Peloton’s Director of Business Intelligence Talks About Being a New Mom
This is an excerpt from HackerRank’s Moms Who Code initiative. Read all of the interviews.
Helen Park-Wheat originally thought she would be a chartered financial analyst but soon realized it wasn’t for her. She found that she preferred the satisfaction of developing logic that can withstand structural changes as a business intelligence analyst. She joined Peloton almost 4 years ago as their first analyst hire. Helen is now balancing her responsibilities as the company’s director of business intelligence while also adjusting to life as a new mom to her 6-month-old son, Sammy.
1. What was your career journey like and what’s a project from your career that you’re proud of?
I started my career in finance. I wanted to work with numbers, and finance seemed the most appropriate sector at the time. I was studying for the second Chartered Financial Analyst exam and realized that that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I saw a number of friends working at tech companies with more interesting problems to solve, great work perks, and schedules that didn’t require getting into the office before 6 am.
Switching industries was tough. Every analyst position required prior experience and I was unsure about where to acquire the necessary skills. I ultimately landed at a small, 15-person ad tech startup out of Palo Alto, which allowed me a chance to build up some of my technical skills. From there I moved to New York City and eventually began working at Peloton.
I was Peloton’s first analyst hire and when I started, I built the e-commerce event stream that still powers our sales reporting and much of our sales analyses today. That’s a project I’m proud of.
2. What do you enjoy most about being a new mom?
I still very much enjoy working, thinking through tough problems, and adult conversations, but I’ve never looked forward to the end of the work day so much before. I pick my son up after daycare, we ride the subway home, and we just play for 45 minutes before starting his bedtime routine. Having Sammy has forced me to (or at least try to) be better about setting priorities at work so I can be more present at home.
3. Did you face any challenges when returning to work after your maternity leave?
The most difficult part about coming back to work was Sammy’s sleep schedule. That first week was so exhausting but I’ve somehow acclimated to reduced, lower quality sleep and I’ve been managing alright since, despite his sleep regressions.
4. How has Peloton helped you overcome those challenges and how has the company supported you as a working mom?
Flexibility and trust. When I was nine months pregnant and unable to comfortably work in the office, my team was very accommodating and allowed me to work from home all month. Now, when daycare is closed, I shift my work schedule to take care of my son first and catch up on work in the evening.
I’ve worked very hard at Peloton and have built up a reputation during my time here as a diligent worker and subject matter expert on our data models. My team has been so trusting of my judgment and work ethic which has enabled me to find my own ways to push projects forward that might not have been possible had I been at a company that wasn’t as accommodating or flexible when it came to my schedule as a parent.
5. People often struggle to balance their passions for their careers and their responsibilities as a parent. What is the one thing you have adopted to balance both and keep you sane? Do you have any stories where you had to handle both parental and work responsibilities simultaneously and were able to manage both?
My husband and I are good about sharing responsibilities generally, but we do so more formally now that we have Sammy to care for. Our time is not uniquely our own anymore and so spending time with our son and each other requires more planning.
We have landed on my husband taking an extra year for his PhD to allow him a more relaxed timeline to spend more time with our son. This means I’m shouldering the financial burdens of our family another year, but it also means I have additional support from my husband so I can spend more time building out my team and my career at Peloton.
6. HackerRank research has found that women are closing the gender gap in the computer science field and have the in-demand skills that hiring managers are looking for. But, resumes with female-sounding names are less likely to be hired than resumes with male-sounding names even if their resumes are exactly the same. What do you think should be done to change this?
There needs to be multiple methods in order to recruit a more diverse talent pool. On my team, we send out a take-home task before we phone screen, largely to handle the volume of applicants, but it has served to provide insight into whether the candidate could handle the baseline functions of the role regardless of background.