Women Lead Data Podcast Episode 9: The Power of Networking and Community Building with Jerrie Kumalah of dbt Labs

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April 11, 2024

About the episode

In this episode, Lindsay is joined by Jerrie Kumalah, Resident Data Architect at dbt Labs, to learn more about her career journey in the data industry. Jerrie’s career started in public health conducting research and analysis, where she eventually transitioned her focus into data science and then discovered the world of analytics engineering. Most recently she has moved into her current role as Resident Architect at dbt Labs (an exciting mix between working at a tech scale-up and serving as an internal consultant!). Jerrie shares her thoughts with us about why networking and community building can be such an important part of your career development (and how to do it properly). We also try to answer the question: Can women really “have it all” (an ambitious career and a fulfilling home life).

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Career Transition to Data Engineering

Career paths are as diverse as they are fascinating. Jerrie Kumalah's journey from public health to becoming a resident architect at dbt Labs is a testament to the dynamic nature of careers in technology and data. This episode explores Jerrie's transition into data, the importance of networking, her role at dbt Labs, career advice, balancing life and work, the impact of mentorship, and the challenges and opportunities in data engineering and analytics.

Jerrie's foray into data was not a straightforward path. Originally starting her career in public health, she found herself intrigued by the power of data in shaping policies and outcomes. Her motivation to pursue data stemmed from a desire to use data in creative and impactful ways, moving beyond the rigid frameworks often found in public health research.

errie embarked on her journey into data by dedicating a year to self-learning. Utilizing platforms like Data Camp and embracing the programming language R, she laid the groundwork for her future in analytics engineering.

Importance of Networking in Data 

Networking has played a crucial role in Jerrie's career. She credits building relationships within the data community for opening doors and creating opportunities that would have otherwise been inaccessible. Jerrie emphasizes the importance of genuine connections, stating that networking is more about building relationships with individuals you admire and want to learn from rather than a transactional exchange.

Analytics Engineering and dbt Labs

As a resident architect at dbt Labs, Jerrie acts as a problem solver, helping teams identify what's working, best practices, and sharing use cases to tackle common issues.

Jerrie's path to dbt Labs was shaped by her curiosity and the interdisciplinary nature of her experiences in public health and data. Her transition to analytics engineering was marked by a desire to bridge the gap between data engineering and data analysis, making data more accessible and actionable.

Career Advice and Professional Development

For those looking to enter a career in data, Jerrie advises focusing on what excites you and using that passion to guide your learning and networking efforts. Approaching networking with a mindset of learning and sharing, rather than merely advancing one's career, can lead to more meaningful and beneficial relationships. Continuous learning and adapting to the latest tools and methodologies in data are key to staying relevant.

Jerrie shares some tips for networking in data:

  1. Be Proactive in Reaching Out: Jerrie's story highlights the importance of taking the initiative to connect with others. Don't hesitate to reach out to people whose work you admire, whether it's through social media, email, or at events. A simple message expressing your interest in their work and asking for advice or insights can open doors to meaningful conversations and relationships.
  2. Attend Industry Conferences and Events: Jerrie and Lindsay met at Coalesce 2022, where they were both speakers. Participating in industry conferences, workshops, and meetups is a great way to meet like-minded professionals. Even if you're not speaking at these events, attending them can help you learn about the latest trends, gain new insights, and connect with peers and leaders in your field.
  3. Share Your Knowledge and Experience: Offering to share your own experiences and insights can be a great way to engage with others. Whether it's through speaking at events, contributing to online forums, or writing articles, sharing what you know can attract others who are interested in similar topics and foster mutual respect and collaboration.
  4. Seek Mutual Benefit: Good networking is not just about what you can get from others but also what you can offer. Think about how you can help the people you connect with, whether it's by sharing resources, providing feedback, or introducing them to others in your network. This approach builds stronger, more reciprocal relationships.
  5. Follow Up and Stay in Touch: After making a new connection, follow up with a thank you message or an expression of appreciation for their time and insights. Staying in touch, even just with occasional updates or by sharing relevant information, can help keep the relationship alive and mutually beneficial over time.
  6. Embrace Online Networking Platforms: Utilize platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and specialized community forums to connect with professionals in the data field. These platforms can be especially valuable for finding and joining conversations about topics you're interested in and for showcasing your own projects and achievements.
  7. Be Genuine and Authentic: Authenticity is key in networking. Being genuine in your interactions, expressing your true interests, and being open about your goals and challenges can help form more meaningful connections. People are more likely to engage and offer support when they feel a genuine connection.

Balancing Career and Personal Life

Jerrie acknowledges the challenge of balancing a demanding career with personal life. She believes in setting realistic expectations and understanding that it's not about having it all at once but rather finding a balance that works for you at different stages of your life.

Role and Impact of Mentorship

Mentorship has been a pivotal element of Jerrie's professional growth. She sees mentorship as a two-way street, where both mentors and mentees can learn from each other.

Approach to Mentorship: Jerrie advocates for seeking out mentors who align with your interests and aspirations. She believes in the power of community and actively participates in mentoring within the data community.

Challenges and Opportunities in Data

Jerrie's journey was not without its challenges. Transitioning from public health to a tech-centric role required a significant shift in mindset and skills. However, these challenges also paved the way for opportunities to grow and learn.

Future of Data Engineering: Looking ahead, Jerrie is optimistic about the future of data and analytics engineering. She sees ample opportunities for newcomers, especially as the demand for data-driven decision-making continues to rise.

Jerrie's journey is a source of inspiration for many in the data engineering community. It highlights the importance of curiosity, continuous learning, and building meaningful relationships. Her experiences underscore the dynamic and interdisciplinary nature of careers in data, offering valuable insights for anyone looking to navigate this exciting field.

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