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Sarah is an associate in Booz Allen’s Strategic Innovation Group where she applies her passion for visual problem solving and storytelling to both client and internal marketing efforts. Sarah has won multiple internal awards for her work providing process design, change management, and strategy support to clients in the civil finance and homeland security markets.
In 2014, Sarah was awarded a Fulbright grant to Malaysia where she taught English and spearheaded the development of a school library. Prior to joining Booz Allen, Sarah attended George Washington University, where she graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in international affairs. She is currently pursuing a master's of professional studies in information visualization from the Maryland Institute College of Arts.
“I’m able to grow my competency in more technical data science skills while continuously refining my consulting skills, which is an incredibly excoting position to be in. ”
How did you get involved with change analytics at Booz Allen? I joined Booz Allen right after college and had the fortune of starting off on a team that exposed me to some of the foundational strategy and change management work Booz Allen is known for. I spent several years growing my skills in these areas before shifting to the firm’s NextGen Analytics team in 2015. Cast amid a group of incredibly talented data scientists and analysts, I admittedly struggled at first to see how my “soft” consulting skills fit in with the data science focus of my new team. Fortunately, not long after my transition I had the opportunity to see both areas collide in my work developing the ADAPT+C Advanced Analytics Maturity Model. Through this effort, I was able to internalize the ways change management strategies can be used to enhance adoption of data science, and in turn the ways data can be used to inform change management strategies. Since then I have had the opportunity to support change analytics tasks at several organizations in the health and homeland security spaces.
What advice do you have for leaders who want to foster a data-driven culture within their organizations? First, I would commend them for focusing on culture! Organizations that want to advance the maturity of their data science capabilities often focus on buying advanced data visualization tools or hiring a large team of data scientists, but all of that time and money could be in vain if the foundational culture to support these elements is not in place. Second, I would urge them to take a holistic view of their current culture and identify specific areas that most need improvement. The ADAPT+C model provides a framework for assessing all elements of an advanced analytics capability (Analytic Opportunities, Data, Analytic Techniques, People, Technology, and Culture), and describes the spectrum of maturity for aspects of each element. For “Culture,” we often see organizations rank low in the area of “Analytics Advocacy,” meaning there are opportunities for leadership to more clearly communicate the value of advanced analytics to their staff and champion analytics projects. No organization starts with the perfect culture, but by taking stock of the current state leaders can better develop a customized path to reach their goals.
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for organizations to apply data science right now? Many organizations rightfully focus on analyzing structured, organized data that they collect, such as annual revenue or internal employee survey results. Although this data lends itself well to analysis and can have tremendous value, organizations also have at their fingertips a wealth of unstructured data. This data—including text from emails, social media posts, and customer service representative notes—can help shed light on nuances and emotions that analysis of conventional structured data may miss. Several of my colleagues are doing fantastic work to push this capability forward and help our clients unlock insight from their unstructured data, and I think this area will only continue growing.
What excites you about your work? I value any opportunity to bring clarity to challenging or complex topics. For example, the challenges associated with navigating a large organizational change can seem insurmountable, but you can easily distill these challenges into focus areas and better focus on solutions. Recently, my work has focused on finding ways to communicate complex data sets and data science techniques, working with technical subject matter experts to tease out common themes and present simplified approaches. As I work through these tasks I’m able to grow my competency in more technical data science skills while continuously refining my consulting skills, which is an incredibly exciting position to be in.
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