Women of Data: Liz Hartmann, Data Analytics Lead at Segment
Jun 8, 2018
Liz Hartmann is the Data Analytics Lead at Segment. She was born and raised on the East Coast but has been living in California since graduating from Cornell University.
Liz previously worked at Dropbox, Freeman, Sullivan & Company (acquired by Nexant) and Acumen, LLC. When she isn’t nerding out over data, she volunteers at the local YMCA teaching a group fitness class.
Hi Liz! Can you share a bit about your background? How did it lead you to a career in data?
I was a bit of a math nerd growing up but I studied public policy in college. I was interested in working in non-profit business, but in the end, I couldn’t resist the pull of data analytics. It was actually in the process of writing my honors thesis (exploring factors that affected the progression of relationships among low-income couples) that I figured out how much I liked working with data. I used Stata (a statistical programming software) to clean up, analyze and summarize the data I needed for my thesis. Once I graduated, I decided to dive into data analysis as a career and I’ve never looked back.
What advice would you give to other women who are interested in pursuing a similar career path to yours?
Go for it! Data is only becoming more and more abundant in the age of all things tech, and it’s not going to analyze itself!
What has been the biggest surprise in your career?
Honestly, it’s been getting into tech! I spent the first four years of my career working in consulting – one year analyzing Medicare and Medicaid data for the federal government and three years analyzing residential and commercial electricity usage data for utility companies like PG&E. I learned a ton about all facets of data analysis in both of those jobs and, by switching industries, I also realized that the skills I had acquired were useful across many different types of data.
When I was ready for a change, I just happened upon the listing to start up HR analytics at Dropbox. Focusing on internal employee data seemed like a great role for me given my experience in data analysis and my undergraduate background studying social policy and demographics. Luckily for me, Dropbox agreed, and I’ve been in analytics for tech companies ever since.
If you had told me when I graduated with a degree in public policy that one day I would be working for Silicon Valley tech companies, I would have laughed at you - but here I am! I think it's a good reminder that your degree doesn’t necessarily have to dictate your career for the rest of your life.
What advice would you give women about building the foundation for a successful career?
Speak up for yourself. There is nothing wrong with or arrogant about advocating for yourself, and I think most women (and men!) should be doing it more.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Yes, it might seem like working 100-hour weeks will pay off in the long run, but that isn’t sustainable for anyone and you will eventually burn out. You can work hard but still take time to recharge.
What are some of the biggest challenges in leading today and how are you thinking about dealing with those challenges?
As someone who is fairly new to leading at a startup, I would say one of my biggest challenges is learning to let go and delegate things that I used to do myself. I think Molly Graham (most recently the VP of Operations at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative) put it best when she talked about needing to “give away your Legos.” Instinctively, you may want to hold on to the all the balls you’ve been keeping in the air as your company grows, but in order to make a bigger impact and zoom out a little bit, you need to share your Legos.
Do you think that data can help build a more diverse and equal workplace?
Yes, I do! A great example is workplace diversity statistics. In recent years a growing number of public and private companies have been releasing diversity stats about their workforces. I think this transparency is amazing because it holds companies accountable, not just to their employees or their stakeholders but to the greater public. Segment hasn’t released our data yet because we are a bit small for that, but we track diversity data internally and use it to inform decisions around hiring initiatives.
How do you think individuals can use data to advance their ideas or careers?
As the mousepad I’m using at this exact moment says, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” Regardless of your team or role in a company, you can use data to better understand your baseline, set quantitative goals and work towards those goals. Along the way you can keep tabs on the important metrics so you can keep doing the things that are helping and iterate and change the things that aren’t.