I had a very privileged path to data science starting from childhood with two loving, highly educated parents who surrounded me with books and imbued me with a passion for math, science, computers, literature, music, and foreign languages.
I studied computer science and math at MIT and went on to complete a Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University. At CMU, I originally planned to work on optimizing shared-ride transportation, but ended up working on
After all of those years in school, I realized I wasn't cut out for a career in academia. At the time, my only industry experience was having a few research internships at IBM Research and Bell Labs. After finishing my Ph.D., I worked for a few months at a small consulting firm, getting my first taste of a non-academic, non-research job. To my pleasant surprise, I found that I enjoyed industry far more than academia.
My lucky break came in 1999. That's when the co-founders ofcold-called me and enlisted me on the founding team as chief scientist. I spent ten years there, helping develop technology that revolutionized search, especially for e-commerce.
In late 2009, I went to Google, leading a team to improve local search quality. I learned a lot, but it.
So when LinkedIn reached out to me in late 2010 with the opportunity to lead and build a data science team, it was an offer I couldn't refuse. I initially led the, working on a variety of data products across the business. Then, in the spring of 2013, I transferred to engineering, where I created a team focused on . I left LinkedIn in mid-2015, my last act there being to help LinkedIn run the .
The past year and a half has been an interesting adventure. I spent several months as CTO of a healthcare startup, but I ultimately decided that the role wasn't for me. Meanwhile, I found my groove as an advisor and consultant, even as I pursue my own projects. It's hard to juggle so many commitments, but I'm enjoying the work.
What are the most important lessons I've learned along the way?
- Self-worth isn't a zero-sum game. I was at the top of my class in high school. But one week at MIT convinced me that I'd be lucky to make it to graduation, let alone be top-ranked in anything. That first week taught me to stop defining my self-worth by comparing myself to others.
- My one day/one week/one month rule. I expect to be happy most of the time. If I have a bad day, I try to get a good night's sleep and shake it off. If I'm unhappy for a week, I reflect and try to course-correct. But if I'm unhappy for a month, there's a real problem and I prioritize fixing it.
- Interesting problems are friends for life. I've worked on search for nearly two decades, and I find it just as interesting today as when I started, despite all the progress the field has made. I have problems I've obsessed over since college. When I discover a good problem, I keep it forever.
- Integrity pays off. I've always tried to act with integrity, even when it could have cost me my job. I've taken some short-term losses, but I believe that my reputation for integrity has been critical to my long-term success.
Finally, assaid, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it."
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