Get to Know Our Tech Associates: Using Data to Make a Difference with Jackie Kazil
At first glance, Jackie Kazil’s resumé may seem like an improvisation that plays across careers, including journalism, library, government and cloud technology in the banking industry. But for Jackie, it’s all part of a larger composition that continues to play out in interesting ways under a common theme: using data science to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Jackie’s diverse career experience has fostered her abilities as a systems thinker, enabling her to look at things broadly, see the big picture and then seek to understand how things interrelate. Through technology, she translates that knowledge into empowering others.
In her current work in Capital One’s Cloud and Network Services, Jackie creates applications that search across the organization to find data and build a picture of the entire technology infrastructure. With this broad view, individuals, teams and leaders can make better decisions and identify areas of value for the company—including internal functions like auditing, governance, regulatory compliance and cybersecurity as well as the products and services Capital One delivers to customers.
She says, “The idea behind my work is to create a more resilient and more reliant infrastructure as a whole—which serves everything Capital One does in the cloud—to help our teams make better educated decisions based on more information.”
Curiosity fuels success
Jackie’s passion for technology springs from her natural curiosity and love of learning. She says one of her greatest skills as a data scientist is the ability to ask good questions to see the wider picture. Sometimes, that means being fine with not knowing everything.
“For me, part of the thrill of technology is that you don’t know everything. If I don’t know something, I’ll go ask an expert,” she says.
Her inquisitive nature was essential to her first career as a journalist at the Burlington Free Press and then The Washington Post. As she became fascinated with data as a tool to support better journalism, Jackie decided to learn how to code and, later, left journalism to join CACI as a lead software developer at The Library of Congress. She then became a fellow at the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and played a pivotal role in setting up an internal digital consultancy at 18F, an office within the General Services Administration (GSA) that collaborates with other agencies to fix technical problems, build products, and improve how government serves the public through technology. This extended beyond her role as a software technologist and called upon her to recruit other talented technologists into government work.
“It was a bit of a hard sell, trying to get people from Silicon Valley to move to D.C. and take a job in government, particularly when the pay was less. But in the end, it was about making an impact,” she says.
A life-changing breakfast with an acquaintance Jackie had hoped to recruit away from his banking technology job to work on her government team led to her next career move. The tables turned, as her friend instead told her how much he loved his job at Capital One.
“I’ve always worked with mission-driven organizations and had come to government to serve the American people, have impact on people’s lives and do great things,” Jackie says.
“But he started talking about how Capital One has its own impact on people’s lives in a different way, in that you empower people with their money,” she says. “The sales pitch for me was being able to have a real impact on people’s lives and that’s how they accidentally recruited me when I tried to recruit them.”
Jackie joined Capital One in January 2016 and has leveraged her broader career experiences to recruit others with nontechnical backgrounds to create a diverse technology team at Capital One. She was the co-founder of Capital One Dev Academy (CODA) —a technical development program that has prepared hundreds of analytical non-Computer Science majors for careers in software engineering at Capital One.
Giving back provides a sense of purpose
As a child of Czech immigrants who ran a family business, Jackie says she was always busy growing up, working in the business after school, doing homework and participating in extracurricular activities. She put herself through college by working full time, and after graduating she launched her career.
“I was investing more time in work, … but doing it all the time is not necessarily healthy. It’s good to step away, do other things and come back with a fresh perspective,” Jackie says. “And so I started giving back to my community.”
She used her passion for technology to reach out to other women and support their entry into the industry. As an expert in Python, she began organizing meet-up events for women in tech, leading to her involvement with PyLadies, an international mentorship group that helps women get involved in Python programming and the Python open-source community. She also serves on the board of directors of the Python Software Foundation, a non-profit corporation that holds the intellectual property rights behind the Python programming language; and Byte Back, a nonprofit organization that provides free inclusive technology training to people with the goal of placing them in living-wage careers in technology.
In her work at Capital One and in the organizations she supports, Jackie uses her gift of seeing the big picture to help others learn, grow and benefit from opportunities. She describes her work as being somewhat like an ecologist in the banking technology ecosystem, understanding how all the data interrelates and helping different teams see their data in fresh ways, make new connections and develop a deeper understanding of how their decisions impact others.
Prioritizing what’s important and finding the balance
On top of balancing work and community activities, Jackie also is pursuing her Ph.D. and raising a young daughter. At one point, when she was pregnant, working, studying, volunteering, and remodeling her house, she realized that even a confirmed multitasker like her can’t do it all.
She says she maintains balance by focusing on her priorities, which she identified through a modified exercise attributed to Warren Buffett. Her top three are family, work and finishing her Ph.D.
“Now that I have a family, I can’t give the same level of attention to everything, but I’ve learned that I can still contribute in a meaningful way, even if I have less time,” Jackie says. “So now my community focus is on empowering other leaders and other women in tech to grow in their careers and community.”
- What do you like to do in your free time? My husband and I like to go hiking and camping, and now we go with the baby in a backpack.
- What books are you reading? The Enterprise Big Data Lake: Delivering the Promise of Big Data and Data Science (Alex Gorelik); Designing Data-Intensive Applications: The Big Ideas Behind Reliable, Scalable, and Maintainable Systems (Martin Kleppmann)
- If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be? My grandparents. Because my parents were immigrants to the U.S. and most of my family is in the Czech Republic, I never got to know my grandparents and all but one of them died before I was born, so I’d love to learn about their lives.
- What would people be surprised to learn about you? Every year, my husband and I create epic Halloween costumes. This year, as a family, we’re doing “The Wizard of Oz.” I’ll be wearing a ridiculous pink ballgown as Glinda the Good Witch.
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