Challenge: 365 Women worth watching – in Data, People Analytics and HR Tech

Challenge: 365 Women worth watching – in Data, People Analytics and HR Tech


At the end of 2017 I was selected by HR-Tech-Nation to be among top bloggers to follow. It was a great honor to be mentioned in a list of excellent writers, which are actually my own source of inspiration and learning. One of them, William Tincup, commented that next time he would like to see more women on the list.

Well… I decided to take his note as a personal challenge in 2018, and salute 365 women, one per day. My list of women worth watching, however, will encompass not only HR Tech leaders, but also Data heroes and People Analytics exceptional practitioners. My selection order is associative, i.e., there is no ranking here. Each of the following women is truly inspiration!

Up to now I’ve reached – 16, but recommendations are keep coming, both from women and men in our industry. I feel that this challenge is becoming a snowball of inspiration. I hope it will encourage more women, and particularly HR professionals, to enter the data world of HR. I believe that these women are Role Models for every aspiring People Analytics practitioner. So let’s celebrate and share this!



“Making sure that we know what employees expect and the degree to which we’re living up to those expectations is incredibly important”

Subhadra Dutta (LinkedIn, Twitter)

Subhadra Dutta, Ph.D. is People Science Manager and Analytics Lead at Twitter. She leads the People Analytics team to drive metrics, advanced analytics, assessments and research for evidence-based people decisions and organizational effectiveness. Subhadra is Industrial/Organizational Psychologist with many fields of expertise: analytics, employee surveys, competency framework creation, selection, talent development, succession planning and research. She innovates in employee engagement analytics techniques, linking employee surveys to other HR and operational data, and using sentiment-analysis software to gauge how employees feel about their work.


“Apply HR Analytics to boost productivity and effectiveness”

Swati Chawla (LinkedIn)

Swati Chawla is Head of HR Analytics, Strategy and Planning in Syngenta, a global agriculture company. She has been building a strong team and practices that has empowered over 300 HR professionals, and equipped senior business leaders with insights on people & organization structures and policies, linking HR strategy to the business direction. Throughout her career, Swati covered the globe! She worked in countries like Switzerland, India, USA, Singapore, Malaysia, North East Asia, UAE and Saudi Arabia. She has developed the ability to work across cultures, and now she contributes her experience to People Analytics practitioners all over the world in conferences and events.


“Allow everyone in society that has the ability and the desire to be an entrepreneur to view themselves that way”

Frida Polli (LinkedIn, Twitter)

Frida Polli, PhD is the CEO and Co-founder of pymetrics, a startup that uses de-biased AI to builds a cognitive and emotional trait profile of a company’s top performers to source, select, and develop potential talent. pymetrics is the only predictive hiring technology to ensure that algorithms are bias-free, making them a pioneer for democratizing and diversifying predictive hiring. Frida is an award-winning Harvard / MIT trained neuroscientist who turned a startup founder. After a decade in academic neuroscience, She sought to apply neuroscience and data science to real world problems. What a wonderful role model she is to her two daughters! Watch her inspiring interview and explore more about her vision and personal story.


“There will never be a shortage of need for Data scientists, so if you like it, if you think you’re going to be pretty good at it, I say – go for it!”

Julie Yoo (LinkedIn, Twitter)

Julie Yoo, PhD is Chief Scientific and Co-founder of pymetrics. Julie was a postdoctoral neuroscientist at MIT and the Department of Defense. Her research projects included using machine learning to predict optimal learning time based on real-time neuroimaging data, and building automatic speech recognition machines. Now she leads a startup that takes crucial advances in cognitive neuroscience to create analytics-informed decision-making and performance-enhancement software for the human capital field. Learn more about her journey, the “marriage” between Neuroscience and Machine Learning, and her point of view about the role of data science.


“The boldest data science creations – a recommender engine that leverages employee data on skillsets, experience, personality, interests, working-style and engagement”

Geetanjali Gamel (LinkedIn)

Geetanjali Gamel is Director Workforce Analytics and Planning in Merck, and previously was People Analytics Leader in Mastercard. There were many opportunities to learn from her experience in those roles, e.g., to explore the challenges of building a data-driven people analytics initiative within the HR function, and to realize the value of Predictive Workforce Analytics in work environments, where churn may be part of a new normal for key talent segments. Geetanjali brings quantitative research competencies to the multidisciplinary arena of People Analytics. She holds a Master in Economics, and was also a self-taught investor, who plays with data to find good opportunities for investment.


“We need to get HR, people data and analysis right, as it impacts not only the business results, but employee lives”

Mariëlle Sonnenberg (LinkedIn, Twitter)

Mariëlle Sonnenberg, PhD is Global Head of HR Strategy & Analytics in Wolters Kluwer. Her job description is a guideline to any aspiring People Analytics leader: She builds global HR Analytics  capability. She leads multidisciplinary teams to provide insights for better business results. She conducts employee engagement surveys and delivers actionable insights for employee experience. Moreover, she oversees HR strategy including, benchmarking, predictive analytics, sustainability, public policy, advocacy, and communications across an employee population of 20K in 40 countries! Mariëlle is a University Professor and a lecture in well known events, where she contributes her valuable experience to the People Analytics community.


“Whatever you do, make sure you are involved in something that you are passionate about”

Lexy Martin  (LinkedIn, Twitter)

Lexy Martin is Principal, Research and Customer Value, in Visier, a workforce intelligence platform. She contributes to a better understanding of workforce analytics customers. Lexy is known as the author of the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey, annually tracking the adoption, deployment approaches, and value achieved from HR tech. She brings more than 40 years of thought leadership experience to People Analytics and HR tech industry. I’m inspired by her career achievements, but mostly by her choice to continue following her passion, in a new career chapter, after retirement.


“CHRO support is extremely important to ensure truly leveraging data when people decisions are made”

Dawn Klinghoffer  (LinkedIn, Twitter)

Dawn Klinghoffer, General Manager of HR Business Insights team, leads the People Analytics function globally for Microsoft. Her responsibilities include advanced people analytics and research for business units, analytics and reporting support for HR programs such as global diversity and inclusion, global HR services, talent management, and L&D. She is also responsible for reporting and HR tech tools, as well as employee data privacy. Dawn majored in mathematics and started her journey in Microsoft in Finance. When she joined HR, in a part time role after she had her first child, she did not realize that after a couple of years she would actually create a future profession, and that her perspectives on the People Analytics role would be influential globally.


“The real magic of creating business insight happens when you combine instinct and analytics”

Nicky Clement  (LinkedIn, Twitter)

Nicky Clement leads the People Analytics, Organization Effectiveness and Workforce Planning agendas in Unilever. She is a Statistician by education, but for 18 years she was an HR business partner. Nicky shared Unilever analytics journey at the CIPD’s annual conference. Among her many achievements, I’m mostly inspired by the successful scaling of People Analytics impact through global HRBP community, ensuring to pass the passion for analytics on.


“If the data is merely interesting, we are not doing our job. We need to deliver actionable insights, to drive better decisions”

Michelle Deneau  (LinkedIn)

Michelle Deneau is Director of HR Business Intelligence at Intuit. She has been doing this for almost 8 years. This journey made her one of the most accomplished practitioners in the fields of People Analytics. I enjoyed listening to her interview, and learned about the long way from the traditional organizational surveys, through reporting tools, to the edge of predictive analytics. The challenges she describes, and the keys for success, are common to many organizations that adopt these practices.


“Learning to add influencing skills to your portfolio of capabilities will help you deliver actionable projects”

Alexis Fink  (LinkedIn, Twitter)

Alexis Fink is I/O Psychologist at Intel. In her article she enumerates three well known fundamental competencies of “People Analytics” professionals: content expertise, data expertise, and analytics expertise. However, she adds the forth: influencing expertise, and explains that “It begins with a partnership, jointly identifying important problems to solve and agreeing that a particular approach would be useful in guiding decision making”. Influencing expertise also includes identifying key insight and ability to identify actions to take based on those insights. I often quote this idea, which makes Alexis influential in my community too!


“I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate people who are involved in the R-community”

Shirin Glander  (LinkedIn, Twitter)

Shirin Glander is “a biologist turned bioinformatician turned data scientist”. I stumbled into her blog one day, when I was looking for a piece of code in R, and immediately realized that I found a treasure! I hope to read everything she shares, not only in her blog, but also her contributions to R-bloggers. I owe so much to her, and to others, in the R community: People who write tutorials, share their knowledge in blogs, contribute packages, provide support in forums, and make R programming more accessible and easier.


“Keeping the “human” in HR is a fundamental principle for successful People Analytics”

Sheri Feinzig  (LinkedIn, Twitter)

Sheri Feinzig, Ph.D. is the Director of IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute, where she leads a global team of consultants and content development experts. She is co-author of the book “The Power of People: How Successful Organizations Use Workforce Analytics to Improve Business Performance” (with Nigel Guenole and Jonathan Ferrar). Any HR professional who wants to enrich her career with analytics competencies MUST read it. This useful book includes great conceptual schemes, which help me a lot when I explain People Analytics fundamentals to clients and prospects. Read Sheri’s interview in SHRM blog.


“Skip reporting Stats, go straight to Insights! Always ask yourself: What do I want to solve?”

Esther Bongenaar  (LinkedIn)

Esther Bongenaar is VP HR Data and Analytics at Shell. She is responsible for broad key domains such as Predictive HR Analytics, HR Management Information & Reporting, Assessments and HR Surveys. Most of her career she was involved in refinery optimizations and energy demands modelling, but she knows how to translate business questions into theoretical problems, and that’s what People Analytics is all about! Some influential case studies she contributed during the years actually helped me to grasp what I wanted to do in organizations. She recently shared her perspective and experience in this podcast.


“We can defeat our culture and background, follow our passion, and succeed in STEM!”

Debbie Berebichez  (LinkedInTwitter)

Debbie Berebichez was the first Mexican woman to graduate with a physics Ph.D. from Stanford University. She is a Chief Data Science at Metis, a training company, where she builds, develops, and retains a world-class data science instructional team. She is also a frequent public speaker at industry conferences. But I stumble into her story in a podcast, actually, and frankly, it brought me into tears. I won’t spoil it, listen to Debbie here.


“Workforce analytics extend beyond HR!”

Greta Roberts  (LinkedInTwitter)

Greta Roberts is CEO of Talent Analytics, Corp., chairperson of Predictive Analytics World – for Workforce, online instructor in UCI, where she teaches Predictive Workforce Analytics, and yes! she was my teacher! Her contribution to the way I understand and conduct People Analytics is most significant. I appreciate the opportunities she creates to learn from her valuable experience, and her openness to exchange thoughts and ideas. If you want an example of complexity that becomes simplicity, just watch Greta here.


About the author:

Littal Shemer Haim brings Data Science into HR activities, to guide organizations to base decision-making about people on data. Her vast experience in applied research, keen usage of statistical modeling, constant exposure to new technologies, and genuine interest in people lives, all led her to focus nowadays on HR Data Strategy, People Analytics, and Organizational Research.


2 Replies to "Challenge: 365 Women worth watching - in Data, People Analytics and HR Tech"

  • comment-avatar
    Malica Jibowu
    January 6, 2018 (5:29 pm)

    So much to learn from these talented leaders. I’m so excited about this list!!

    • comment-avatar
      Littal Shemer Haim
      January 7, 2018 (5:10 pm)

      Thank you Malica! I’m exited too…
      Subscribe to get the updates.

Got something to say?

Some html is OK