Students connect in conversation with data science and AI leader

Gayle Bieler shared with her Elon University audience several stories and lessons from her 35 years of leadership in the field of data analytics.

In the second installment of the 2023-2024 “Conversations with Analytics Leaders” speaker series, a seasoned data science leader with RTI International discussed with Elon University students the necessary skills in the workforce and offered insights on upcoming trends within the data science field.

Gayle Bieler P’24 founded the Center for Data Science and AI in 2014 at RTI, the nonprofit institution dedicated to improving the human condition around the world, to apply the emerging field of data science to RTI’s mission and to implement her vision of “Data Science for Social Good.” Bieler also serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for Organizational Analytics.

“I wanted to make a difference in the world,” said Bieler, who spoke at Elon on Nov. 2, in a program hosted by the Center for Organizational Analytics. “RTI gave me the opportunity to implement my vision and grow within the organization.”

Bieler emphasized the essential skills required in today’s industry, underscoring the importance of software development in data science and the significance of proficiency in R and Python, and platforms like GitHub. She expressed confidence in the educational programs at Elon, acknowledging their effectiveness in ensuring students graduate with those skills.

Bieler encouraged students to apply for the US Digital Corps—a platform offering opportunities for impactful work in government across domains like design, cybersecurity and analytics.

“One topic in the discussion that stood out to me was the transformative impact of COVID-19 on the modernization of data for governmental purposes,” said Vanessa Taylor, a student in the Master of Science in Business Administration program from Norrköping, Sweden.

Bieler’s presentation underscored the evolving role of AI in reshaping job markets. She noted the importance of individuals equipped with the knowledge and skills to harness AI’s potential.

“One of the main things I took away from the event is that it is important to pursue secondary education,” said Patrick Burke ’24, a finance major from Wilton, Connecticut. “That’s especially true in computing because AI isn’t going anywhere, and avoiding falling too far behind is necessary.”

In a Q&A session, one student’s question on diversity led Bieler to share details about RTI’s predominantly female statistician workforce. While recognizing the gender gap in the field, she expressed optimism about companies with a STEM-related focus adopting and embracing diversity and inclusion practices.

“It was an incredibly informative session,” said Ajay Nimmala, a master’s student in the MSBA program from Hyderabad, India. “I gained valuable insights into the types of roles I should be seeking as I approach my graduation.”