KDnuggets : News : 2005 : n20 : item3 < PREVIOUS | NEXT >


From: Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro
Date: 24 Oct 2005
Subject: Exclusive Interview with Usama Fayyad, Yahoo Chief Data Officer

With this issue I am pleased to resume KDnuggets Interviews with leaders of the data mining field.

Dr. Usama Fayyad is probably familiar to most data miners and KDnuggets readers. He has many outstanding accomplishments, including publishing many significant research papers and several books, co-founding KDD Conferences, ACM SIGKDD data mining society, and Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery journal, leading NASA and Microsoft research on Data Mining, and founding 2 companies (digiMine and DMX Group).

Recently he became Yahoo! Chief Data Officer (the first such title in the industry). Here is Fayyad's bio, which covers his many other achievements.

I first interviewed Usama Fayyad for KDnuggets in 2001. Here is our second interview, which will be presented over 3 issues of KDnuggets.

Question 1. Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro: Congratulations on becoming the Chief Data Officer of Yahoo (first CDO in the industry) - How did you decide on this title and how difficult or easy was it to convince Yahoo ?

Usama Fayyad: Thanks, Gregory. It feels good to be the first in what I have no doubt will be a growing trend in the industry; and it feels especially good because I think it bodes extremely well for our field of work: Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery in Databases -- showing its particular relevance to business and the great achievements of this field over the past decade.

My title was constructed jointly by Yahoo!'s CTO, Zod Nazem, and myself. Chief Data Officer described exactly what the executive team and the company were looking for: someone to lead all strategic data activities and to represent Data as a strategic asset that DRIVES business and that helps lead the company in new directions. I totally believe that most large companies will start appreciating this dynamic and we will see many more companies with this exciting and very much needed position.

What is great about the story of my title is that I did not have to convince Yahoo! that it needed to be created, quite the opposite...

Yahoo! basically approached me saying that they recognized the strategic value of data and wanted Data to have a voice at the executive table. This was a surprise to me as I had spent the last few years building up a business, DMX Group, whose primary objective was to explain the value of data to many CEOs and most senior executives in Fortune 500 companies. The goal was to build a bridge between data and business and to explain that data is a strategic asset, not an IT service.

Hence, Yahoo's executive teams (and founders) were ahead in their thinking and understanding of the value of data; more than any other company I met with. As Yahoo became a client of DMX Group, the relationship grew closer and finally Yahoo! acquired parts of DMX Group that were relevant to Yahoo!'s business (which included myself and a number of other DMX Group employees). Part of the acquisition condition was the ability to spin-off the remaining business of DMX Group and guaranteed that none of the clients or existing projects of DMX Group would be negatively affected.

During the months that I did consulting with Yahoo! while at DMX Group, I also learned a huge lesson: that the Internet and interactive on-line applications are a much larger opportunity than I ever imagined. This felt very much like the "next wave" of data mining, and frankly the next wave of the new generation of business and global commerce. This made it near impossible for me to resist the opportunity to work at Yahoo!, and indeed I marvel at how much I've learned in the past year about the Internet and the advertising businesses.

KDnuggets : News : 2005 : n20 : item3 < PREVIOUS | NEXT >

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