For Natalia Summerville, Sr. Manager in Advanced Analytics R&D, using data for good is at the center of it all.
“There’s so much data analytics can do for Greater Good – it’s almost overwhelming. The potential is unending, and that drives me to find new applications and ways to help,” she explains. “It’s my grain of sand to make the world a better place, especially through health and life sciences applications.”
And make the world a better place she does. Through her role at SAS and as a lecturer at NC State, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Duke, Natalia is using her curiosity to inspire the next generation and create meaningful change through analytics.
For Natalia, it’s personal.
For Natalia, her work isn’t just work – it’s personal, too.
“When I had my daughter, she struggled to breastfeed, and due to a variety of factors, she never latched,” she explains. “She would scream and cry and wasn’t gaining weight. My heart was breaking.”
Through the hospital’s lactation consultant, Natalia learned about WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank, a non-profit milk bank that provides over 200,000 ounces of safe, pasteurized donor breast milk. “Once we started using the donor breast milk, our baby quickly began gaining weight.”
Natalia was grateful for the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank and the mothers who selflessly supply it and wanted to help. “I found the perfect project: I decided to have my students at NC State consult with Mothers’ Milk Bank,” she shares. The students’ project focused on using data and optimization to find better, more efficient ways to collect milk from donors. Using SAS/OR, the team developed a mathematical model to determine the benefit of additional drop-off locations and found that adding six new drop-off locations would save over $10,000 in shipping costs, helping the milk bank deliver more milk to babies who needed it.
“It’s one of many examples of how data analytics, and more specifically, SAS, is being used to make a difference every day,” she shares. “At SAS, we’re always asking, “What else can we do to help?””
Leading with curiosity
Natalia fell in love with optimization in college, and never looked back. “I adore mathematical modeling and deeply enjoy coding. Sometimes writing code feels like a meditation and everything else in the world fades,” she shares.
Natalia joined SAS while she was finishing her PhD, and originally envisioned a career in academia. “I didn’t plan to stay long-term – but I ended up loving the application side of what I was studying. Seeing technology and analytics in real world was motivating for me, and I wanted to do more.” 10 years later, Natalia is still loving the #saslife, and remains involved in academia as a lecturer.
“We’re explorers,” she explains. “We’re working on problems that have never been solved before. Curiosity is essential to our team’s work – it’s the key to innovation, and innovation is at the heart of what we do at SAS."
Living the #saslife
For Natalia, it’s the people who make the #saslife so great: “Our group is amazing,” she gushes. “Everyone is a star, and it’s such a positive environment.”
At SAS, she’s able to bring her whole self to work: “I’m able to be who I am very openly and very passionately,” she explains. “I’m not just a data scientist – I’m also a teacher and a mom. At SAS, I don’t have to hide these other parts of me. SAS empowers me with the flexibility to be my best.”
Outside the office
When she’s not modeling the next great analytics solution for our customers, Natalia enjoys spending time with her husband and four kids, everything related to dress-up parties and going shopping with her opinionated 3-year-old. “The rest of my free time goes into preparing classes and teaching. And anyway, my line between work and free time is blurry, since often work does not feel like it and coding can be a relaxing activity after intense customer meetings,” she shares.
Natalia is also a classically trained violinist, and still picks up her bow from time to time.
Thank you, Natalia, for sharing your story and bringing your curiosity to SAS each day. Ready to unleash your curiosity? Explore open roles and apply to join the #saslife.