Data-driven decision making and data-based empowerment.

1. Gayle, congrats on being named a “Data Hero.”  Your earlier article on the opportunities and limits of data struck a real chord with our community.  Walk us through your “relationship” with data in your every-day work.

My relationship with data is a colorful one.  Data is not black nor white to me.  Data enhances a story but is not the only telling piece of storytelling.  To me, data is both art and science – the people and products are the art while the numbers are the science.  I empower women in STEAM (WiSTEAM) to take calculated risks in their careers to reinvent their professional lives.  I’ve spent a great deal of time studying the broken rungs on the corporate ladder, and using data to better understand the necessary actions needed to mend the ladder so women can climb it as successfully as men have over the years.  

My research has unearthed crucial data points on how to increase the female talent pool in STEAM.  One example is the fact unconscious bias still exists today at both the company and educational levels to the tune of females changing their majors simply because they do not ‘see’ many female role models in their desired field or in the classroom.  I educate teams in companies and universities on how to efficiently close the gap.  Shannon Wilkenson, Founder and CEO of Tego Cyber, Inc., and a guest on my podcast series Theodora Speaks, discusses her ‘ah-ha moment’ in both the episode and her book, Ripping Off the Hoodie where she nearly counted herself out of being in technology because math was not her strong suit.  However, she discovered logic is her strength which attributes to her success in the cybersecurity sector. Only after sifting through unconscious data points to empower herself, was she able to persevere..  It’s all about digesting data in small buckets in relation to the ‘universe’ you are addressing in any given project to be able to comb through the noise and follow your career aspirations.

2. You have had senior Sales and Marketing positions.  How does data and data literacy make a Salesperson or Marketer better at what they do?

Companies rely on analytics to make informed decisions.  If I was given 30 minutes to solve a problem, I would spend the majority of the time asking powerful questions and the facts and data at hand to better understand the true problem I am solving for, and the last few minutes designing the solution.  To derive meaningful insights from data to make a salesperson a trusted advisor, a salesperson has to put on their hybrid hat to solve their customer’s business pain point(s).  That requires being a good listener, asking good questions, and researching what the competition is offering. Which leads to presenting a proposal that aligns so well with the company’s objectives that the choice is clear on the ideal partner.

A salesperson simply cannot ‘sell’ a customer a solution.  A salesperson must do their ‘homework’ to understand their customer needs inside and out to unearth the desired outcomes that customer is seeking.  Working backwards from that data, a salesperson can then share their insights and package them in a readily digestible proposal.  Once that information is organized and shared, a salesperson can begin building a meaningful relationship with the customer – and continue to recommend solutions that meet or exceed the customer’s expectations. 

3. Data-isn’t there too much talk about it and frankly too much data to actually do anything with?  Basically, aren’t we in a data-overflow/data-flood situation?  What is your advice on how to navigate that?

Yes, there is often too much unorganized data out there and it can be both overwhelming and polarizing to some people not knowing where to start and what information is relevant.  Luckily, there are software tools to aid in the data organizing process.  However, companies cannot simply rely on a tool to solve their data overflow.  Garbage in, garbage out – meaning data is everywhere, and it needs to first be cleansed and then organized and packaged in an insightful way to aid in storytelling.  Otherwise, it is nearly impossible to connect the dots, and effectively use the “science” to tell a compelling narrative (the “art”).  

4. As both a doer and a coach, how do you connect data to personal performance?  

Data enhances a story.  Metrics are in place to achieve and keep me on task, so I do not miss the mark.  I use data to better understand my clients and the audiences I serve.  If I wasn’t laser focused on researching, highlighting the relevant data to educate both myself and my clients while defining unique differentiators, I would be in jeopardy of falling into the entrepreneurial abyss, doing my clients a disservice.  To that degree, I have partnered with Joan Bufalino who creates dynamic infographics to visually accompany my podcast series to highlight unique data points from the conversations I have with superheroines in STEAM.  My latest episode is with Alison McConnell, CMO of Publics Health Media, where she shares her career journey as a working mom, her approach to work/life integration, and the pitfalls that come in finding balance. 

5. Many people ask us to suggest a few primers on how to think about data and its role in the future of the economy and society.  What nuggets can you share or what material do you recommend people ingest?

The news media comes to mind as a prime example here.  Where did the unbiased informative stories go?  Today we are obsessed with placing fear in people and jumping to political conclusions on every.single.controversial.matter.  In today’s society, you’re either right or you’re wrong and likely outcast for the decisions you make to live your life.  Just like data, news media is not black nor white.  What happened to the ‘good ‘ole days’ reporting on the gray matter facts so people can make informed decisions using critical thinking skills to come to their own conclusions, and not be harassed for the choices they make?  We need to do our homework to become better informed/educated decision-makers, and that includes synthesizing and making sense of data to make our own decisions, respect people with different views than ours (so long as they are not harmful or violent) and not publicly shame someone with different views from ours.

6. You have done a lot of work on DEI and related areas.  How does data play a role here?

I am pro gender inclusivity in the workplace as it brings diversification.  Data plays a role as I sift through the noise to discern how qualified candidates can land roles that are not only right for them, but are also a right fit for the organization.  Gone are the days where hiring a woman to simply fill the ‘hire a female’ quota is okay.  This way of thinking does not serve the candidate nor does it bode well for a company’s bottom line when they factor in onboarding, training and rehiring costs. For example, some technology companies have stated their goal is to have a 50/50 male/female ratio by 2030.  In my opinion, that is a lofty goal as I factor in the data I unearthed from the broken rung on the corporate ladder, which highlights the need for better college programs that cater to women – of all ethnicities.  From here, we can empower them to become resilient, talented, respected women landing jobs in STEAM where they can contribute, and excel, while bringing other qualified female candidates along with them as they all climb the corporate ladder to greater fulfillment.


Bio:  As a professional speaker, advisor, coach, podcast host, author and former award-winning executive leader who has a deep passion for improving communications and relationships, Gayle Keller, Chief Reinvention Officer, leads, facilitates, inspires, and revitalizes gender inclusivity programs for select corporations and universities.