Our next guest for our SHEs in STEM series is Rachel Stuve, a technical and strategic leader and dog mom of sweet pup Sabi. She has a mind for analytics and data-driven decision making, innovation, and proactive guidance for Fortune 100 companies across multiple industries. Rachel is passionate about calculated risk-taking, fostering an entrepreneurial spirit, leveraging humans ingenuity and thought, learning from mistakes to guide strategic thinking, and harnessing data to make better and more competitive business decisions. She is very energetic about team building, mentoring, and inspiring others, and takes great pleasure in the success of others. Rachel loves traveling and makes an effort to visit natural wonders around the world. Her favorite place is the Whitsunday Islands in Australia. Her motto is:
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”
Name: Rachel Stuve
Company: Nexidia (Atlanta, GA)
Industry: Information Technology/Software
SHEroines: Oprah Winfrey, Katherine Johnson, Rachel Robinson, Mary Barra
Tell us about yourself: who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
I was born and raised in MI, and now I live in GA (metro-Atlanta). I have various formal education credentials in IT (Bachelor in Information Systems and Master in Business Leadership as well as various technical certifications) and have been working in data analytics for 15+ years in a various array of industries (healthcare, software, manufacturing, automotive, government). I’ve lead technical projects with global teams of 12+ and presented at multiple conferences. The best part of my career is mentoring other SHEs. I volunteer with various youth and STEM related organizations to help younger SHEs blossom. In my spare time, I enjoy outdoor recreation and gain a lot of personal peace from nature. I also love indoor cycling classes (yes, I’m absolutely addicted to Flywheel!).
What was your path to becoming a SHE in STEM? Which area of STEM are you a part?
I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was younger, so I took only math and science classes in high school. My high school didn’t offer a lot of technical classes, so I attended community college in the afternoons. When I started college and was exploring careers, I opted for computer science because I found it very interesting and technology was a “hot” subject in the early 2000s when I was attending school. My first job was in local government doing database development, which I discovered that I really enjoyed, so I continued growing my career in analytics through a number of different industries (manufacturing, services, healthcare, government). I currently work in analytics (buzz words: BI, big data, decision-science, data-science) for a software company managing a team of other data-oriented people (all male).
What about being a SHE in STEM brings you the most joy?
There are a lot of things that bring me joy in STEM! I love digging into data and playing out multiple “what if” scenarios. I’m very inquisitive by nature and ask a TON of questions, so analytics naturally fell inline with my personality.
There’s a lot of joy in figuring out a problem or finding an answer that nobody else had.
I also really enjoy the creativity in my STEM experience. A lot of people think that analytics and STEM is black-and-white, but it’s quite the contrary! My most successful and satisfying experiences in STEM have been those that leverage the most creativity and interpersonal relationships. Being a SHE in STEM brings a level of creativity and humanism that is unique to SHEs.
We may have to fight for our right to be in the board room, but when we do, SHEs make a TON of difference!!!
What is the most challenging part of being a SHE in STEM?
There’s always a challenging aspect of STEM related to forging new paths and searching for answers that were previously unknown.There’s a lot of brain power needed to be successful in STEM! Technology is constantly changing, so it can be a challenge just to keep up with the trends. Being a SHE in STEM has an entirely different set of challenges: double-standards for workplace behavior, higher expectations for performance, less optimal opinions and respect from peers and customers, and the challenge that most women have balancing personal and professional lives. I’ve been passed over for raises in lieu of offering “motherhood flexibility” (and I don’t have children). I’ve been mocked by male peers for excelling at work tasks (called “teacher’s pet” or “trying too hard”). I’ve been told that I’m “smart for being so pretty” (whatever that’s supposed to mean!?!). I’ve been discouraged by the number of women I meet in senior level positions that share their same stores of struggle, double-standards, and fighting to be respected in the workplace, which means that the road is long and doesn’t get easier the higher up a SHE gets in the career ladder.
Despite all of these challenges, I’ve been extremely inspired: I’ve learned a lot about myself, where to draw strengths, and what’s truly important to me.I’ve also met a lot of SHEs who have achieved despite challenges and offer encouragement that the road is not always so dark and lonely. I’ve learned to be a step ahead, fight to be in the boardroom, and make an extra effort to speak up in meetings or tout my accomplishments to others. SHEs draw strength and power from within themselves, so as bleak as the challenges seem sometimes, it makes SHEs smarter and more self-aware (as long as SHE realizes that of herself!)!
What’s the professional achievement that makes you the most proud?
I’m most proud of the project I ran at a previous employer to start a completely new analytics program. It was a very large organization, so implementing change was hard and slow. I had a lot of fights and setbacks, and I also had a lot of wins. There were days that I cried and days that I cheered. In the end, the project was more successful than even I anticipated, gained the attention of the CEO, and we received public accolades from our partner at their annual conference. I’m proud of the accomplishment of bringing a team together, forging through adversity, and ultimately succeeding in bringing more data science to a large organization that ultimately flowed down to help a lot of people.
What and who has motivated you the most in your journey as a SHE in STEM?
I get motivation from a lot of places. My family and friends provide motivation when I’m sad or in a low spot to remind me of the power I have inside of myself. I get motivation from other women in STEM through various networking groups. There’s one SHE in particular that strikes me during my most trying times. She was told by a male senior executive that she’d never amount to anything because she was too much of a bitch (that actually happened). Today, that same SHE is running a major STEM organization for a very large company! When I’m discouraged by setbacks and double-standards, I remember her story. Aside from stories like hers, I find a lot of motivation and support from corporate sponsors (who are mostly men that support empowered women and promote women in STEM).
I get motivation from other women in STEM through various networking groups.
I also get motivation from corporate sponsors who are mostly men (that support empowered women), but I do have mentors that are other women in STEM. Reading stories of other SHEs is also a way I find motivation.
If you could go back in time and offer yourself sixty seconds of advice, what would you say?
Fight the fights that are worth fighting.
It’s important to stand up for yourself (and your team), and it’s important to sometimes let things go. Being a SHE in STEM is always going to be a fight in some capacity, but that doesn’t mean that you have to fight for everything all the time. Peace and progress is sometimes found in acceptance.
If you could give any advice to young women considering a path in STEM, what would you say?
It’s going to be a tough road, but it’s totally worth it! I read an article in Forbes magazine last year that discussed the large number of established women who leave STEM careers a number of years after entering. I too have considered leaving at times when I feel the weight gets too heavy, but then I’m reminded of my strength and I forge on. You will have a double-standard, you will have to work harder, you will get less recognition, you will be treated differently (I always find it amusing to count the differences in number of complements I receive on my looks versus the number I receive related to my intelligence). That doesn’t mean that you ARE less or different.
If you have confidence in yourself, you will eventually find that you become surrounded by others that lift you up and you WILL find your groove!
Who are some other SHEs in STEM to watch?
There are a lot of local SHEs in the Atlanta area that are doing some exciting things related to funding women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses. There are angel funding organizations like Atlanta Tech Angels and Launchpad2x that are specifically targeting women businesses (most of them are in STEM related industries). There’s also an increase in women networking groups. Here in ATL we have the Women in Technology (WIT) group that is a great resource for SHEs in STEM.
What’s the most exciting thing happening in STEM?
The focus on data-driven decisions and consolidating data from multiple sources to quickly create a comprehensive view of an entire data ecosystem is really exciting!
More and more companies are learning how to leverage their data to make better decisions which increases profitability, creates more opportunity, and helps the customer experience.
What are some resources for SHEs to learn more about your field?
There are a number of great networking groups: Women in Technology (WIT), ShowMe50 LeanIn groups (originally started by Sheryl Sandberg), and most larger cities have networking groups that focus on women in STEM fields. LinkedIn is also a great place to find and connect with women in similar fields. Most community colleges are offering introduction to data classes and there are some wonderful online resources through organizations like Microsoft, Oracle, and Tableau.
ICYMI: Check out our other SHEs in STEM posts-Melissa Karlin, Kolisa Yola Sinyanya, Kara Luton, Stephanie Provence, Samantha Hau, Kira Bailey, I Don’t Know How To Science, Taylor Breland, and Kelsey Caffy. And don’t miss out on SHEspeaks: Rainu Ittycheriah with Eventbrite (ep 5).