KidAlytics is the only program specifically geared toward teaching the practice of using and interpreting analytics. Our courses are immersed in critical thinking and strategic planning to improve understanding of the analytic process across disciplines. Our courses help to develop competitive skills for college and prepare students to compete for internships, competitions, and certifications. We are not about crunching numbers, we are breaking down and understanding where, how, and what data numbers mean. Creating high level thinkers that are equipped to navigate and lead in this data driven world.
As a part of my interview series about the things that should be done to improve the US educational system I had the pleasure to interview Karen V. Jenkins. a Chicago based Research Data Analytics expert who founded “KidAlytics” to address the educational skills gap that exists between grades 8 thru 12 grade. Her virtual curriculum provides young people with analytic training and she recently launched a “Social Impact Initiative” Scholarship to help students in financial need participate in her courses. She holds a BA in Psychology and PreMed from Kean University, MPH in Program Planning and Policy from A.T. Stills University , and a MIS in Business Analytics and MBA in Management, both from Robert Morris University. These experiences have influenced Karen to work towards solving some of the world’s major problems regarding disparities in technology access. Advocating that access should be a right and not a fight!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
My curiosity and love for helping people is what has brought me down this career path. Early in life I was exposed to computers, education, and community involvement. As my knowledge and technology evolve these tools aid in doing good to combat social disparities.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Since launching our pilot program during COVID it has been a wonderful experience. Obstacles have come into play with technology and how to reach our target demographics. Being able to have a leadership and advisory team made up of all different age groups and industries has played a pivotal role in how we reach our target consumer.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the funniest mistakes I made while teaching was, I did not realize that I had muted myself. I am very interactive and ask questions so when I noticed students were not responding, I realized they could not hear me. This helped me in developing a signing protocol for technical issues that can occur such as the person being muted, sharing the screen, a student needs to take a break etc. The take away lesson here was that we need to use other forms of communication when there is a user error or a technical issue occurring. This helps keep the class on track and lees time is sent getting back to our objectives.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
KidAlytics is the only program specifically geared toward teaching the practice of using and interpreting analytics. Our courses are immersed in critical thinking and strategic planning to improve understanding of the analytic process across disciplines. Our courses help to develop competitive skills for college and prepare students to compete for internships, competitions, and certifications. We are not about crunching numbers, we are breaking down and understanding where, how, and what data numbers mean. Creating high level thinkers that are equipped to navigate and lead in this data driven world. Our program is the foundation which sparks possibilities and build skills. Some of our students have continued on with their data skills and have used them to start business, further develop their computer science skills, and formulate social justice clubs to name a few.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I have some exciting projects in the works. A few will be announced soon. These projects will help in communication of innovation education to parents and kids. It is important that the need and increased demand of analytics in life and industry is realized in the home and how technology plays a role. It can be hard to imagine that your kid’s future job does not exist and how do you prepare for that reality. By communicating different professional pipelines developing the basis of analytics education
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
The status quo in STEM has not changed. It is still a very dominant male industry. Women represent less than one third of the science and engineering workforce with minority women represented the least. Even with the creation of initiatives to increase women and women of color in these industries the status quo still rises. With an increase of males entering these fields.
Strides to help change the narrative of women in these fields through media attention has helped tremendously in inspiring women to STEM. Yet, for women to succeed the status quo must be aware that a status quo exists. In admitting those biases, it allows for accountability from peers and themselves. Making them allies for change. This is critical for women to gain acknowledgement, promotions, funding for business and a fair shot at opportunities in the industry.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
One challenge is that women’s voices are sometimes smothered in the decision making process. Women voices should be heard more as it adds a different perspective and approach to the problem. In order to address these issues, the industry and those alike have to be the change makers and role models to give women more opportunities. These behaviors were inherited over decades in an industry that was not inclusive to women. The only way that changes is through representation.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?
The biggest myth is that women are not capable of doing STEM and Tech jobs in the appropriate fashion. This is beyond true as we see more women companies in STEM and Tech gaining profits and thriving with significantly less capital than male counterparts. Women are a force and we will continue to infuse ourselves in this industry to make change for all.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be resilient. Things will not always work out as you planned. There will be experiments that go wrong, code that will not work and sometimes deadlines will be extended. Keep cool and have a mindset of solutions.
- Be Patient. Keep at it, it will pay off. Technology is always evolving and helping with innovation across sectors. A commitment to investing your time to learning is a must. Over time it will all add up and keep you abreast of what’s going on in the field.
- Leadership is not a solo role. A true leader knows how to learn from others, be an active listener and delegate leadership duties to the most qualified person to achieve the best outcome for everyone collectively.
- Stretch yourself and reach for opportunities. While doing my Master in Information Systems, I frequently read about what the Chicago Department of Public (CDPH) was doing with big data in Harvard Business Review. Immediately that set off a light bulb in my head, I needed an Internship there to learn from these doers. Knowing that I would be exposed to massive amounts of unstructured data in public health made me excited. I reached out to the Commissure and a few weeks later I was meeting with the Commissure and the person whose articles I had been reading. We talked about my interests and the projects they were working on in the Innovation Unit. I joined CDPH as an Informatics Public Health Intern. In this role I was exposed to the realities of unstructured big data, how to clean data, question the data, properly prepare it for analysis and being aware of policies that affect trends. I even learned GIS and was able to do some ML with R reading medical records. All this was conceivable because I stretched myself and reached for an opportunity which created an opportunity for other students.
- Get Up and Moving. Everyday aspire to be better than yesterday. Keeping yourself in movement, keeps you with connections within the industry and cross sectors which can lead to more opportunities.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Be open to other team members’ ideas, change and diversity. By letting members voice their opinions it only strengthens the business, programs, outreach, and their commitment to producing the best product. Treat your team with respect and dignity. Have a personal touch that is genuine. When asking your team members, “How are you doing” make sure you are asking them this question about them and not always about the job. Lastly, ensure that your team knows that you are there to help. How can I help you, can be effective in communicating this message. It shows that you are committed to your team growth and success. These simple things can be a catalyst for your team to thrive.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
In all honesty, I cannot name just one person. It really does take a village. However, I am beyond grateful for the support my family has given. There is a quote that says. “If you want a child that loves to learn, make it safe for them to fail.” I have always had that safe space. Which has made me fearless in my pursuit of finding my way in STEM and Tech on my own terms. Whether I felt what I was studying or working on was hard. Their attitude has been if you never try, you have failed. So why not try, if you fail, you have learned a lesson for life that will only equip you to be better when you try again. My family has always encouraged me to learn and instilled in me that knowledge will take me to places and afford me independence to make an impact on others.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I use my success everyday to bring goodness to the world. All my work has been for the better good of people. With KidAlytics this has not changed. Our Social Impact Initiative is a testament to that. When starting the company I knew that being able to provide access to low income students from day one would be pivotal to students that just need some financial help.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be to reimagine education with equity. Education that is taught with 21st Century skill sets and access to education is inclusive. The need for training is greater now more than ever in this data and technology driven world. With a society that thrives off technology we need to equippe individuals with skills to be able to innovate. This access and knowledge to access this access produces economic and infrastructure development.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t let people tell you the sky’s the limit, when there are footprints on the moon!” It’s my motto that anything is possible. This is especially true today as we embark further into this new world developing with help of technology. It is up to us to define if this technology will disrupt or be productive in our lives as we create. As a society we are at a point where everything is possible.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Michelle Obama is the one person I would love to have a private meal and conversation with. Her journey, perspective, and life dedication to education, social issues, and policy is American Black History. As she continues to make history on the forefront this encounter would be insightful in how I approach funding, initiatives, and partnerships. I believe this encounter would yield great results in that it will benefit society from what will be sparked to be invented.