Friday, June 16, 2023
Season 2, Episode 12:
Community Tracking with The Data Bounty Hunter
In this episode, we are talking with Princess Jennings also known as The Data Bounty Hunter about what it takes to track down and collect data with the community.
Season 2, Episode 12: Community Tracking with The Data Bounty Hunter
Welcome to the Public Health Joy podcast, the safe space for real and honest conversation about what building a public health research career is really like: the challenges, the triumphs, and all the lessons we learn along the way.
I’m your host, Dr. Joyee, a Public health researcher, PhD survivor, and entrepreneur. In today’s episode, we are talking with Princess Jennings also known as The Data Bounty Hunter about what it takes to track down and collect data with the community.
This is where research meets relationship and together, we will find our Public Health Joy!
Princess Jennings, a native of Meridian, MS, laid roots in Birmingham, AL where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has called Birmingham home for over 17 years.
As the founder and owner of Community Tracking Services, Princess has upheld her mission to provide businesses and grant recipients with the required research data for their organizations. As a growing independent contractor, Princess has built a strong team to meet the region’s needs.
As the CEO she has had the opportunity to work directly with prominent organizations, including UAB’s School of Medicine, Psychiatry and Substance Abuse Division. She has also taken the initiative to gain experience with the Government Performance and Results ACT (GPRA) which encourages agencies to produce strategic and performance plans, as well as conduct gap analyses for projects to be compliant.
To connect with Princess and Community Tracking Services, visit: https://www.communitytrackingservices.com/
For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit https://joyeewashington.com
1:50 What is community tracking services and what does it do?
4:05 The importance of building rapport with clients.
8:25 The importance of building a cohesive team.
12:22 Getting from criminal justice to community tracking services.
17:04 The importance of mentors and networking.
19:41 How do you find a mentor?
25:41 What brings you joy in your work?
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[0:00:51] JW: Welcome to another great episode of The Public Health Joy Podcast. Today, we have a special guest, because number one, this guest already has my heart because this guest is from Mississippi. But you know, anybody from Mississippi has my heart. Today, we have Princess Jennings. who is a native of Meridian, Mississippi, and has roots in Birmingham, Alabama. Princess, you obtained your Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, right?
[0:01:23] PJ: Yes, I did from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
[0:01:27] JW: All right. Awesome. I have special ties to Birmingham, Alabama, it was right next door. The other cool thing about Princess is that you are the founder and owner of Community Tracking Services, right?
[0:01:43] PJ: Yes, ma’am, I am.
[0:01:43] JW: Okay. What is Community Tracking Services? Tell us a little bit about what that company is.
[0:01:50] PJ: Community Tracking Services is a qualitative research company. We provide data collection services for researchers, grant recipients and businesses. What we do is go out and collect the hard-to-find data that researchers and grant recipients don’t have the capacity to do. We call ourselves the data bounty hunter. The reason we call ourselves the data bounty hunter is, you know how bounty hunters go out into the community to find criminals. What we do is go out in the community to find data. That data can be in hospitals, jails, prisons, treatment centers. My team go out in the community to collect that data, and bring it back to researchers to do what they need to do with it. That’s why we are known as the data bounty hunter. We are literally the feet in the street for data.
[0:02:46] JW: Let me tell you, the first time where you came across my LinkedIn, and I saw the data bounty hunter, I was like, “Oh, I got to know who this person is. I got to know who this person is.” Because number one, the data bounty hunter just sounds like a really cool name. I’m like, “Who is this person?” I need that person in my life. You’re right, we are literally hunting down data a lot of the times as researchers. If you have done research, you know how hard it is to track that data down. When we’re talking about community members, and getting them engaged in the data, and collecting that data with them is hard. There are several challenges when it comes to collecting that data and tracking it down.
I know in my experience, I’ve had several challenges, and one of the things that comes to mind in particular is that a lot of people who do research, they say, “Oh, we’re going to go collect this data within the community.” They get to that point where you might have a community member that says, “Yes, I will complete that form” or “I will complete that survey.” But then you have to actually get them to complete the survey.
[0:04:05] PJ: Yes, and it can be very difficult. But what we pride ourselves with is building rapport with our clients. When I say, our clients that can be the person who you’re collecting that data from, we specialize in collecting data from transient population that can be homeless people, substance abuse users. That can be very difficult to collect data from that population. With us being – what makes my company very special is, we’re mobile. We door knock, and that can be very difficult as well. You have to build rapport with those people.
When I hire, I hire diverse population. They are very relatable to some of these people because they don’t mind sharing their stories and their background. That make us very unique with this population, so that helped us build rapport with these clients.
[0:05:03] JW: Yes. That is something that I talk about all the time in my work, but that building relationship.
[0:05:09] PJ: Mm-hmm. Very important. Very important.
[0:05:11] JW: Yes. Building that relationship, because our research is number one nothing without the community, of course. That trust is so valuable, is priceless when you have that trust, and you are doing research, or you are collecting data. The other thing that I love about what you said is that you’re mobile, you’re able to go where the people are, and meet them where they are. In addition to building those healthy relationships, building that trust, building that engagement, you’re also being able to go to them.
[0:05:49] PJ: Yes, and a lot of the participants in the programs that we work with, they don’t have transportation. Being able to, like you said, meet them where they are, that’s very huge to provide my clients, and researchers, and project managers the data that they need to reach the required goals of the projects that they’re working on.
[0:06:08] JW: Yes. What are some of the other challenges that you will face as a data bounty hunter? What are some of those things that come across that? We might not usually think about it, especially if you’re not familiar with research. Because I can think of some, but I don’t consider myself a data bounty hunter. We want to hear from the data bounty hunter, what are some of those challenges that you think are relevant to data collection in hunting down the data?
[0:06:39] PJ: Well, a lot of the challenges we have is, I’ll just – with some of the projects that we work with, our clients, we work a lot with substance abuse. Because my background is with the social and behavioral health side. These clients, they lack a lot of resources, just having cell phones and things of that nature, even having a place to live. We lose a lot of contact informations. We have to literally use our resources. Social media is very helpful for us when it comes to locating clients. So just not having contact information for our clients. So we have to look on jail databases. A lot of our clients go back into the jail, so we have to just – for lack of better words, put our heads together to piece the puzzle together to realize where somebody’s transient clients can be.
[0:07:31] JW: It sounds like it really takes a team, right?
[0:07:34] PJ: Yes. I always say my team is the best part of CTS. Without them, there’s no CTS. My team makes me better.
[0:07:43] JW: We talk about building relationships with the clients, with the community. But if you don’t have a cohesive team, with your research team, the people who you work with, your peers, your colleagues, the research assistants, the research coordinator, the data collectors, your research is bound to fall apart.
[0:08:03] PJ: Definitely.
[0:08:04] JW: You have to make sure that everyone is on the same page. It takes time to build those relationships with your team members, as well. So just a follow up, quick follow up question. Because your team is the best, how do you continue to develop a lot of those relationships with your team?
[0:08:25] PJ: Well, with my team, I am very transparent. With my team, I listened to them. I also tell them how much I appreciate them, and I asked them, “What do you need? What do you need from me?” That’s one thing that they will always tell you, “Is she checking in?” I have an open-door policy and there’s no leader in me if that makes sense. It’s always us as a team. I don’t say, “I’m the boss. I’m the leader.” It’s, “My team member this.” My team that us as a team. I don’t separate myself as I’m the boss, I’m the leader. It’s one band, one sound when it comes to Community Tracking Services. I think that that’s what makes us better. It’s us as a whole. I don’t lead as I’m the boss, and you’re my staff. It’s us as a whole. I think that’s what make us better.
[0:09:16] JW: I love that. Because immediately when you started talking, I started thinking about, “Oh, that’s leadership.” Then you said, “Well, I’m not the leader.” I was like, “Oh.” But then when you started talking, I was like, “Is this how I visualize, is horizontal.” Right? A lot of times we think about leadership and what it looks like to be a CEO, or be an owner, or have staff, and it’s from the top down. This more vertical approach, this hierarchy. I love the way that you’re approaching your business with your employees and your staff is everybody’s a leader. Everybody can lead in their own capacity, and contribute to the team, and make everyone better, and that one band one sound. We work collectively.
[0:10:00] PJ: Yes. Although I can do everything within my business, I still need them to run the business as a whole.
[0:10:07] JW: Oh, yes. I know that feeling because I have recently gone from the solopreneur life, to having some extra hands, and some folks to help me out. It makes so much of a difference.
[0:10:20] PJ: It really does.
[0:10:21] JW: When you have people who you can trust, one who will show up, show up like you show up.
[0:10:29] PJ: Indeed.
[0:10:29] JW: It makes a true difference, especially in how we go out into the community, and you know you have someone right beside you who will serve in the way that you serve, or it may serve better than you. I love how a lot of times and I’ve experienced this in research teams that I’ve served on as well, but how we can learn from each other. Just because you are the CEO, or you’re the director, or you’re the administrator does not mean that you cannot learn from the other staff or other people on your team.
[0:11:03] PJ: Well, I had someone once tell me before, you have people smarter than you, and that’s how your business grow.
[0:11:10] JW: That’s a word. That is a word. Because when you have people who especially have different skills than you, have different knowledge set than you, can do different things than you, it can only make things better.
[0:11:26] PJ: Exactly.
[0:11:28] JW: Yes. I think I’m just speaking from my experience in society, and in the workplace. We often think of things as being so competitive. Like I have to compete with the person in the next cubicle, or I have to compete with the person in the next department. What happens when we start thinking about it from a more collaborative approach? What would that look like? How much more can we get done? How much better can we serve when we start approaching it that way?
[0:11:58] PJ: Exactly.
[0:11:59] JW: In thinking about Community Tracking Services, and the work that you all do, and also thinking about your path, because you started out in criminal justice, right? How did you get from criminal justice to Community Tracking Services? What did that look? What is that journey? I’m curious, what did that journey look like?
[0:12:22] PJ: Man. I started out as a researcher, interviewer, which most of my staff, that’s their title. The project manager came to me and said, “How would you like to make more money and save me money? Make more money, and save you money, and you can also work from home.” Sign me up, it was my words. Sign me up. What I did was resign my position and become a contractor. I did that, and continued to do exactly what I was doing as a researcher interviewer.
Months later, he said, “Have you ever thought about starting your own business?” I was like, “Starting my own business? I can’t do that. That was never in the plan.” He was like, “You’re excellent at what you do, and your services are needed everywhere. Why not start your own business? I’ll help you guide you along the way because you’re good at what you do. Anytime we have more contracts and work like this, we’re continue to bring you on and your business will continue to grow.” I was like, “Okay, hell yeah. I’ll do this.” That’s how Community Tracking Services was born.
[0:13:29] JW: Every time I hear your story, I’m just like, “What if we have more people like that?” Who can see our talents, see our skills, and help us get where we want to be, get where we need to go, and see a vision for us that sometimes we don’t see for ourselves. Because that’s what I hear, somebody saw a vision for you that you didn’t even know was there, and then you were able to lean into it.
[0:13:59] PJ: And I’m so thankful. I am so thankful because of that, here we are, and I’m able to help so many people. The thing is, I always knew I wanted to be in criminal justice, and I always knew I wanted to be on the social and behavioral health side. I just didn’t know what that looked like. To be honest and transparent, the reason I wanted to be on the criminal justice side is because my mom went to prison when I was five years old due to a drug charge. I knew I wanted to be in criminal justice, and on that side because of those social factors, and the things that happened to me when I was younger, but I didn’t know what it looked like. When that was presented to me as a researcher, interviewer, it just made sense. I took what I was doing then, and my baby was born, and here we are.
[0:14:55] JW: It’s crazy how – there are so many things, so many seeds that are planted in our lives, even from when we’re children, and we can’t ever make sense of it. We can’t ever figure out how do we tie everything together. Because I know for me, one of the things that I always wanted to be, I always wanted to be a doctor. I just wanted to be a doctor. I would always watch, I don’t know if you remember this, I might be showing my age. But there was a show called Trauma Life in the ER.
[0:15:25] PJ: Oh, yes, I remember that. Me and my grandmother used to watch it.
[0:15:29] JW: Yes, it was like reality TV before we really had reality TV. I would always see trauma life in the ER, and how I’ll be like, “Oh, I want to do that. I want to make that help.” I just realized, the older I got, I went to get my biology degree, I was pre-med, I was like, “I’m going to be a trauma surgeon.” The older I got, the more squeamish I get, and the whole blood thing was not happening for me. I’m like, “I don’t know what I can do, how I can still contribute to health, or healthcare, or whatever, and still work out my dreams? How do I make this happen? But in the end, I still got to be a doctor.” As my mother would say, you are still a trauma surgeon, because there’s plenty of trauma in public health.
It’s all about how you look at it, and how you lean into your dreams, and lean into your visions. Don’t forget about those things that fueled you when you first started, even when you were young. Even those passions from when you were young, those things that you care about, those things that will lead you, and guide you, and motivate you. Because that’s true motivation when –
[0:16:39] PJ: Exactly.
[0:16:40] JW: It’s home and it’s personal to you. Let’s talk a little bit about lessons. Because I know, especially for me, as an entrepreneur, I have learned lots of lessons on this journey. Because I know I came into the entrepreneurial space, I know nothing about running a business.
[0:17:04] PJ: Yes. I will say this, because I started a business. With business, I had to learn a whole lot, because most people start a business and I had to go look for business. Because I started a business with business, it was like my – what is it? Cart before the horse or heart before the court. One of those sayings. I had to learn a lot of things. But networking, like we said, building relationships, that helped me a whole lot. If I could tell people, something from my journey, get a mentor, get a mentor, get a mentor, and also start building relationships, and networking. That is huge.
[0:17:46] JW: It sounds like I’m listening to myself, because I tell people the same thing all the time. If you have a mentor who can guide you through everything, including starting a – because starting a business, and running a successful business are two totally different things. You need to have a mentor, and a lot of times, our mentors can be different people. They can come into play in different seasons.
[0:18:14] PJ: And they don’t even have to be in your field.
[0:18:17] JW: Yes, absolutely. They do not have to be in your field. They don’t necessarily have to know anything about public health, or research, or whatever it is that you’re doing, as long as they know the foundations and fundamentals of what it takes to start, run, and grow a business. Because we don’t want to see businesses, especially in public health, because the public health entrepreneur space is, I feel like taking off now. I’m starting to see more people doing it. You want to make sure that you have somebody who can show you how to create a business that’s going to thrive. Lord knows, there’s enough out here, there’s enough problems out here, there’s enough for everybody to have their own public health business, but we need more mentors. We are only going to be able to find that mentor by networking and building those relationships.
If I’m networking with you, and you’re networking with me, and I’ve got 10 people over here who could be potential clients for you, that could be business for you. In thinking about what does it take to build those professional relationships, and what does it take to network, and where do you even find a mentor? Do you have any suggestion, any strategies that you’ve used that you can drop on this?
[0:19:41] PJ: Networking can help you find a mentor, and that’s my biggest thing that I will say is networking can help you find a mentor because it’s not going to always be within your circle. Because when you start a business, you lose friends. That’s one thing I will stress. When you have a business, your social life vanish sometimes. One of my favorite quotes is, great things happen outside of your comfort zone. You got to get uncomfortable sometimes to experience greatness. Networking can help you find a mentor and just ask for what you want.
[0:20:18] JW: Close mouths don’t get feed.
[0:20:20] PJ: They don’t.
[0:20:21] JW: Thinking about your work in Community Tracking Services, if you could change anything about your path, do you think you would change anything?
[0:20:31] PJ: If I could change anything about my path, it will be asking for help earlier. I have an issue with trusting people. That’s just from my past growing up. I did a lot of stuff on my own when I could have expert help earlier, but that was just because I have trust issues. I would say, expert help earlier on. I didn’t get an administrative assistant until like three years ago. I didn’t realize how much I did until then. I was like, “Oh, shit. Oh, shit.” That’s all I can say, was because I did a lot when I didn’t have to do a lot. If all I would have did was just ask for help. But number one, finances was a reason. And number two, I just didn’t trust. So delegate. If there are things that you can delegate and get someone else to do, let it go, you got to let it go.
I’m very big on mental health and my team can tell you this. I believe in mental health days. I believe in mental health days. I tell them this, if there’s a week that you can’t do something, or there’s a day that you can’t do something, all you have to do is tell me. You can reach me by email, you can reach me by text, you can reach me by phone. If the day is just not a good day, for instance, can I pass my list over to somebody else, and they make phone calls to me, because the day is just not the day, and I’m okay with it. That’s how I run my company, and that’s how I expect for them to communicate with me because I am very big on communication, because I have an open-door policy. So I have an issue if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do, because I have an open-door policy. So your mental health is very, very important to me. I know a lot of companies don’t.
I run my company how I wish people would have when I was working for them. That’s something that I like to stress when people say, “What would you like to tell people when they’re starting out as a business?” Take care of your mental health first, because other people are not going to do that for you. You can control the things that you can control because there’s a lot of things out here that we can’t control.
[0:22:42] JW: There are two points that I want to make. Number one, delegation. Oh, that’s CEO behavior. Because I know I learned the same lesson. I recently got a virtual assistant as well, and I’m like –
[0:22:56] PJ: Life is great, huh?
[0:22:59] JW: I literally, I live with it. Today, I’m like, I’m really trying not to fall in love with my virtual assistant. Because I’m like, I do not know. I’m like, “How have I been getting by? How have I been getting by these last three years doing everything by myself?” This made no sense.
[0:23:17] PJ: Stressed out.
[0:23:18] JW: I’m like, I’ve been overwhelmed for no reason, and it’s like magic.
[0:23:23] PJ: That’s why I say, ask for help.
[0:23:25] JW: I’m like, I should have done this a long – like you, I was like, “I can’t, I can’t afford. I can’t afford a virtual assistant.”
[0:23:32] PJ: Then I realized, we budget for everything else. My assistant asked me, “How much of your time did I give you back?” A hundred percent.
[0:23:39] JW: Baby, all my time. I was like, I have time to make dinner again. I have been stressing over just preparing meals for my family, and I got an assistant, and I had time to do it now.
[0:23:53] PJ: Yes, it’s huge.
[0:23:54] JW: Mind blowing. Then, talking about taking care of your mental health. Number one, we can’t serve our communities if we’re burned out.
[0:24:04] PJ: Right. You can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s impossible. It’s impossible.
[0:24:10] JW: Thinking about that mental health piece, and like you said, having the workplace that I wish I would have had is so important. That’s so transformative to say, “Oh, this is how it could have been. This is what I wanted to look like for my team. Because I don’t want people to feel like I felt when I was in a toxic workplace environment.” In bridging the two things about delegation and mental health, I even had my assistant – my assistant is tasked with asking me, what did you do for self-care this week?
[0:24:47] PJ: I need to add that. I like that.
[0:24:49] JW: Add that so they’re like, “What did you do for self-care?” Now I’m accountable for myself, like I’m accountable to everybody else, for everything else on the deadline. I need to be accountable for myself. I need to make sure that I am taking care of myself each week. That delegation and self-care, that is CEO behavior. Because I’m like, when I think about it, I’m like, Oprah ain’t doing all this stuff by herself. I’m like, Oprah has all the hands, all the hands helping her do everything. I’m like, sometimes I’d ask [inaudible 0:25:25] what Oprah be doing. No, okay, we need to hand it off to somebody else. Well, we are going to get ready to start wrapping up, but I have one last question for you. That question is, what brings you joy in your work?
[0:25:41] PJ: I have a lot of joy in my work. Like knowing that what we do is helping those in need, like I said, a lot of my work is with those that are what society will call disadvantaged. Sometimes those people just need a helping hand. I like knowing that the data that we’re collecting and providing to the research are providing a help and hand for others. Like getting housing, getting treatment, getting bus tokens, getting clothing for kids and mothers, and getting families back together, and things of that nature. I like knowing that it’s for the betters of others. That’s what I like.
[0:26:28] JW: Yes. Amazing. I love that. For those who are listening, if they wanted to get in touch with you or know more about Community Tracking Services, how can they get in touch?
[0:26:39] PJ: You can go to our website, which is www.communitytrackingservices.com. We’re also on LinkedIn. You can find me at Princess Jennings on LinkedIn. We have a business page, which is Community Tracking Services. I am also on Facebook at Community Tracking Services. I’m also on Instagram at Community Tracking Services.
[0:27:04] JW: Okay. Well, thank you so much for coming on The Public Health Joy Podcast and sharing your story. This was another amazing episode, and this is one to wrap up our conversation.
[0:27:17] PJ: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
[0:27:21] JW: I am so grateful for this time we got to spend together. If you enjoyed this episode, I need you to subscribe, rate, and leave a review. For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit www.joyeewashington.com. This is where research meets relationship. I’ll see you next time on The Public Health Joy Podcast.
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