Where do you work, and what do you do there?
I work as a Lead Data Scientist for Zoom, a popular platform for real-time video, audio, phone, and text-based communication. As for me, I find my livelihood in the Bay Area.
Describe a typical day on the job and how you tackle unfamiliar projects.
As a result of Zoom’s rapid expansion, no two days are ever the same. Project scoping, stakeholder communication, strategy development for machine learning project designs and implementations, and final model delivery are all part of my purview.
It’s not uncommon for me to spend a full day coding, debugging, and planning the next steps of a machine learning model. In addition, I facilitate agreement among multidisciplinary groups so that we can all work together towards a common goal of impactful execution. The strategy, design, and implementation of data-driven projects are central to my work.
Is there a particular aspect of your work experience that might shock an outsider?
A lot of people would be surprised to learn that I serve as product manager, data leader, and engineer at various points in the lifecycle of my initiatives. That’s because Zoom is the only service of its kind that gives its users complete control and responsibility for the results of their projects on end-users.
Describe the steps you took to get from college graduation to your current position.
NCR is a hardware, software, and services company where I got my start as an intern. When I joined, I was one of the first people to take charge of analytics initiatives. I worked on everything from business intelligence and engineering to business-critical machine learning tasks like predictive maintenance. I made it a point to study not only the practical aspects of my position, but also the decision-making process and the organisational norms and values that facilitate having an effect. I was curious about the journey that Silicon Valley businesses take to cultivate a culture that drives value. It was then that I received an offer from Zoom, which not only had a presence in Silicon Valley but also promised rapid expansion. My role is to assist with the financial aspects of machine learning projects. But I quickly saw that we needed to put more resources into basic engineering, stakeholder interaction, and BI. I focused most of my efforts there, eventually leading a group of seven people. After that, I was given the freedom to create my own position within the company, and I chose to focus on applying machine learning to the trust and safety domain. I’ll be leading churn efforts in the account takeover space, where I built one of Zoom’s first models.
Where do you stand professionally in comparison to where you envisioned yourself? Where do you want to go?
In terms of my career, I am exactly where I want to be, and there is still so much more for me to learn. I’d like to master O-to-1 execution for complex analytics projects. It takes significant effort to develop a framework that can be used to launch and scale machine learning-based initiatives. Being a value driver for me means cutting out unnecessary steps, simplifying the workflow, and making it possible for more people to put into practise a concept as difficult as machine learning. We need to be more nimble in adopting major shifts in technology that aim to serve all of us as consumers in this day and age, such as the explosion of LLMs like ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion.
Where did you use Smith’s facilities or connections to your advantage professionally?
I spent a lot of time in my first years at Smith working on my interview and communication skills. Having such a strong group behind us really pushed me to succeed. They found great value in having their resumes reviewed, participating in practise interviews, talking to former students, and joining their professional network.
How has your time at Smith impacted your professional life? Have you found any courses, practical experiences, group assignments, or internships to be particularly instructive?
A more well-rounded understanding of the business world was a primary goal of our time at the Smith School. Topics covered in my education included database management, machine learning, and other technical concepts as well as business transformation, disruption technology, and network effects. Creating a digitally transformative app was a fascinating topic in my digital transformation app development course. We used Yelp’s data to learn which types of reviews matter most to consumers and whether or not we could use social media to improve consumers’ ability to make informed choices. Aside from being a fascinating case of business challenge, it also presented some interesting technical difficulties. Fun was had by all. Anand Gopal, Professor, was a big deal. He was an excellent mentor and friend.
When thinking about your options, what made you pick Smith for your business degree?
To me, understanding business needs has always been the starting point for applying technology effectively. Specifically, I was interested in discovering what technological glue holds everything together. Smith provided me with the ideal business school experience, enhanced by a technical perspective. It was a great mix because I was able to test the waters of mathematically and computer-engineering-focused tasks while also exercising my strategic and operational brain.
Why do you think you’ve been so successful?
To achieve goals, I’ve found that it’s best to take baby steps consistently in the right direction. Similarly, focus on your own needs rather than those of others. I’m still grappling with that one, and it’s a doozy. I am guided by my deepest convictions and am always conscious of what motivates me. My partner is fantastic; they encourage me on my quest, are a wealth of information, and share my core values. Knowing who you are at your core and living in alignment with that is, in my opinion, vitally important.