina?

It is worthwhile to study Purina's culture to determine if this is a good culture fit for you. I would recommend learning about the pet food category and today's ever-changing retail landscape. Finally, associates often choose to bring their dogs to work, so any applicant must be comfortable with four-legged coworkers around campus if you're based at our Headquarters in St. Louis.

Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

I am the pet parent of two cats, Jessa and Bailey, who somehow find a way to make me laugh each day. I have been a season ticket holder at the St. Louis Muny theatre for over 10 years and love music in general. I am also passionate about promoting and improving public education in Missouri.

 

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