Salema Rice enjoys an enviable career. As Allegis Group’s chief data officer, she has global responsibility for building and executing a progressive data and advanced analytics strategy. While Salema spends most of her day mentoring her team in the areas of data management, big data, data sciences, journey analytics, and business intelligence, she is also our problem-solver. She always seeks better methods and processes to ensure that Allegis Group remains a leader in talent solutions innovation.
Those who know Salema describe her as a trustworthy and generous leader who willingly shares expertise, inspires and creates opportunities for those around her, and is an extraordinary contributor. To share what it’s like to work on a team that’s innovating with data to best find the right person for the right opportunity at the right time, we sat down and asked Salema some questions. Here’s how the conversation with this data evangelist and humanitarian went.
Who plays a significant role in your happiness at work and your continued career success?
Salema: I haven’t met many people in my profession who are as passionate about helping others as Allegis Group’s President Andy Hilger. Andy’s passion for our future success is extraordinary. He doesn’t just embrace Allegis Group’s culture; he lives it. I’ve been incredibly fortunate over the course of my career to work with some amazing leaders with hearts as big as mountains. Andy not only gives so much of himself physically and mentally, but he also truly values the infonomics and monetization of our data like no other leader I have ever worked with. He inspires me to want to help Allegis Group keep its position as the global leader in talent solutions for decades to come.
What are you reading right now?
Salema: I’m currently reading “Grit” by Angela Duckworth. I heard Andy and our Chairman Jim Davis reference it last year, and it’s captivating. The premise of the book is that the secret to outstanding achievement is not just talent but a special blend of sincere passion and persistence called “grit.” My best takeaway so far is, “we have to be willing to fail, to be wrong, to start over again with lessons learned.” I’m also reading “All in Startup” by entrepreneur Diana Kander, who recently gave a presentation at a company event. Her book explores how following your intuition will lead to a continuous innovation cycle. Beyond that, my favorite leadership books are written by John Maxwell. I read “The Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” about 20 years ago and fell in love with his writing. His books influenced what kind of leader I wanted to be, which includes knowing how to get along and connect with people, being a change agent who motivates team members to get things done, raising up new leaders, and being intentional about growing my skills at every level.
Which of Allegis Group’s core values (character, competitive spirit, relationships, serving others) is most meaningful to you?
Salema: All of Allegis Group’s core values are meaningful to me, but none stands out more than serving others. When you strive for excellence by serving others, you shift your thinking from “me” to “we.” For example, many years ago in Charlotte, my husband and I participated in a weekly homeless feeding program. I led a service initiative that provided homemade cookies, packaged with a word of encouragement and helpline. This experience, as well as others, opened my eyes to those around me. Suddenly, I discovered opportunities to serve everywhere. I found myself smiling at strangers and saying good morning to everyone I passed. As a family, we started donating our clothes and household and personal items for many causes. I also began to leave short notes for my family and co-workers, thanking them for the great jobs they were doing. The theme of serving others just seemed to permeate all aspects of my life. In fact, my husband and I recently co-founded a non-profit called Compassion’s Way that works to empower and inspire hope to the homeless and underprivileged in our communities through outreach, resource discovery, and feeding programs to help them end their term on the streets.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?
Salema: Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of going to the Côte d'Azur (French Riviera) Monaco, Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Monte Carlo, and Nice, France. I am also second-generation Lebanese, and my grandmother would often share stories about her beautiful homeland of Lebanon before the war. She always compared it to the beauty of the French Riviera. She painted pictures of the white rocks, endless fields of lavender, crystal aquamarine waters, and mountains above the coastal line. While this may no longer be the scene in her beloved hometown, it’s a place for me that will forever be in my heart. So for now, it’s on my bucket list.
What skill would you like to learn and why?
Salema: Data intelligence is the heartbeat of Allegis Group’s digital transformation journey, and we were recently named a 2017 Informatica Innovation Award winner in honor of our organization’s vision, creativity, and leadership in how we’re transforming the business through data. This recognition is a huge honor, and we’re aptly positioned to drive large-scale customer 360 analytics for real-time business insight. That said, the world is ever-changing, so the learning never stops. In the analytics space, I’m fascinated by AI and how it’s changing the data world. For almost three decades, I have been an advisor on how to use data as an asset. AI, combined with machine learning algorithms using natural language understanding, automatic speech recognition, visual search and image recognition, text-to-speech, and even more advanced machine learning technologies, opens up a whole new world in this space. Second, several years ago, I became medication-free after 29 years on 14 medications just by analyzing the foods I was consuming and by using food for medicine. Given the time, I would love to go back to school and get my Ph.D. in integrated naturopathy medicine.
What career advice do you have for people curious about your field of expertise?
Salema: At Allegis Group, we have three critical jobs that are always in high-demand and are very tightly aligned: data engineers, big data architects, and data scientists. If these jobs interest you, look for opportunities that nurture the most valuable skills I look for in new employees, which are curiosity, problem-solving, and a consultative mentality. I’m also inspired by the words of American investor and businessman Thomas Edison, who said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Mistakes are the perfect opportunity to learn, grow, and improve. Embrace the occasion to not only learn from your mistakes but also from the mistakes of others. Take ownership, embrace it, learn the lessons, and move on. Life is too short to live with regrets. Tomorrow is just another day to be better.
[Editor’s Note: Check out our jobs page for a sampling of IS jobs we’re hiring for today!]
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