Leslie Bradshaw, COO of Guide

#1 – Was there a math teacher, project or lesson that made a big impact on you while in school? What got you interested in math?
First and foremost, my mom sparked my interest in math. She is an accountant by trade and has always made sure I understood how to record, analyze and calculate numbers. I can remember her teaching me about my multiplication tables very early. She also fostered and cultivated my interests in math and science, making sure I had the best teachers, tested out of classes that were too easy for me, and attended summer camps that further challenged me (early memories of attending math and science camp for girls and economics camp are some of my fondest childhood memories).

Beyond my mom, I had a number of teachers who recognized I had an interest and gift in the area; in middle school it was Ms. Liupakka and in high school it was Mr. Eldridge.

#2 – What did you enjoy most about math while in school?
I loved that math was a pure science and based on rules. I also loved long division and doing math problems by hand. The end product, when done correctly, was so rewarding. And it was often times a work of art visually.

#3 – Describe some of the ways in which you use math to do your job. Which math skills are most important to your job? Please give examples.
The number one area I apply math in my daily job is in budgeting. Whether you are managing a project for a client or managing an operating budget for a company, the same rules apply.
As a Chief Operating Officer, I am responsible for overseeing the operating expenses of our company and having a strong command of math is essential.

Another area where I regularly apply my background in math is in the area of business intelligence. This is a catchall category that encompasses everything from tracking mentions of your brand and engagement with your brand, to conversion rates (form leads to closing the business) and what your competitors are doing. Each requires the ability to establish methodologies and algorithms, as well as hypotheses and evidence, to arrive at outcomes that can be turned into actionable insights. I will also add that crunching the numbers is just as important as interpreting them and presenting them in an accessible format (I typically pair well-designed charts with well-written prose).

Lastly, as the co-founder of JESS3, I helped pioneer the use of data-driven storytelling as a marketing and communications strategy. This is a practice that I still use today at Guide and have enjoyed watching it proliferate across dozens of industries, including financial, educational, technology and media / TV. Numbers are no longer just for internal business purposes; they are becoming the fabric of external communications, too.

#4 - What could teachers have done to make math more enjoyable/useful for you while in school?
I want to preface this by saying: I really enjoyed math and the way I was taught it by all of my teachers. Each was different and equally interesting.

That said, I do remember a lot of math problems where I had to calculate the rate at which a swimming pool filled up. As much as I like swimming pools, I can honestly say this is a skill for which I have not found an application in my daily life. I bring this up because I think it could be argued that there is a general "swimming pool" problem with the kinds of examples that are given in school. The more applicable it can be to today's high-tech, real-time and global world, the better.

#5 – If you had the power, how would you change the way math is taught at school?
I would incorporate engineering and computer science into the math curriculum. Widen it to be more of a holistic STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) sort of program. I came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, just as technology was really coming into focus. I am not one to regret anything about my life or education, but if I were to have a regret it would be: I wish my teachers, recognizing my proclivity and passion for math and science, would have steered me into engineering and computer science. Knowing how to code is one of the single (if not the single) most sought after skills in our economy. And it will only become more and more important in the coming decades.

#6 – Anything else that you would like to share.
Something that I read and reread every so often that I want to share with as many students as possible comes from Google's Chief Economist, Hal Varian:
"The ability to take data - to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it's going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades, not only at the professional level but even at the educational level for elementary school kids, for high school kids, for college kids. Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data. So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it."

Knowing how to collect, analyze, interpret and story-tell around data is something that students should be thinking about as they gain math skills and advance through school. Because by 2019, again according to Hal Varian, "...the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I'm joking, but who would've guessed that computer engineers would've been the sexy job of the 1990s?"

Leslie Bradshaw
Phi Beta Kappa, AB ‘04, The University of Chicago
Valedictorian ‘00, Junction City High School

Chief Operating Officer at Guide
Previously: Co-founder, President & COO at JESS3

Leslie Bradshaw is the Chief Operating Officer at Guide, a software company focused on turning online news, social streams and blogs into video. In her role, she is focused on publisher relations, fundraising, marketing, product strategy, talent development and back of house management.

Prior to launching this new venture, Leslie co-founded and served as the President and Chief Operating Officer of JESS3, a creative interactive agency specializing in data visualization and visual storytelling.

During her tenure at JESS3, Leslie helped the company generate revenues north of $13M while building a transnational operations system to coordinate across multiple offices, 30 full time employees and hundreds of contractors worldwide. Growing at a staggering 868 percent in the last three years, Leslie lead the company to No. 430 on the 2012 Inc. 500 and to AdAge “gold” as the Small Agency of the Year for the Southeast Region that same year.

The industry took note of JESS3’s success and attributed much of it to Leslie’s operational leadership and steadfastness. In 2011 she was named one of the top five female executives in the technology industry by Fast Company for being the “operational energy” behind the company’s explosive growth and in 2012, Inc. Magazine named her one of the “Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30”. Beyond that, Mashable listed Leslie one of the 44 Female Entrepreneurs to Know and The Wall Street Journal FINS has recognized Leslie not only as a Top Woman in Tech Under 30 but also the “brains” driving the company forward. At the end of 2012, Leslie was named one of Jane Dough’s 50 Women of the Year.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Chicago, Leslie also is a regular contributor at Forbes