Interview: Beena Ammanath, GE on Data Science – It’s Not Just Science!

We discuss benefits and challenges of Data Lake, trends, life lessons, motivation, desired skills, and more.

Beena-AmmanathBeena Ammanath is Executive Director for Data and Analytics at GE. She works across the GE businesses to drive analytics development leveraging big data technologies. During her time at GE, she has built an innovative team of big data engineers and data analysts, focused on delivering scalable business outcomes. She is passionate about data and analytics to aid cross functional teams to derive data insights, aid teams in articulating questions they did not know they had and help view data in more effective ways.

Beena has over 23 years’ experience in the data arena with a number of international organizations including British Telecom, E*trade, Thomson Reuters and Silicon Valley startups in engineering and management positions. She holds a Masters in Computer Science and MBA in Finance.

First part of interview

Here is second and last part of my interview with her:

Anmol Rajpurohit: Q4. What are the major challenges in building and maintaining an industry-grade DataLake?

Beena Ammanath Historically, you think about solving things through traditional data warehousing concepts and business intelligence, but with this push of IoT, or the industrial internet, there’s this whole thought process around the information coming off of machines. Being able to scale to support the amount of information that we were seeing coming from the OT space, or operational technology, the technology that relates to power plant, or a rail provider. That sort of backdrop has driven us to think about it in a way we haven’t had to before.
AR: Q5. Out of the current Big Data trends, which ones do you find particularly interesting and promising (with respect to future potential)?

big-data-securityBA: I think one of the current big data trends that I am most excited about is security and governance for big data tools and technologies. There has been a lot of progress made in the past year but we are still so far from solving it.

AR: Q6. What are the top lessons that you have learned from your Data Science experience so far?

BA: One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is that data scientists cannot operate in silos. Deep domain expertise is key in generation of robust algorithms. “Know Thy Data”. Data Science is not just Science – it is a combination of creativity, curiosity, story-telling and science – being able to grasp the wider context to solve real business problems - the ability to understand the meaning of the data sets when applied to a machine operating in the real world and make the machine smarter.

AR: Q7. What motivated you to work in Data Analytics?

data-geekBA: I have always been a data geek; fascinated with data and the outcomes we can drive leveraging analytics. I have worn multiple hats in the past 20+ years in the data arena. I like the fact that we can solve real problems and impact human lives using data and analytics like we are doing at GE. It’s so much more than making a social media experience better.

Also, this is a constantly evolving area and there is so much more to learn. I don’t think there’s anything more satisfying than identifying hidden patterns in data, solving the puzzle and then using the solution to drive impactful outcomes.

AR: Q8. What resources do you rely on to keep yourself updated with the advancements in Data Science?

stay-updatedBA: I read a lot. Blogs, newsletters, subscriptions, posts and feeds. The key is to be able to distinguish between the noise and the information that is out there. I also speak at technology, data and analytics events, where there is a gathering of like minds and are truly a great way to stay updated on trends and the latest advancements.

AR: Q9. What do you consider as the most desired qualities in practitioners in the field of Data Science?

curiousBA: Besides having the necessary technical skills and educational background, I think being curious is a very important quality – being able to ask a lot of questions, finding correlations that are not obvious, being inquisitive and having a tenacious attitude. They should be passionate about data and be able to communicate with data.

AR: Q10. What was the last book that you read and liked? What do you like to do when you are not working?

the-soft-edgeBA: I just completed Rich Karlgaard's "The Soft Edge" – it makes an excellent compelling case for businesses focusing more of their energies on the human, more creative aspects of business – it elevates human capital to its proper place at the top of the corporate pyramid. As opposed to ‘the hard edge’ (speed, cost, supply chain, logistics, and capital efficiency) all of which are easy to measure, ‘the soft edge’ is more difficult to measure but so necessary for a company to thrive and be great.

When I am not working, you will most likely find me at the baseball field with my two boys. I also like to read, fly planes and I am a big foodie.