Interview: Rachel Hawley, SAS on Why Data Science Needs Communication Skills

We discuss SAS Analytics Center of Excellence, trends, advice, desired skills in data science and more.

rachel-hawley-sasRachel Hawley is an Analytical Solutions Architect at the SAS Institute specializing in high-performance analytics solutions. Rachel consults with executives and analysts, works across industry verticals, and has seen a variety of challenges and applications throughout her career. Most recently Rachel spent several years working with government agencies to architect solutions to combat fraud, waste and abuse.

Rachel has a passion for teaching, presenting and finding innovative ways to explain difficult and technical topics to non-technical audiences. She first discovered this passion when teaching pre-calculus at NC State as a graduate student where classroom creativity was needed to help students find a new way to learn material that has challenged them in the past.

She holds a Bachelors in Mathematics from the University of Rochester and Masters in Operations Research from North Carolina State University.

First part of interview

Here is second and last part of my interview with her:

Anmol Rajpurohit: Q6. In your role as Analytics Solutions Architect at SAS, what kind of problems do you work on? What aspect of your job do you like the most?

Rachel Hawley: My team is an Analytics center of excellence for SAS in North and South America. We provide thought leadership and support analyticsfor SAS’s emerging analytical solutions and support our customers when they have particularly challenging analytical problems. My primary focus is on SAS’s High performance analytics products as well as with SAS Decision Management.

What I like most about my job is the opportunities it presents in public speaking. I come from a teaching and consulting background so I love getting up in front of people to figure out how to explain complicated topics in a way everyone can understand.

AR: Q7. How do you distinguish the capabilities of SAS products and services for Big Data against the competition?

RH: SAS products aren’t just for big data processing, our products are for Big Data Analytics allowing our customers to be proactive not just reactive when working to leverage the massive amounts of data they are collecting today.

AR: Q8. Which of the current trends in Big Data arena are of great interest to you?

RH: Hadoop is revolutionizing the arena of “Big Data.” The drastic cost reduction for storing and processing data that Hadoop affords allows for people to really pushing the boundaries of what’s possible when it comes to analytics and not just live within the confines of traditional environments.

AR: Q9. What is the best advice you have got in your career?

RH: Do something that you love and it won’t feel like work. Maybe that’s easier said than done but I’ve always kept that as a mantra and right now I love what I do, and so (most days) it doesn’t feel like work!

AR: Q10. What key qualities do you look for when interviewing for Data Science related positions on your team?

presentation_skillsRH: Now that analytics and data science have moved from the back office to the front office it is extremely important that potential candidates have effective communication and presentation skills. It’s not enough to just have the technical chops, a data scientist must be able to effectively explain how he or she came to a specific conclusion and convince the internal or external customer that their results should be leveraged.

olive-kitteridgeAR: Q11. On a personal note, what was the last book that you read and liked? What do you like to do when you are not working?

RH: The last book I read and liked was Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. The book is a series of short stories all taking place in the same town and the title character appears in each one. It was a very innovative way to tell a single story by many different points of view.

When I’m not working I love to be in the outdoors whether camping or hiking, biking or running. I went hiking in Yosemite National Park for the first time this year and it blew me away. I hope to go to at least one national park every year.