Women Lead Data Podcast Episode 8: Navigating Pivotal Career Moments with Celina Wong of Data Culture

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April 11, 2024

About the episode

In this episode, Lindsay is joined by Celina Wong (CEO of Data Culture) to learn more about her leadership journey in the data industry. Celina shares her story about how she transitioned into the data industry after starting her career in finance and has progressed from data leadership roles into her current role as CEO. We spend some time digging into this topic of managing through pivotal moments in your career (some good, some bad), how to recognize when you’re in one of these moments, and how you can turn these into opportunities to propel your career forward.

Data Culture is a leading data strategy consulting firm based in Brooklyn, New York.

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From Finance to Data Mastery

Celina's career trajectory took her from the structured world of finance at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and American Express to the dynamic realm of data analytics. A pivotal moment came when faced with the challenge of accessing data without the traditional tools at her disposal. Undeterred, Celina taught herself SQL, embodying the spirit of perseverance. This self-driven initiative not only solved her immediate problem but also paved the way for her transition into data analytics and her eventual role as the first data hire at a startup.

The Birth of Data Culture

At the heart of Celina's career is her tenure as head of data at various startups, culminating in successful exits and her current role as CEO of Data Culture. Data Culture distinguishes itself through its comprehensive approach to data consultancy, helping businesses establish and optimize their data tech stacks. Celina's vision extends beyond technical solutions, emphasizing data visualization and storytelling to transform raw data into compelling narratives that drive business strategy.

Women Empowering Women

A recurring theme in Celina's journey is the crucial support of women in leadership. Her transition to CEO was made possible by the faith and encouragement of other women, highlighting the importance of female solidarity in breaking barriers and ascending to leadership roles. Celina's commitment to fostering a supportive environment for women in tech is evident in her dedication to mentoring and inspiring the next generation.

Navigating Pivotal Career Moments

Celina's narrative is rich with moments of challenge and opportunity. She shares insights on navigating both positive and negative pivotal moments, advocating for oneself, and the importance of speaking up in the face of inequity or oversight. Her experiences underscore the significance of self-advocacy in career advancement and the role of leadership in creating inclusive spaces that acknowledge and reward contribution irrespective of gender.

She shares some tips that helped her navigate pivocal career moments:

  1. Advocate for Yourself: Celina emphasized the importance of self-advocacy, especially when it comes to recognition and compensation. She encouraged listeners to not hesitate to ask for what they deserve, highlighting how this can significantly impact one's career trajectory and help close the gender pay gap.
  2. Embrace Perseverance: Her journey from finance to data analytics showcases the power of perseverance. Learning SQL on her own to overcome a work challenge exemplifies the attitude of not taking "no" for an answer and finding solutions independently.
  3. Seek and Offer Support: The importance of women supporting each other in leadership roles was a recurring theme. Celina's own advancement to CEO was facilitated by the encouragement of other women, illustrating the power of mentorship and solidarity in overcoming barriers.
  4. Speak Up in Meetings: Celina shared a personal experience of being overlooked in a meeting, which led her to advocate for her contributions more forcefully. Her advice is to not shy away from highlighting one's input and achievements, especially in environments where your contributions might be overshadowed or ignored.
  5. Hold a Mirror Up to Behavior: In situations where you're spoken over or your ideas are appropriated by others, Celina suggests directly addressing the behavior. This can help foster a more inclusive and respectful work environment and can also lead to greater respect for your contributions.
  6. Welcome Opportunities to Learn from Negative Experiences: Turning negative moments into learning opportunities can propel your career forward. Celina encourages using these experiences to reflect, grow, and refine your approach to career challenges.
  7. Be the Senior You Needed as a Junior: Celina is passionate about serving as a role model for younger women and aspiring data professionals. She advises seasoned professionals to mentor and inspire those earlier in their career paths, helping pave the way for future leaders.
  8. Control What You Can: Focusing on what's within your control, especially when it comes to career advancement and professional development, is crucial. Celina recommends seeking opportunities, asking for what you want, and making your career aspirations known to those around you.
  9. Channel Main Character Energy: Celina encourages embracing the mindset of being the main character in your career story. This involves taking up space, going after what you want with confidence, and not being deterred by the fear of failure.

Looking Ahead: Leading with Purpose

As CEO, Celina is poised to guide Data Culture to new heights, driven by a commitment to excellence and inclusivity. She envisions a future where data not only informs business decisions but also tells compelling stories that resonate across industries. Beyond her corporate ambitions, Celina aims to be a role model, encouraging women to aspire to leadership roles and challenge the status quo.

Celina's journey from the world of finance to the helm of Data Culture serves as an inspiring blueprint for aspiring data professionals and leaders. Her story is a powerful reminder of the transformative potential of data, the importance of perseverance, and the impact of women supporting women in the tech industry. As Celina continues to lead and innovate, her journey encourages us all to embrace our roles as agents of change in the ever-evolving data landscape.

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