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Success in data science with technical and business acumen gained at Smith

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Success in data science with technical and business acumen gained at Smith

These questions and answers have been edited and condensed.

What is your job title and where do you work?

I am the Lead Data Scientist at Zoom, a well-known communication platform that allows users to connect via video, audio, phone and chat. I work in San Francisco.

What does a day in your role look like and how do you approach new projects?

My day varies a lot as Zoom is a high growth company. My responsibilities range from scoping projects, communicating with stakeholders, strategizing the design and implementation process for machine learning projects, and delivering end-to-end machine learning models.

On any given day, I can dig into coding a machine learning model and debug and figure out next steps. I also build consensus across cross-functional teams to achieve alignment on how we need to execute to achieve impact. My work involves a lot of data strategy, design and implementation.

Is there anything about your career path that people would find surprising?

I think many people would find it surprising that I perform the work of product manager, data manager and engineer in different parts of the lifecycle of my initiatives. This is because Zoom is unique in providing autonomy and ownership of projects delivered for customer impact.

Tell us about your journey from graduation to your current job.

I started with an internship at NCR, a hardware, software and services company. I was one of the first people there to manage advanced analytics projects. I was involved in everything from complex machine learning tasks like predictive maintenance to business intelligence and engineering. My focus was on learning not only the technical aspects of the job, but also how decisions are made and what organizational structures and culture enable impact. I realized that culture plays a unique role in driving business value, and I wanted to learn more about that journey in Silicon Valley companies. Then I got the offer from Zoom, which was not only Silicon Valley, but high growth. I was hired to help fund machine learning initiatives. However, I soon realized that we needed to invest more in fundamental engineering, stakeholder engagement and business intelligence. That’s what I worked on the most, leading a team that grew from one to seven people. I was then promoted to design my own role within the company and decided to pursue machine learning in the trust and safety space. I created one of Zoom’s first models in the account acquisition space and will now lead retreat initiatives there.

Are you where you thought you would be in your career? what are your goals

I am where I want to be in my career and there is still much to do and learn. I want to be really good at O-to-1 execution for advanced analytics initiatives. A lot goes into creating a system that can be used not only to start, but also to scale machine learning based projects. My goal is to be a driver of value, remove redundancy, create process clarity and help more people do something as complex as machine learning very easily. In an age where we work with the advancement of technology, for example the explosion of LLMs like ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion, we need to be more flexible in accepting big changes in technology that seek to serve us all as users.

What Smith resources or relationships did you use for your career?

During my early days at Smith, a lot of work went into honing good communication skills and presenting myself at interviews. I was pushed to do my best because of the great support system we had. Reviewing CVs, mock interviews, talking to alumni and connecting with their network was very helpful.

How has your Smith education helped you in your career? Were there particular classes, experiential projects, team projects, or internships that were particularly helpful to you?

The Smith School focuses on giving us a more holistic view of the corporate environment. My classes included courses on business transformation, disruptive technology, network effects, and technical concepts like database management, machine learning, etc. I loved my class on building a digital transformation app. We used Yelp’s data to understand which reviews are most relevant to customers and whether we can use social media networks to help consumers make decisions. It was both a big business problem to solve and a technical challenge. We had a lot of fun. Professor Anand Gopal was a rock star. He was a great teacher and ally!

Why did you decide to get a business degree and why did you choose Smith?

I have always believed that technology is a means to an end and the path involves understanding the needs of the business. I wanted to learn what technological connectors tied it all together. Smith allowed me to make the perfect business school trip with a technical lens added to it. It was a great combination where I got to dip my toe into complex math/computer engineering tasks while considering strategy and execution.

What about your personal journey that led to your success?

My personal journey has taught me that small, consistent steps in the right direction lead to success. Also, know what you want, not what others want from you. It’s a tough one that I’m still working on. I live my life guided by my core values ​​and realizing what drives me. I have an amazing partner who supports me on this journey, is a huge source of knowledge and shares my values. I think it’s very important to know who you are at your core and live your life as close to that as possible.

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