In this blog series to commemorate National Mentoring Month, we are celebrating some of our incredible mentors in the Data Science for All program.  

Tsion Hermes is Head of Strategy & Execution at MilliporeSigma, and a mentor for DS4A / Empowerment.  She answered a few questions for us about her experience, career advice and creating more inclusive workplaces.

Tell us about a pivotal moment in your career: what was the backdrop, what did you do, what did you learn?

I can say there have a been a couple of pivotal moments in my career but if I had to choose one it would be the most recent moment. I was on maternity leave earlier this year, when my business unit was merged with another group with similar product offering. There were a lot of changes and reshuffling taking place in my absence, which I tried to keep up with as much as I could. When it was all set and done, I still maintained a leadership role but with considerable changes to the organization that I left pre maternity leave. As I was getting ready to return to work, I got a call about another position in different part of the organization. I had to weigh a lot of things before I applied for the position, which happened to be perfectly aligned with my long- term goals. I felt bad leaving my old team, who have just undergone considerable amount of change in this turbulent time. Furthermore, after absence of 4+ months, I was to tell my new boss that I’m applying for another job in the organization. It was not easy, but I had his support and I went for it. And I’m so glad I did, because I’ve learned so much in just 5 short months, and I see my new role as paving the way for my next career move.

Who were your mentors and role models when you were starting out?  What’s the best professional advice you received?

I started out my career at Olympus, through a leadership development program. As part of the program, we rotated through different departments every six months taking on a range of projects. That experience was very formative so early in my career, particularly the last rotation where I directly reported to an SVP who was managing a $400M+ business unit. He empowered me to make big decisions, even though I was quite young and inexperienced. I learned how to manage a big project and influencing others without having a direct authority. I think my experience with that manager stuck with me even more because when I was ready to leave Olympus for another company, he supported my decision because he wouldn’t be able to offer the same experience/learning opportunity that I wanted at that stage of my career.

What have you gained from mentoring and coaching - both professionally and personally? Did anything surprise you when you started mentoring?

Mentoring is very fulfilling to me. It’s a two-way street, I feel that I gain just as much from the experience as mentees. It’s a privilege to influence someone or push them towards their dream no matter how small your role maybe. If you can provide someone the nudge or push they needed then I would consider it a success.

Can you give us an example of how data skills are increasingly needed in your role and business?

Although I’m not directly involved in data science right now, having the ability to analyze and pull insights from data is very important. In my current role for example, there are projects where I would need to manage the development of a business case for an entry into a new market. To develop an effective strategy, I must be adept at data analysis and pulling insights from multiple sources. Market data as well as qualitative insights then becomes the foundation on which we build our request for capital expenditure and revenue forecast for the new business.

You’ll be mentoring a group of Fellows in our inaugural cohort in the Data Science for All/ Empowerment program, an initiative to create equal opportunities to access the data-driven jobs of tomorrow.  What can individuals and organizations do to help create more diverse and inclusive workplaces?

Following the protests this summer, it seems like a lot of organizations are now taking a hard look at their diversity and inclusion efforts. I think organizations have to not just look to check the box but be willing to commit to a long term solution. Implicit bias trainings and Juneteenth celebrations alone are not enough. Companies should look at their pipeline of talents and ensure their recruiting practices provide opportunity for underrepresented minorities. Furthermore, they need to do more in nurturing diverse workforce by ensuring employees from diverse backgrounds have access to mentors and sponsor within the company. And of course, they should also provide learning and development opportunities that expose managers and employees alike to diverse viewpoints and challenges faced by underrepresented groups.