Adversity should be spelled ‘opportunity’ — WiST Fellowship
In March, when life started to shut down due to COVID-19, I had been in the process of trying to finish a PhD dissertation (Analytics and Data Science at Kennesaw State University) and the last phases of interviewing for post-PhD jobs. Once the world turned upside down, delays to my dissertation and hiring freezes led to anxiety and uncertainty of summer plans and beyond. After the initial shock and disappointment (that many people in the world continue to experience), I decided to approach the challenge as an opportunity to learn more skills and diversify my professional experiences. As I started to become a more active user of LinkedIn, another member reached out for a connection due to our mutual interests in leveraging social sciences within data science (I was an Anthropology major in undergrad, with a masters degree in Public Health, now pivoting into Data Science). Through that connection I learned about Women in Sports Tech (WiST) and the WiST Fellowship program. I am an avid endurance cyclist and runner, and enjoy pursuing personal side research projects in sports analytics and predictive modeling, so the Fellowship presented a great opportunity to gain more professional experience within the sports tech industry.
In May I was excited and honored to hear I was awarded the Fellowship and placed on a project with Dr. Yvonne Cagle (Astronaut class of 1996). Dr. Cagle has developed a product for soft-tissue repair and recovery, and market analyses are required to help bring this product closer to market. As a mid-career professional with over 10 years of experience in Public Health analytics and soon to have a degree in Data Science, I consider myself to have a decent size tool chest of professional skills. However, I have no experience in product development or market analysis. The expected tasks of this project have certainly been difficult, but the opportunity to learn new skills and what is effectively an entirely new lexicon (the language of business has never been in my wheelhouse) has been positive for my more technical-minded comfort level. I have learned to ask many questions, including asking the same questions in different ways, to ensure I have the necessary information to complete expected tasks. It has been difficult, and sometimes frustrating, but engaging in communication that leads to improved understanding across various skill sets and backgrounds, has improved my ability to ask questions that lead more valuable information, rather than relying on personal experience and assumptions.
The best aspects of the WiST Fellowship have been the incredible amount of engagement, learning, and networking through the bi-weekly zoom meetings with other Fellows, chats with my assigned WiST mentor, and one-on-one sessions with other WiST members. The diversity of skills and backgrounds represented within WiST provide an incredible community for support and learning at a time when learning new skills and building professional community is, perhaps, even more valuable than ever. If not for COVID-19, it is likely I would not have had the opportunity to pursue the fellowship and learn from this incredible group of womxn (and a few amazingly supportive men). The true value of this Fellowship for me is that adversity is just a poorly spelled version of opportunity. 😉