Path to power
I am already on to my second career in life. My first started when I was about 13-years-old and I wondered why the stars twinkled at night. It ultimately led me to a PhD in Astrophysics, followed by four years working as a post-doctoral scientist and as a “Hubble astronomer”. In the latter role, I worked on scientific applications of vast amounts of observational data from the Hubble telescope, which was fascinating.
Still, I had an urge to move on and came to the UK to do an MBA at Cranfield School of Management. There, I met my business partner, Jason Muller, who has a recruitment background. Together, we started Pivigo, a data science marketplace and training provider. Pivigo has been around for almost five years now and evolved into the market-leading position it is in by constant iteration and a relentless focus on giving our customers what they want.
My path to this position has not been straightforward or easy, but, looking back now, it all makes perfect sense.
What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?
I have one special highlight every year which is the graduation dinner for the S2DS London programme in early September. I have had the privilege of seeing nearly 400 fresh-faced and shy academics start our programme in August, only to graduate five weeks later as confident and excited data scientists. It is incredibly rewarding to have a small part in their transitions and the continued success we see when we track their careers. The smiling faces, the thank yous, and the great big party we have that night makes the whole rest of the year worth the hard work.
What do you expect 2018 to be like for the data and analytics industry?
I saw a slight reluctance to invest in data science, AI and innovation at the end of 2017, possibly due to uncertainties in world and national, politics. I hope that this will not affect investments in 2018. There is still a great deal of excitement and interest in the industry, especially related to AI applications, and I expect more companies will push for AI investments.
Adjacent to AI, developments to keep an eye on are blockchain and augmented reality (AR). Will the Bitcoin bubble burst or turn into an established industry in 2018? And how will the advances in AR from Oculus, Microsoft and Magic Leap affect the data industry? These sectors are symbiotic with the data industry and with the general mood around tech innovation.
So - why did you choose data?
Numbers have fascinated me ever since my mother taught me about negative numbers on the back of an envelope when I was ten years old. My first career, as a scientist, was all about numbers, so it made sense to have some a connection with data.
When I started reading up on data science, I quickly came to feel in awe of the enormous potential in better use of data. Now, I am a passionate believer that data science will revolutionise everything - how we work, live and pass our time. Why would you not want to be part of that?
What is the best thing about working in the data industry?
Data is going to revolutionise everything. Internet of things, self-driving cars and personalised medicine are just three areas that will change our lives for the better. The best thing is knowing that our work contributes to that - our work will ultimately lead to saved lives and better living standards for all.
If you were granted one wish to change something about the data industry, what would it be?
I would normally answer something regarding the willingness of decision-makers to invest in data, but given recent debates I would highlight the need for better diversity in our industry. O’Reilly’s annual survey claims circa 20% of individuals in data science roles are female, and only 10% of publications to the latest NIPS conference came from female authors. The industry also does poorly on other diversity scores. This is not acceptable and leads to lower quality, potentially biased solutions. If I could change one thing, it would be to increase diversity and inclusivity in the data work force.
What advice would you give to somebody thinking of a career in this sector?
Do not hesitate, go for it! It is an incredibly rewarding career, with plenty of opportunity to develop a career, earn a good living, be part of a community, continue to learn and grow, try new challenges, and make a real impact on society.