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Excella Innovators: Leslie Welch

Leslie Welch is a Data Visualization Lead Developer and Co-Leader of our Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Ambassador (IDEA) Team. For our January Innovators Spotlight, we spoke to Leslie about data visualization, inclusion, equity, and diversity (ID&E), and her favorite part about working at Excella. 

 

What keeps you in the Data Visualization field?

I’m passionate about finding ways of iterating on methods that apply Agile methodology to…

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January 27, 2022

Leslie Welch is a Data Visualization Lead Developer and Co-Leader of our Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Ambassador (IDEA) Team. For our January Innovators Spotlight, we spoke to Leslie about data visualization, inclusion, equity, and diversity (ID&E), and her favorite part about working at Excella. 

 

What keeps you in the Data Visualization field?

I’m passionate about finding ways of iterating on methods that apply Agile methodology to data projects. Data projects are often complex by nature and include a lot of “unknowns.” There is not always a clear start or endpoint, and efforts are difficult to estimate at best. This can make them difficult to work through in an Agile fashion.  

There are some methods to creating processes that allow for regular feedback from stakeholders and continuous delivery in increments. DataOpsRapid AnalytiX, and Agile for Data are relatively new and innovative areas of practice within the data community. So, I’m excited when I have an opportunity to work through and experiment with different methods and tools. I see the challenge as an area for improvement, growth, and a chance to have a positive impact on people working on data projects and the people who use those data products.  

 

Can you tell us about a project that you have worked on that made an impact?

One project I am proud of is our work with the CDC to create a community health scorecard that helps local health organizations in Uganda to monitor key indicators in communicable disease prevention at the local level. The scorecards help them identify which facilities need help, what kind of help is needed, or what change is needed to reduce the instance of disease and empower local organizations to fight proactively.  

Due to some last-minute licensing challenges, we had to change the software being used to build this dashboard. I came on to help make the new version of the dashboard functional, as well as hold a 2-week workshop and 1-on-1 training with local community health organizations in Uganda. It was exciting to help level up the data visualization skills of people working in a non-technical space and make dashboards more accessible for them as health professionals.  

 

Want to work on data projects that change the world for the better? Visit our careers page and view our open positions.  

 

What should analysts know in 2022?

With a lot of data projects, there is a specific goal in mind. However, there isn’t always great communication between the data engineering teams and the analysis teams that need to deliver these insights. 

“Teams need to get rid of silos so that people downstream can communicate with data capture teams. Clear communication creates data that is relevant and useful for its intended purpose.”
— Leslie Welch, Data Visualization Lead Developer and Co-Leader of our Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Ambassador (IDEA) Team

In terms of best practice, analysts also need to focus more on what questions stakeholders are trying to answer and what actions they are trying to take, versus what data the stakeholders may want to appear on the dashboard. Probe a little bit deeper when someone is asking for a specific visualization project. This will help create dashboards that deliver actionable insights, rather than a status dashboard that gets created and abandoned.  

 

What drew you to Excella?

There were two major things that drew me to Excella during the recruiting process. The first was knowing that there was a broad group of technical experts—across a variety of areas—that were there for me to learn from as I grow professionally.  The other part was the Xpert career path. This path allows individuals to stay closely connected to technology and continue to grow their deep technical abilities. They can advance without needing to shift over to a primarily managerial position if that didn’t align with their career goals. 

 

What do you enjoy most about working at Excella?

I enjoy working at Excella because of the community of experts. Not only do I work with deeply knowledgeable people who are passionate about technology, but with people who are happy and willing to collaborate, advise, and ask for advice. In my experience, tech companies have a reputation for being hyper-competitive spaces with issues of gendered harassment and bullying—it is a breath of fresh air to work somewhere that is not part of the prevailing culture.

As a queer woman in tech, this is also the first time I’ve gone from feeling as if I was accepted in an organization to actively being valued for the unique perspectives that I bring. Excella does a good job making space for people to be authentic, and we do better work because of it. 

 

Right now, you co-lead our Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Ambassador Team. Can you share more about your work on the team and your passion for inclusion?

Besides working on data visualization projects, I am also deeply passionate about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in technology. As a woman and lesbian, I’ve encountered numerous resistance and challenges professionally over the years working in technology. I am also the proud parent of an adult who is agender. My experience with these underrepresented communities are a big part of why I understand how important it is that we do what we can to ensure that Excella is a space where people feel a strong sense of belonging. Our team works on ensuring our processes are equitable and provide regular learning opportunities for staff to deepen their understanding of ID&E topics relevant to Excella and the larger tech community. We are continually looking for areas of improvement so that all Excellians have an equal opportunity to grow, work on the kind of projects that interest them, and develop professionally.  

 

“While we’ve come a long way, there is still a lot of work to be done, particularly in the equity space for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) folks. At the end of the day, it’s not equitable until it’s equitable for everyone involved.”
— Leslie Welch, Data Visualization Lead Developer and Co-Leader of our Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Ambassador (IDEA) Team

 

Outside of Excella, you are also involved in ID&E in the tech community too, right?

Yes, I’m in a lot of Meet-Up groups.  

*laughs*  

I’m involved with LesbiansWhoTech, both in their professional education series and networking events. I also run a meetup group for individuals who are actively working on ID&E in technical spaces, or trying to create that effort in their organization but don’t have official support yet. It’s really just a place for people to collaborate, share challenges and success, and learn from each other to help foster that change and provide that support.  

 

Work in a community of experts where your thoughts, ideas, and perspectives are valued. View our open positions!

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