My professional mission is to use my diverse set of skills to improve social outcomes at scale, particularly for populations or sectors that have been historically disadvantaged.
The main requirements for me is that it is in an organization that strives to do good for society and in a context in which improvements in that work impact a large population of people. This includes designing and implementing sensible data infrastructure that meets the criteria for effective data use: that it provides immediate and relevant data, is accessible, and provides information to organizational leaders that is actionable. I use the term “infrastructure” specifically because I believe such work requires the building of an integrated system that builds in capability over time, rather than an ongoing series of one-off analyses. Analyses and reporting become a dividend of well designed infrastructure and require very little additional effort to produce. In contrast, when an organizational team focuses on producing distinct technical products, each requires team member time and resources, and it never benefits from the advances in technical capability that modern data systems and software development practices support.
I have a unique background to oversee the development of such a data infrastructure for community-focused organization because of the unique combination of my research and work background. My research background is quite diverse; I have published articles, reports, and conference presentations on teacher effectiveness, the use of data and research for decision-making, the role of collaboration in the production of research, and the impact of policy on organizational actors. The binding thread in these diverse areas is my interest in using a systems approach to understand the impacts of organizational decisions and how to improve them. Because of the wide array of topics, I might be best termed a methodologist as I focused my coursework on learning both broadly and deeply about research methods, everything from hierarchical linear modeling to social network analysis to ethnographic interviewing.
My research work stands parallel to my work as a software developer. For roughly ten years, I was a full stack Senior Developer at the McDonnell Genome Institute, which included all elements of the project management and implementation workflow from gathering initial requirements from non-technical stakeholders to building the database schemas necessarily to integrate new data into the existing infrastructure. I was the project lead to develop a large-scale business intelligence OLAP database, have very efficient automation and programming skills, and have been a senior team member in the development of web application systems, data infrastructure platforms, stand alone projects, and distributed systems. While I left The Genome Institute in 2011 to begin my graduate studies, I have integrated my software development skills in all of my work, building collaborative platforms and databases to facilitate research projects and automating analyses of the organizations with which I have worked.
In each context, I have expanded and integrated my proficiencies to come to the current vision for my work and what can be done. Computer programming and database design are necessary tools to create a data infrastructure for large organizations to make better and more data-informed decisions, but the understanding of what the data suggest, what conclusions are appropriate, and what analyses can be responsibly done in such contexts requires a sophisticated understanding of organizational research methods that I have developed through the second phase of my career.