Name: Jessica Martone, Ph.D.
Education: BS in Psychology from Santa Clara University; MSW from Loyola University Chicago; PhD in Social Work from Loyola University Chicago
What is your current position(s) and what do you do?: I am the Director of Research and Evaluation at The Mark in Orange County. I currently oversee our STEM education program evaluation and I also work with nonprofit organizations in the community to conduct program evaluation as well as help them build their capacity to conduct their own evaluation. We also do workshops in the community focused on all aspects of evaluation as a way to bring nonprofits together to discuss evaluation and ways to improve data collection and reporting.
What led you to the field of evaluation?: After completing my degree in social work, I had the opportunity to work on an evaluation examining the Illinois Welcoming Centers. I had a chance to spend time in the community and get to know those delivering the programs and overseeing them, as well as those participating. I was able to see and hear first-hand how the community came together to solve a problem and how people were benefiting from the services. Throughout data collection we provided feedback to those who commissioned the evaluation and I was able to see how critical data is to those administering and overseeing programs. Coming from a social work program and many years doing immigration and education research and spending time directly working in communities, working on the Welcoming Center project helped me realize I can blend my passion for working with the community and my love of data. Being an evaluator means I get to help people understand what’s happening with their programs and understand the changes they’re creating in individuals and in the community. I stay in this field because I love using data to help create a shared understanding of performance.
What has been your favorite moment in your career so far?: I’ve had a lot of great moments, but just a couple of weeks ago our company put on a workshop for nonprofit organizations focused on identifying and measuring outcomes. The turnout was great
and I couldn’t have been happier to have so many people in the same room dedicated to finding the best practices for identifying their outcomes and figuring out how to tell their story through data.
What motivates you at work?: I love meeting clients and describing what we do and hearing them say “this is exactly what we need”. Knowing that organizations realize the importance of data and having the evidence to demonstrate their success motivates me to help build their capacity and help them gather the information they need to show their funders and other key stakeholders the impact of their work. When others find meaning in what we do it motivates me to keep going and to innovate so we can find the most effective ways of measuring impact and teaching others to do the same.
If you could give advice to young professionals in evaluation, what would it be?: Get to know as many people as you can and find mentors in the field who can further your professional development and help you find that area you’re most passionate about. Go to conferences and events and network with others, listen to webinars and follow-up with presenters. So many people are excited to share their passion with you, take advantage of those moments. You never know which conversation will open a new door, so be willing to put yourself out there and share what you do and learn from others.
What are your favorite resources for evaluators?: I love the AEA 365 blog, and the newsletters from EvaluATE, Meaningful Evidence, and Equitable Evaluation. I love connecting with other evaluators and sharing tips, tricks, and getting advice.
What do you like to do in your free time?: In my free time I love to try out new restaurants, go salsa dancing, and spend time with family and friends.