A New Vision for Data

Adding efficiencies and expertise to human resources with data analytics and process improvement.

Julianne Averill
Julianne Averill

Like many of her colleagues, Julianne Averill has forged her own path at STScI. Although she initially joined as a generalist within human resources (HR), she has gone on to create her own specialization as a business analyst to support her colleagues and leadership. Here, she shares how she automates and streamlines processes with the users in mind, and provides essential information to inform hiring managers' decisions.

You are a business analyst within our HR department. What does your role entail?

I work behind the scenes to support my colleagues in HR and leaders across the institute. I routinely ask myself how can I free up their time to do more meaningful projects. For example, I recently helped the benefits and compensation team revamp a paper-based process that used to take a full week to complete. Now, it takes five minutes. It's my passion to create templates and systems that streamline our processes.

I'm also very passionate about data. Some of my favorite questions are: What is my data telling me? What is the story behind it? Data-driven people don't think in black and white. It's exactly the opposite. I'm good at process improvement because of my creative thinking. When I see a problem, I look at every angle. I turn it upside down. That's when my creativity pops in and I start seeing different ways to solve the problem.

You first joined the institute in 2012, but left to work for a few years in California before returning in 2018. Why did you hop coasts twice?

My husband was transferred to California and then back to D.C. a few years later. I'm grateful for the move in some ways because I found my passion for data while I was in California. I was working for a very large organization and was their first hire in the people analytics department. It was a paperless organization, so I had to adapt. After we moved back to Maryland, I was invited back to STScI and I brought all of my excitement about data and process improvement with me. There was so much possibility. Data was more important than ever and process improvement was crucial. These approaches help us find more ways to accommodate our growing numbers of staff and all the complexities that arise in a growing organization.

Can you give us an example of your work?

I've recently been working very closely with our IT department to map, digitize, and improve some of our processes. As a result, a lot of our standard processes, including position requisition requests, leave, and departure, can be completed with streamlined online forms. We implemented these right before we were asked to begin working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Think of all the emails that no longer needed to be sent and tracked! The timing was perfect.

What upcoming challenges are you excited about tackling?

The institute is very passionate about our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and so am I. I want to bring more insights from our data to support and track our progress on these efforts. In the past, it was very time consuming to gather the data, but hiring managers need these insights. I created standard reports and dashboards that can be produced in one click. After running regular reports on our hiring trends, we can already see changes. This is a major team effort that requires commitment from different groups such as our recruiters and hiring managers, and it's paying off, which makes me very proud.

Why do you find your new role so fulfilling?

When I returned to the institute 2018, I was still an HR generalist, but it didn't take long for my managers to realize that I could bring a lot more value by focusing on our analytics. They let me explore, expand, and try new things. I was quickly able to prove how valuable business analytics initiatives are to HR. Leadership recognized the new role I helped create by promoting me. I appreciate that I didn't need to change companies to add new challenges to my work. I was able to create my own challenges. Whenever you think a role is unchallenging, my advice is to think outside the box and create your own opportunities.

Why are you so passionate about your work at STScI?

I am part of a really great team. We're always helping each other. My colleagues trust who I am and what I do. Their trust gives me authority as a project leader, which inspires me to do more and create new projects that support them.

The HR team also always has my back. For example, if my son's school calls and I need to pick him up, I know I can go. My colleagues step in to cover for me, and I routinely do it for them. Overall, the institute has a family-driven culture. My family is everything to me. Being able to have time with my kids is essential. With this position, I'm given flexibility. I can be a mom and be a business analyst. STScI offers a perfect combination.

Article updated March 2022.