Rebecca Hyde ‘09 is a data scientist, but you could also call her a storyteller; with Capital One, Kaiser Permanente, and Facebook, Hyde’s work has focused on helping businesses understand trends - the story the data is telling - that could influence big decisions.
Her career path began with a love of math. As an undergraduate at Rice University, she turned her focus to engineering, but soon found herself captivated by statistics.
“I really liked that it was something you could apply to any topic that you’re interested in. At the time I was applying it to engineering concepts, but later on I realized I could apply it to environmental concepts and political concepts. It opened that door,” she said. “Throughout my career I’ve been interested in specific topics, like sustainability or health, but I’ve always kept with statistics. It’s a very flexible skillset.”
After two years as a data analyst at Capital One, Hyde began a master’s program in biostatistics at UC Berkeley. At Kaiser Permanente, Hyde worked on clinical research and academic studies for public health and became interested in how data science could be used to create tools for doctors, such as models to predict if a patient is high-risk. It was at Kaiser where Hyde recognized the potential for her to contribute to this up-and-coming field at the intersection of data science and health science.
“I considered going into medicine, as being a physician is a great example of a role like that. The more I did research, the more I understood that our healthcare system has a lot of behind-the-scenes opportunities that would be a better fit for my interests and skill set,” she said. “I realized that I didn't necessarily need to become a doctor to make an impact in the healthcare field, and the skills I had better equipped me to work on health in a different dimension, which is why I got interested in public health.”
But before taking a deep dive into data and health sciences, Hyde took a detour and accepted a dream job – working at Facebook.
She started as a member of the integrity team, which focused on content moderation and accuracy. In that role she got to travel abroad, where her team visited Facebook content moderators to understand challenges and potential improvements as well as identify what questions they should investigate with data.
“You learn different values in the corporate world (than in academia) – things run a bit more efficiently, there are more goal-orientated tasks, shorter-term tasks, and it’s a faster pace,” she said. “(Working at Facebook) allowed me to focus on skills, rather than content area. The skills you pick up at Facebook are pretty translatable to any industry.”
She has since transitioned to a new role at Facebook focused on health. She supports Facebook’s mental health team by improving access to crisis support hotlines for users experiencing stress, depression, and anxiety, and is starting a project with Instagram to combat COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.
“Facebook is an unusual case of influencing health through technology: using social media as a public health intervention, rather than a medical intervention,” she said. “It’s fun, and I see my career heading in this direction.”
Hyde took one of the school’s first Introduction to Computer Science classes; today, St. Andrew’s received the College Board AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for expanding young women’s access to AP Computer Science Principles for the 2019-2020 school year, helping to close the gender gap in computer science.