As a data science major at Pitzer College, I’m interested in learning how data scientists shape our world, particularly in the non-profit and environmental sectors. So, when I learned that Pitzer’s Career Services Office offers an annual Winter Break Shadowing Program, where alums invite current students to join them on the job, I was excited to gain real-world experience and get a glimpse into my role in those sectors. 

Databoom’s listing offered the opportunity to observe Founder and Principal, Kim Longfield and her team as they worked with clients to solve complex issues with data analytics and communication strategies. This seemed like a great way to gain insight into data science in the development and non-profit sector. Additionally, I was drawn to the fact that the company is woman-owned and has a majority female staff. 

I was delighted when I was paired with Databoom. After speaking to the team about the details of their work, I was especially fascinated by their joint venture with the Hilton Foundation, to tell the Foundation’s story of providing safe water to some of the hardest to reach populations in Ethiopia and Uganda. Furthermore, I was curious to observe how Databoom would create a communications plan for the Foundation, to accompany the project. 

During the two weeks of shadowing, I received an orientation on Databoom’s history, current work, and operations. I was given ample time to ask questions. I was present at internal planning and client calls, as well as one-on-ones with Kim. My role in these calls varied, but I mostly listened, took notes, and asked questions or contributed where necessary. I was delighted to find that I had an excellent rapport with Kim and the Databoom team. They kindly responded to my questions and went the extra mile to explain what was unclear to me, so I could better understand the decisions the team was making and the solutions they’d propose. 

When I watched Databoom and the Foundation work together to create a communications plan, I was impressed by the deliberate and organized approach they took. Databoom created a detailed flow chart that made the structure of the plan clear. It began with the message and overarching objectives, and then proceeded to identify the target audience, the desired action from that audience, the resources needed to deliver the message, and the channels of communication. This was a more structured approach than I had seen previously, and one that I anticipate using in the future.

Kim’s story of her career trajectory from Pitzer College to a corporate sales job, then to the Peace Corps and eventually to a career in international health and development measurement was one of the most inspiring aspects of the program. While many of my peers are drawn to corporate data science roles, I’m passionate about using data science for public service, non-profits, and other mission-driven work. Having Kim as an example of someone who has achieved this was incredibly valuable for me, as it showed me that it is possible to pursue data science for causes that I’m passionate about. 

Taking part in the Winter Break Shadowing Program with Databoom was an extremely rewarding experience that taught me a great deal. I was able to gain insight into the challenge of balancing a client with diverse stakeholders and communicating results. Additionally, I picked up different techniques that I can transfer to other projects, such as depicting a systems-level strategy in a logic model, root cause analysis, and the structure of a communications plan. I was also able to make valuable connections with practitioners and truly understand the potential of a data science career that can shape the world. All in all, I’m quite pleased with how I spent my winter break.