My name is Nellwyn Alexandra Thomas, sometimes called Nell Thomas, and sometimes just Nell.
I work with data, I lead teams, and I try to leave things better than I found them.
Here is my path in this world so far:
- 1983: Hello world!
- 1983-1993: The adorable years (as told by family)
- 1993-2001: The awkward years (as experienced by myself)
- 2001-2005: The Harvard years. I studied social psychology and cognitive neuroscience, worked in clinical laboratories, learned stats and experimental design. I spent many hours helping run Harvard Model Congress, providing a place for US high school students to learn about (and simulate) civic involvement and government function. My undergraduate thesis on the effect of affirmative action policies on admission decision making won the Hoopes Prize. I graduated magna cum laude with highest honors and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
- 2005-2009: The early years. I worked in equity research and learned to write SQL, build models and write reports for non-technical audiences. I left equity research for a five person tech start-up, where I learned how to add value when there is no data around, and get things done with just scarce resources.
- 2009-2011: The UPenn years. I enrolled in a PhD program in the History and Sociology of Science and Technology to better understand the social and historical context of technological disruption. I studied the history of early computing and the history of psychological experimentation on humans during the Cold War. Loving the learnings but missing the collaboration of teams and the pace of industry, I left with my master’s degree and a deep appreciation for the academics who help us understand our present through the past.
- 2011-2015: The Etsy years. I started as a revenue analyst, and over four years built, hired, and grew the analytics team. We used data to inform what products we built, how we built them, how we launched them and how we understood Etsy’s sellers, buyer and the business. I reported to the CFO, worked on the IPO, and found meaning in the company’s mission and culture.
- 2015-2016: The HFA years. In fall 2015 I joined the Hillary Clinton campaign as director of digital analytics, helping support the digital advertising, email, and social media programs, using data to make better decisions on how to raise more money, recruit more volunteers and spend our resources as efficiently as possible to talk to the most voters most effectively. During the general election, I was the Deputy Chief Analytics Officer, and oversaw the paid media, fundraising, experimentation teams. I learned the deep challenges of campaign analytics, and the deep joys of campaign families. I was humbled to work in support of Hillary Clinton, and I was heartbroken by the outcome of the election.
- 2017-today: The Facebook years. I joined Facebook to learn about an institution that is so central to the most important societal and technological questions of our day. At Facebook, I have led data science teams that work on products for small businesses, location infrastructure, and the advertising ecosystem across the family of apps. I am a founding organizer of the annual Women in Analytics Conference and data science site lead for FBNY.