Molly Rutledge (‘04, MSBA ‘20), vice president of analytics at Causeway Solutions, LLC, speaks with Alumni Council member Ron Rennick (’94) about her experience working in a male-dominated field, her success as a graduate of the inaugural online MSBA cohort, and her “take action” advice for fellow women in the workplace. Molly is also a member of our Alumni Council.
Ron: What motivated you to return to Wake Forest for the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program?
Molly: I knew upon graduation from Wake Forest that I wanted to live in Washington, D.C., andI landed a job which involved micro-targeting in political campaigns – a very new arena in which I had to develop my skills on the job. That experience led me to several data director positions on various campaigns, specifically developing predictive modeling. Once again, I was learning on the job as the field developed and expanded. I had an eye toward going to graduate school but was hesitant. The launch of the online MSBA program seemed like the perfect fit, and in retrospect, it absolutely was! I was a proud member of the program’s inaugural online cohort. At graduation, I felt solidified in my knowledge base, and new avenues had opened for me as a result.
Ron: Your work in analytics started in 2005 and included voter file development and cleaning and processing data. How has this field evolved over the last 18 years?
Molly: It has changed markedly! Computing power and storage has expanded exponentially. Evolving from just 64,000 rows of Excel-based data has morphed into the ability to send terabytes of data to clients. Machine learning has catapulted forward. Now 100 decision trees can be run in under a second. The analytics field has advanced to the point that I see almost unlimited possibilities from where it can go from here.
Ron: Working on three gubernatorial campaigns, you’ve had to work long hours, pulling together as a team for both the highs and lows. Is there a memorable time working as a team that stands out?
Molly: Working such long hours on a campaign, your team becomes like a family; I loved the people I worked with. Some of my closest friends are people that I worked alongside for hours during the successful 2010 gubernatorial campaign of Rick Terry (Texas).
Ron: You took a risk by joining a start-up data services company eight years ago. Would you do it again?
Molly: It has been an exciting, fun and challenging experience building my firm from the ground up. My greater team has grown from an initial four members to a team of 24. During the pandemic, my company experienced prosperous growth. Onboarding new hires, without having actually met in person, was an interesting challenge. However, the outcome has been successful! Incidentally, this period has engendered the ability to operate via a distributed workforce. I return to the office in New Orleans only monthly to meet face-to-face with my team.
Ron: What woman has influenced your career? In what ways?
Molly: I remember Professor Balan being a key, inspirational influencer during my masters program, both in and out of the classroom. Particularly, while I was learning how to navigate and thrive in a field that is male-dominated. At the time I completed my master’s degree, I was the sole woman in the program. As a result, I take a special interest in mentoring many of the women in my company today.
Ron: What do you think organizations can do to support and encourage more women to take on leadership roles?
Molly: I find that support and mentorship are tremendously helpful. I encourage my female mentees that when in doubt, take a chance. It’s human nature to guard against your fear of failure; but, it can inadvertently hold you back. I counsel other women to embrace the fail-fast/learn-fast mentality that benefits both the company and the individual in her career. Working with male colleagues in the industry, I have observed this mentality as a huge strength. I know that I have benefitted from gentle “guided direction” along the way and have found this approach helpful to those who work on my team.
Ron: How have you built confidence and/or resiliency over the course of your career?
Molly: I definitely credit the MSBA program with enhancing my skills. My natural passion for data analytics allows me to be fully aligned with my field. I also enjoy diving into the nuts and bolts of my team’s projects – it reinvigorates me!
Ron: What advice would you give to young women entering the workforce today?
Molly: My advice is to both be curious and to pursue your curiosity. Be sure to take action in your interest areas and do not hold yourself back. Remember that great things result from taking action!