Women in Big Data Global



WiBD – Midwest Chapter Launch Event

Women in Big Data

By Theresa Peachey,

October 5, 2017


On Monday, September 11, 2017, the Women in Big Data Midwest chapter hosted a launch event.

The event was held in Madison, WI, at the American Family Insurance headquarters and was sponsored by Northwestern Mutual and American Family Insurance. The goal of the event was to bring awareness of the organization to the women in big data and their supporters.

The event kicked off with Kari Grasee, American Family’s Information & Data Management Vice President. Kari shared her experience as a woman in the insurance and data management industry.  She spoke to her years of experience in the finance division as a consumer of data and her transition to leading teams in the development of Business Intelligence and Advanced Analytic solutions, along with Governance and Data Management practices. Her team supports the organization, serving as the central data hub for business lines and operations. American Family has gone through years of transformation and continues to mature in the data and information management space, including big data and data science.

Kari Grasee shares her experience as a woman in the insurance and data management industry.

Leaders of the WiBD Midwest chapter also engaged two professors from the University of Wisconsin – Madison Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Po-Ling Loh is an Assistant Professor and shared her insights on the following topics:

  • Building your network – Creating a network, whether deliberate or by chance, is key to your professional career.
  • Diversity in the work environment – It is important to recognize diversity in the workplace.

Rebecca Willet is an Assistant Professor and spoke on :

  • Procuring a mentor – A mentor is a trusted ally, someone to share knowledge and experiences to aid in your success, and to provide an outside perspective.
  • Making deliberate choices – As individuals progress in their careers and personal lives, they will be faced with a number of choices. These choices may not be the most glamorous, but they are intentional and afford opportunity in the future.
  • Knowing when to ask – Inspired by the book “Women Don’t Ask” by Linda Babcock and Sara Leschever, Rebecca shared the importance of women negotiating items such as salary, advancement opportunities, travel, etc., and the long term impacts when women don’t ask.
  • Using your network – It is important to know your network and leverage it in career growth.

Lastly, Kavitha Lokesh, AVP of Analytics and Information Management System at Cognizant Solutions, spoke on Big Data Trends, focusing on:

  • Leveraging big data technologies to establish a data ecosystem.
  • Migration to the cloud.
  • Using data science to explore internal and real world data.
  • Investment in artificial/cognitive intelligence to drive operational efficiency.
  • Enhanced focus on data quality, governance and security functions.

The event was well attended, with over 90 participants  from a number of organizations across the Midwest. Thank you to the sponsors, organizers, presenters and attendees for making the launch a great event!