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Abhi Yadav (LinkedIn) is the founder and CTO of Zylotech, a company focused on A.I.-driven analytics that businesses can use to help efficiently retain customers and reduce churn. On this episode of IT Visionaries, Abhi explains what all of that means, and he dives into how the field of machine learning will continue to grow.
Best Advice: “I feel that today we live in such a noisy world. All that you gotta manage is yourself. So self-awareness is one of the most critical pieces of advice I feel like that helps me, that helps a lot of my peers and all that helps some of the greatest guys I’ve worked within the technology space.”
Abhi’s Backstory — (1:25)
Abhi grew up in India and did his early schooling in Bangalore. He lived on a military base and moved a bit, but he was always interested in what the people in the fancy, tall buildings were working on. As he got older, he started hanging out with engineers to learn about what they do. When he went to college, he chose to study computer science. After getting his degree, Abhi came to the U.S. in the late 1990s and realized that there was more to computer science than just coding. He found that there was actually a lot of storytelling throughout the process.
“When I came to the U.S. in the late nineties, I realized the importance of storytelling. It was about more than just coding. 50% of the battle is really articulating the problem. And I somehow felt that it’s not just a bunch of codes, but it’s a whole process. It’s a whole machinery which works all the way from identifying problems to how they can be solved. There was no fancy word like design thinking and things like that, but it was all the ingredients of all of that with respect to how you start from a problem, defining it, articulating it, and then solving it with a combination of not just tech tools, but people, process and a whole bunch of things. It’s an amazing feeling.”
What is Zylotech? — (3:40)
Zylotech is Abhi’s second start-up and the goal was to be able to build customer analytics in a box.
“We thought if we could somehow bring customer analytics in a box with a smart data and decision pie, which was constantly coming up and self-evolving, working itself out and kind of closing the loop, we thought that would be so cool.”
Abhi’s involvement with MIT Labs — (8:30)
Abhi was really interested in MIT and what they offered. So when he looked at being on the East Coast or the West Coast, Abhi decided that being at MIT and nearby afterward would be a great way to source talent and be near some exciting research. Abhi started volunteering with MIT’s Global Start-up Lab, which was about teach entrepreneurship, discipline and bringing together different firms throughout different countries to combine talent.
Abhi describes working with the Lab as taking the hackathon approach and applying it in a new setting. They would come up with a problem for a team to solve and the team would have to look at the technology involved, come up with a workflow and then develop a minimum viable product to solve the original problem.
The opportunity around automation — (11:50)
Data science has been described as overhyped, but data science is what is powering machine learning and automation. Using these tools, data scientists are trying to answer the common questions people have in every industry and try to find ways to automate solutions to the problems they face. Abhi also believes that machine learning can and should be used for analytics, which is what Zylotech can help build.
Zylotech customers have a team of data scientists, R&D departments and innovation cultures that rely on analytics and data points to move their businesses forward. Right now the analysis of all that data is descriptive and sometimes prescriptive, but it’s not predictive. Machine learning can help to make the data being generated more useful in a predictive way.
“We were looking at this thinking if you are building a machine learning model, could you build an automated workflow to build a machine learning model in the custom analytic space?”
“The way the end customer data is getting generated and the way it has been analyzed and consumed, there’s a huge disconnect.
“If I had to do everything in customer analytics in this industry, what would that look like? If I had to build an ideal data set, what would that be? Zylotech was answering those questions and building those models.”
How complex will this field get? — (26:30)
Data management, decision management, and delivery management all need to be thought about whenever you’re integrating new technology into your stacks. There is so much innovation happening in the field, but Abhi says there has been a disproportionate focus on decisions and companies were making investments in decision management before they were set on their data management. Now that there is a better understanding about data, how it can be used and the ways that machine learning and automation can utilize data to help with employees metrics and customer experience, the priorities are shifting. But it is a constantly evolving situation and every company has a different list of priorities. How deep into M.L. and automation they go will be their choice, but the technology will continue to evolve, change and get better.