Q&A with Renai Bell, Senior Director of Product & Analytics

April 21, 2023

We use analytics to identify the most impactful and cost-effective places to work. Our StreamBank® suite of tools is used to assess watersheds, prioritize restoration actions and monitor benefits over time. By bringing together multiple datasets into one platform, we’re guided to specific places on the landscape to solve the most pressing freshwater issues. We sat down with Renai Bell, TFT’s new senior director of product and analytics, to discuss the evolution of products that support this mission.

What does TFT value in their approach to product development?

TFT approaches development in a collaborative, iterative manner. While we understand fundamentally what needs to be addressed in larger watersheds and river basins, we incrementally build our solutions to ensure they align with specific client and project needs. TFT staff collaborates internally across teams, frequently checks in with clients to ensure we’re solving user problems, and pivots direction as needed.

How did you get into this profession?

I started my career in accounting, but quickly realized my passion was in translating user needs into clearly defined, actionable deliverables that can be most effectively solved with technology. After most of my career working at various large software companies, I was ready to use my experience to contribute to something more meaningful personally.

TFT allows me to apply my leadership and experience to building solutions that change the world in ways that I’m passionate about and truly believe in.

What do you see as unique about TFT’s products?

TFT values a self-organized, team-centric approach. Each project, client, and watershed have a unique set of challenges, so we rely on a data-driven team of scientists to research and build solutions. We’re not building software that makes corporations more efficient and companies more profitable; we’re building tools and creating plans that restore our rivers.

Renai Bell

Is there a difference between a product and a service?

Yes and no. 😊 A product can be an item or a service that serves a customer’s need or want. It can be physical, virtual, or a hybrid of both. Challenging opportunities such as saving entire watersheds often require a multi-faceted approach where technical tools are paired with implementation services to build a cohesive solution.

How do you structure teams to have fun while also producing high-quality work?

Fostering a collaborative, self-organizing structure empowers our Science and Analytics team to creatively approach each new problem in innovative ways. Rather than mandating which team member works on which specific task, the team is encouraged to determine how to turn requirements into functionality that solves real user problems.

Our team is composed of research and data-driven individuals that chose to work at TFT to continue to further our mission and vision while spending time in their chosen focus area.

Tell me about a time when one of TFT’s products brought about a positive result for a water body.

In addition to focusing on individual projects for specific clients, we’ve broadened our focus to create plans to restore entire basins. For example, in Oregon’s Deschutes basin, we’ve used our BasinScout analytics to map the entire river basin to create an outcomes-based approach to address excess nitrogen runoff that impacts native fish. BasinScout identified actions for reducing the runoff from agricultural fields as well as options for modernizing the irrigation infrastructure.

We are bringing these analytics to agency and nonprofit partners that are also working in the basin so that we can combine efforts to build a targeted, actionable strategy.

What are the next steps for growing the technology capacity of TFT?

Our products have come a long way. Several years ago, we introduced basin-wide automated analytics to analyze sediment and nutrient runoff while collaborating with partners in Sacramento. We built on what we learned in the initial product release and expanded capabilities to include opportunities for irrigation supply and drainage efficiencies, working with partners in the Deschutes and Lower Boise. Most recently, we added economic modeling while designing solutions in the Upper Colorado.

Now we are in a unique position to turn several products into scalable solutions that can be applied to entire river basins. With each new client and region, we learn more about the variety of changes we can implement to maximize and scale our impact.

Additionally, we are beginning to leverage these analytics to shift the way conservation funding is allocated so that our impact will be larger by orders of magnitude.

What do you like to do to relax after a long day of work?

I love getting out for a steep hike to reset in nature. I also have a true love of craft beer, so you’ll often find me at local breweries or drinking a beer on top of a mountain. I also recently added a dog to my family (Trout) and we combine my love of beer, dogs, and hiking for epic weekends.

#analytics    #BasinScout    #streambank    #technology