Women of Data: Anicia Santos, Sales Engineering Manager at Looker
Aug 2, 2018
We are very excited to introduce our very own Anicia Santos as the next member of the Women of Data series.
Anicia spent the first ten years of her life on the island of Saipan, and then moved to Colorado, where she graduated from college. Afterwards, she took a road trip to San Francisco and never left.
Anicia is a passionate advocate for inclusion, diversity, and equity in tech, and loves mentoring new sales engineers as a Sales Engineering Manager at Looker.
What’s your background and how did it lead you to get into a career in data?
I was pre-med in college, and in some of my lab courses, I did data analysis. I also helped my mom, who is a pediatrician in private practice, collect and analyze data on the different growth patterns of children raised in altitude. Most of that just required basic Excel skills.
I ended up not wanting to pursue medicine, so I looked for any other job that would take me. Turns out, working at a recruiting agency wasn’t a good fit for me, but then I lucked into a job at a college athletics recruiting software company called CaptainU.
While I was working in a sales operations job, I was constantly asking our CFO and our data analyst to pull back different data points from our database. Our CFO eventually asked me if I wanted to learn SQL. They both taught me some SQL and enough VBA to lock up my macbook for hours trying to run different macros. Having access to all that data, being able to see the impact I had on the business, and discovering insights on my own was empowering. I was hooked. After a while, I took over data analysis for the entire company.
What has been the biggest surprise in your career?
As a woman who struggles with impostor syndrome, I am constantly surprised that people will ask for my advice and benefit from following it.
How do you think individuals can use data to advance their ideas or careers?
Data can help strengthen our narratives. When you want to push for a new idea or show how you're making an impact, lead with your story, but complement that story with data.
What are some of the biggest challenges in leading today? And how are you thinking about dealing with those challenges?
I can’t speak to everyone’s experience, but something I have been thinking about a lot lately is how can I best support very different people on my team. I value the unique backgrounds and strengths that each person on my team brings, and I want them to feel that. In sales engineering, we are trying to create repeatable success, so sometimes people make the mistake of seeking out carbon copies of team members who have performed well in the job. But I find that we execute better and can work more collaboratively as a team when we seek out different people and value those differences. For now, I am just trying to learn as much as I can about my team members–what motivates them, what they struggle with, and what they like most about themselves.
What advice would you give to other women who are interested in pursuing a similar career path to yours?
There is probably an easier way to do it than the way I did. I didn’t know anything about the tech industry when I graduated. I didn’t even know that software engineering was a thing. I only found out about sales engineering a couple years ago. But know this: if you are passionate about teaching people about things you love and convincing them to love those things too, you could make for a great sales engineer. So find what you love, learn everything you can about it, and then go find the company who has built a business model around that thing.
“The experience of mentoring another person, or even just helping them in a tight spot, will teach you a lot about yourself and how you can improve in the areas you’re struggling.”
What can women in the workplace do today to help build the foundation for successful careers?
The experience of mentoring another person, or even just helping them in a tight spot, will teach you a lot about yourself and how you can improve in the areas you’re struggling. When we mentor others, we often have an easier time praising their successes and strengths and helping them grow. I think that’s because we don’t have the baggage and impostor syndrome that comes along with trying to objectively judge those same characteristics in ourselves.
When I think about my own strengths and weaknesses, I can get caught up pretty easily in guilt over my confidence in some areas and then start feeling bad about my deficiencies. However, if I think about our new sales engineers that I mentor and their strengths and weaknesses, I can easily see those without baggage and figure out how to help my mentees emphasize their strengths and strategize on how to compliment or improve their weaknesses. That, in turn, helps me to re-frame my self-evaluation to make it more constructive.
Do you think that data can help build a more diverse and equal workplace?
I don’t think you can lead with data when trying to build a more diverse and equal workplace. We have run the numbers up and down to show that a more inclusive workplace is a more successful one. Where data needs to play a part now is in measuring our progress. If you are doing a training, instituting a new program, or changing a process, you need to think about the effect you want that to have and on whom, and then you need to measure that effect. Like any other strategic business goal, you need to hold yourself accountable to making real change with goals and metrics. Data helps us do that.