A data-driven organization will always have a competitive edge over those who do not invest in those solutions. - Monica Trevino
Why is data analytics important? Once analyzed, data helps in a multitude of ways. In healthcare, it helps avoid preventable diseases by detecting them in their early stages. It is also immensely useful in the banking sector, where it aids in recognizing illegal activities such as money laundering. In meteorology, it helps study global warming. The "big data" analytics market is set to reach $103 billion by 2023.
An IBM study from 2017, outlined that 90% of all the data in the world had been created in just two years. Many were quite surprised to learn that we’ve generated so much data in such a relatively short timeframe, however, if you consider the incredible growth of the internet, this would make perfect sense. In 2012, we had 2.5 billion internet users. In 2014, this number reached the 3 billion mark, and in 2019 we have 4.1 billion people online.
In this Re.engineer Trending Leader feature, we invite Monica Trevino, a Data Analytics & Visualization Engineering Consultant, to tell us about her journey in STEM, how she helps her clients gain organizational insights through their data, and how she inspires the next generation of Artificial Intelligence professionals.
Monica was born in Mexico, grew up in Houston, Texas and she now resides in Traverse City, Michigan. She received a bachelor's in Industrial Engineering from the University of Houston in 2016. In college she was extremely involved as she held several leadership positions in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and Phi Sigma Rho, an engineering sorority. Monica continued her involvement in SHPE after college by being part of the planning committee for Extreme Engineering, a 24-hour engineering competition for college students where they get tasked with a unique project each year. This team just conducted the competition recently and it was more extreme than ever given the fact that it was completely virtual.
Aside from her involvement in SHPE, she is a co-founder for a non-profit organization focused on Artificial Intelligence. The team is developing the curriculum and building the organization from the ground up. The organization is called The_League.AI and their mission is to inspire young students to become the next leaders in the field of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence by engaging them with interesting competitions that will build valuable skills, leadership, confidence, and ingenuity for the years to come.
In her free time Monica enjoys traveling and exploring the outdoors with my fiancée David and one-year old labradoodle named Bruno.
Q: From your foundation in Industrial Engineering to now partnering with clients to transform their opportunities into value creation, what inspired you to become a consultant?
Monica: I began my career at Dow Chemical where I learned about the industry and got involved in the data analytics world. In my role I had the opportunity to apply analytical skills to real-world problems in sites across the globe. In addition to working on productivity projects I was able become a subject matter expert in data visualization software that was used by teams to identify value-added opportunities. I also had the unique opportunity to be part of a rotational program where I applied machine learning techniques. After a few years I decided to leave the company due to life changes and moved across the country.
I wanted to continue working in the analytics world, yet I had to continue my career path virtually. I knew how much I enjoyed working in diverse and challenging projects. Through my research I encountered many great platforms online that allowed direct interaction with clients. I decided to use my analytical skills to provide consulting services for clients looking for short and long-term support. I have been consulting with over twenty organizations across the nation within the past year helping them meet their business objectives ranging anywhere from identifying bottom-line savings to directing marketing strategies. My goal is to expand my portfolio to include projects in other areas such as machine learning and predictive analytics.
Q: Your quote, “A data-driven organization will always have a competitive edge over those who do not invest in those solutions,” resonates with me. Where do you see data science going in the 21st century?
Monica: Data is absolutely everywhere. From smart watches that track your steps to websites that monitor every single click you make. We are now seeing an increased awareness on the impact data can make. Organizations across all industries are realizing that with upfront investments in data management systems, the return of investment can often be exponentially higher. On one side of the spectrum there are companies that have no strategies in terms of data management whatsoever and are seeking guidance on implementation initiatives, and on the other side there are companies that have data flying all over the place and need help in digesting it all through simple data visualizations or more sophisticated analytical techniques.
I believe in the next few decades the companies that get left behind will be those that have been reluctant to change. Thus, the companies who have spent so much time in analyzing metrics internally and externally will have an advantage over those who don't. I also believe that machine learning and artificial intelligence will continue to evolve and perhaps even supplement components within data science.
Q: What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome with becoming a STEM professional?
Monica: The most difficult challenge that I faced, and I still see prevalent in minority communities, is lack of representation. It is often a disadvantage when no one around you has been to college or even finished grade school. Luckily, I had the drive and the curiosity to try new things and was put in situations that helped my growth as an individual and a professional.
Lack of representation is also a factor in the workforce. There have been many times when I’ve been the only female and only Hispanic in a room where decisions have had to be made. This then leads to imposter syndrome and the act of questioning whether you have the knowledge and experience to back you up. Therefore, it is important that diversity and inclusion continues to be a driving force in organizations enabling different perspectives that ultimately help everyone succeed.
Q: We believe that our personal expressions should translate into how we operate as business and community and leaders. We call it “Bringing Your Whole Self” into any situation. How do you ensure that you are authentic to yourself and your work?
Monica: I bring my whole self to situations by acknowledging when I do not know the answers. I am completely honest and transparent when it comes to my skills and experience. If there is something that I am being asked to do and I have not worked on something similar before then I let my clients know ahead of time. Of course, this does not mean I will not challenge myself by not working on it, but this allows me to set clear expectations upfront. I also ask a lot of questions to make sure I have a good understanding of my projects.
Q: What advice would you give to other young professionals or entrepreneurs looking to take their career or education to the next level?
Monica: Be curious and never stop learning. The number one thing that is constant in life is change. Change is around us now more than ever with technology changing the way we do things. We all need to adapt to the constant change in the world and continue to seek ways to keep up with it. For me personally that means finding ways to continue developing my skills. The beauty of the internet is that you can find so much information online and oftentimes free of cost. When I am stuck on a problem and looking for alternative solutions, I sometimes rely on articles to steer me in the right direction. I also enjoy watching videos and TEDx talks about innovation. In addition to free resources there are so many great online education platforms that allow you to continue developing your skills in any area.
I also strongly believe in the power of networking. Networking comes in all forms, from being involved in the community to simply attending that happy hour that your coworker put together. This gives you the opportunity to interact with your colleagues or professionals in the area and it enables you to converse in a more relaxed setting allowing easy exchange of ideas.
Q: At Re.engineer, we believe in challenging the status quo. Tell us about the most impactful challenge you have solved.
Monica: A key challenge that I typically help solve for my clients is helping them with digital transformation. This means finding ways to digitize their work processes and develop metrics that track their goals. For some it is as simple as putting together a few graphs into a dashboard, and for others it is a concrete strategy of getting from point A (paper trails everywhere) to point B where point B can be an automated way of achieving data-driven results with clear KPI tracking.
However, the most impactful projects I have worked on this year have been centered around the COVID-19 pandemic. I've used data to visually show counties that are at higher risk based on many key factors, along with developing contact tracing reports to assist in the identification of people who may have been in contact with positive cases. These COVID-19 dashboards were then shared with local officials to help mitigate potential exposures.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
Monica: I am a huge overthinker, so I tend to have a hard time shutting that off at night. Whatever topic pops into my head I often overanalyze. I also do a lot of research so if there is a thought in my head or a problem I want to solve I bring out my best friend Google and see if there are any articles or information that I can find online that will help me solve X problem or thought. If there are no problems in my mind, then I like to look at my calendar on my phone and look at the week ahead. I then go over my to-do list mentally so I can feel fully prepared. Something that I am trying to get better at is putting my phone down earlier at night and grab a book instead.