AoF 64: The Role of Exec & Expectation Mngt in Data Science w/ Heather Smith

S5_Podcast Artwork Template (2020)_Heather_Smith
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Many companies want to use data to gain a competitive edge in their industries–this can pose a challenge for organizations whose core business is not inherently technical. To make things worst lots of providers and consulting firms push unproven strategies and technical solutions that don’t work. My guest today, Heather Smith is a data leader who has over 15 years of experience in the data science field, including recognition as one of Seattle’s Top 5% of Women Engineers by Women Impact Tech.

As co-founder of Rove Technologies, Heather teaches how to set realistic expectations, when it comes to senior management and why it’s so important. She shares real-world examples of where expectations were set, and unfortunately when they were not. In a more personal tone, she discusses how her female appearance has impacted her professionally. Listen in to hear Heather talk about the role of executive expectation management in data science and how you can start managing expectations correctly!

“No one person’s technical skill is going to make up that gap in technology performance and tool deficits.” [36:13]


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3 Knowledge Bombs

  • [29:54] - Heather on Data Literacy: “Often very smart people including executives, become dumb in the face of data.”
  • [36:41] - Heather on Coding: “If you don’t have the right tools to extract data and work with it, you cannot solve for it programmatically with one person’s knowledge of code.”
  • [53:45] - Heather on Self-care: “I am too busy delivering data science value to spend a lot of time taming my hair."

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • [01:01]  - Transformational Stories and Lessons Learned: The role of executive expectation management in data science
  • [02:05]  - User Expectations: 3 things that you can do to start managing expectations
  • [09:36]  - Heather’s experience as a practitioner of Muay Thai and living at a Muay Thai boxing camp
  • [13:25]  - Heather’s Asian upbringing
  • [16:10]  - Heather’s background in government work
  • [17:10]  - How Heather was recognized by Women Impact Technology
  • [20:09]  - Key Quote: “If someone had told me that I would be building artificial intelligence teams for large companies in 2020, I would have laughed in their face.” –Heather Smith
  • [21:52]  - Why there aren’t enough consultants to support [digital] transformations
  • [23:02]  - Key Quote: “There are people who don’t occupy either of those areas, they’re not technical experts in data and machine learning, nor are they domain area experts, but they will sell you on data solutions that probably don’t meet your needs.” –Heather Smith
  • [24:07]  - The types of companies that Heather works for
  • [26:51]  - The role of executives in data management
  • [32:28]  - A time when Heather experienced an executive with unrealistic expectations
  • [35:03]  - Key Quote: “I cannot tell you how stressful it was early on to have managers looking at you like ‘I thought you knew what you were doing, I thought you were a data scientist, I thought, I thought, I thought.’” –Heather Smith
  • [41:38]  - What role Heather’s project management background played
  • [45:48]  - Whether the team that built the successful model should own the model
  • [49:48]  - The effects that women’s looks have on their professional lives
  • [52:02]  - Key Quote: “I am way too busy thinking about the work I’m doing and if other people are going to minimize my contributions because of what my hair looks like, that’s probably going to eventually become an issue from them from a business perspective.” –Heather Smith
  • [56:06]  - Key Quote: “I have a daughter and I’m going to teach her just to be herself and let other people own their problems.” –Lillian Pearson
  • [57:34]  - 3 things AoF should consider when setting expectations
  • [1:03:31]  - Advice that Heather would give her younger self
  • [1:06:16]  - Who Heather is inspired by
  • [1:07:34]  - The book that Heather would recommend to AoF
  • [1:10:32]  - How AoF can keep in touch with Heather
  • [1:11:25]  - What has Heather on fire right now!
  • Right-click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.

“A lot of the things that have made me successful in delivering data science and machine learning projects was [my] project management acumen.” [42:00]

Links and Resources mentioned in this episode:

  • Heather's article on ethics in AI
  • Heather's recommended reading

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