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PayScale VP of Data Analytics Katie Bardaro.

For the past eight years, Katie Bardaro has been working her way up PayScale’s ladder.

Today, she’s vice president of data analytics for the Seattle-based compensation data company.

“In my role, I lead teams responsible for the following areas: structuring, managing, and extracting data from multiple applications; maintaining and improving the health and wealth of our various data assets; creating, implementing and testing new survey questions; and any and all data analysis,” she said.

It’s a full plate but Bardaro still makes family her top priority. That’s possible, she says, because of the high premium PayScale puts on work-life balance.

We caught up with Bardaro for this installment of Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.

Current Location: “Pioneer Square, across from CenturyLink Event Center.”

Computer types: “Microsoft Surface Pro 4 for every day and a heavy duty dev box to deal with large datasets and/or coding.”

Mobile devices: “iPhone 6s.”

Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: “At work, we implemented Slack and it has been a game-changer for communication and collaboration. Redshift powers our data warehouse and it is amazing how cheap it is relative to traditional solutions. We’ve hit a couple of snags, but are overall pretty pleased. I would also say Power BI has come a long way since it was released last year and continues to impress us with the rate at which they release new features and functionality. It still has a ways to go to compete with some of the others in the field, but given their current trajectory, I don’t think it will be that long. Lastly, I would say another game-changing tool in the analytics world is Python. It’s amazing how much is possible utilizing Python nowadays vs. the tools we had when I started out.”

Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “PayScale has an open floor plan in a retrofitted building in Pioneer Square. Open floor plans are great for collaboration, and for staying connected with your team, but can be distracting too. I also have an office that I can use for private meetings, phone calls, and heads down time. However, I love my team and I get energized sitting out on the floor with them and thus spend the majority of my time there.”

Bardaro and her team at a company photo booth.

Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “First, I’m lucky enough that I work at a company that truly believes in work-life balance. This stance has enabled me to be both a successful employee and a successful mom. Sometimes work-life balance is read as code for slacking, but at PayScale we mean we want people to make the most of their hours at work so they can unplug when out of work. Of course, depending on your level or your role, you might need to plug in out of standard work hours, but our management team does the best we can to ensure that isn’t a regular occurrence for our reports. In terms of advice, I think knowing which battles to fight, who to go to bat for, and who to have go to bat for you are the most important things to figure out for how to manage work and life. There is not enough time in the day to do everything, so you need to determine what’s most important and accept you won’t get to everything.”

Bardaro and her son at the Woodland Park Zoo.

Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “Well as a parent, I love sharing cute pictures of my children; especially given the majority of my family lives out of state. This means Instagram and Facebook are my go-to social networks. For work, I have a Twitter account and will share interesting research we’ve done, anecdotes around data and around compensation, or relevant news stories for our industry.”

Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “Given that we are in the throes of 2017 planning, I’d say more than I like. I usually try to get back to people as soon as possible, but time is often too short. I do probably answer emails outside of work more than I should and the reason I’m trying to pull back is I don’t want others to feel they need to take their personal time to then respond to me.”

Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “28. One thing I have learned as I’ve moved up the career ladder is with promotion comes more meeting invites. This is one reason why both choosing your battles and delegation are keys to being a successful manager.”

How do you run meetings? “I’m a strong believer in that every meeting should have an agenda that is sent as part of the meeting invite. If you can’t write an agenda, you’re not ready to have the meeting. Further, just because a meeting is scheduled for an hour, doesn’t mean you need to take the whole hour. If you cover the agenda in 30 mins? Great, let people go about their day. It’s important in meetings to stay on track and table conversations that don’t pertain to the agenda. However, if you say you will follow up later, don’t forget to do so. Finally, I do try to read the body language of people in meetings to determine ways to message things, who to ask for their opinion, and the overall direction of the meeting. Pay attention to your attendees. They can tell you a lot without saying much.”

Everyday work uniform? “Jeans, boots or Chuck Taylors, and sweaters (our office tends to be cold).”

How do you make time for family? “I make family a priority and my company lets me do that. I know not all companies do, but if family is a priority for you, know there are companies out there that share that sentiment. I am there for my kids and husband when it matters most, and although I might miss out on some of the smaller things, they know they can count on me for times that matter. Similar to work, you won’t be able to do everything you want for your family either. When I am with my kids, I do try to completely unplug and focus on them. At times, I might then have to work late, once they are in bed, but to me that is worth it. I’m lucky enough to be in a career and at a company where flex hours and telecommuting are both possible, and expected.”

Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “Spending time with my family, although that sometimes increases stress. I do love to cook when I have the energy. I would also say the Northwest is beautiful and getting out to enjoy it is a goal my family shares. Also, because we all have some couch potato in us, sometimes it’s hard to beat an enthralling show or a good book.”

What are you listening to? “Given the season, I have my Christmas list going (Rat Pack, Kelly Clarkson, Mannheim Steamroller, etc.) In general, I have a pretty eclectic taste in music and it changes day-to-day and mood-to-mood. However, I only really listen to music in the car and not at work since it distracts me rather than blocking out distractions.”

Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “New York Times, The Economist, Slate, articles those close to me, and whose opinions I value, share on their social channels.”

Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “Just finished ‘Girl on the Train’ and am searching for a new thriller. I would say most of my ‘book’ reading is to my kids. I love Sandra Boynton books – they are the kind of books that are fun to read to toddlers and toddlers seem to love.”

Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? “Definitely early riser. The nice thing about being an early riser is my kids are too, so we get to spend some quality time together before we have to head into work and school/daycare.”

Where do you get your best ideas? “There are three sources for my best ideas: inward retrospection, discussions with my husband (who leads a data science team), and collaborative strategy sessions with my amazing team. I’m a strong believer in collaboration and borrowing expertise and experience from those who have it. We are stronger as a team than we are as individuals and we all can learn something from others. I think listening is often an undervalued skill that can lead to some pretty amazing results.”

Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “I can’t think of any one person, but I would say leaders who believe in surrounding themselves with smart people who know more than they themselves do and then trust these people to do their job. I think a leader that always tries to be the best or the know-it-all is missing the mark. We are only as good as our team and to be successful, you need to hire people you can trust, depend on, learn from, and teach. It should be a reciprocal relationship where you both give and get so you can both grow.”

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