Every data professional will gladly discuss their big wins — but what about their big losses? How have career hiccups molded them into the leaders they are today and put them on a path to transform entire industries?
Sol Rashidi is the Chief Analytics Officer at the Estée Lauder Company. Throughout her personal and professional life, Sol has used moments of uncertainty as opportunities for growth. Today she is recognized as one of the top 50 most powerful women in tech. On this episode of The Data Chief, Sol joins Cindi for a candid conversation about how she uses challenging circumstances as fuel for further innovation, and how she turns failures into valuable learning moments. Sol also takes a deep dive into the unique position of the CDO as both a business and a tech partner, why data as a service for internal stakeholders is just as important as when designing consumer-facing dataproducts, and why knowing your shelf life is one of the most valuable professional skills you can have.
- Competition breeds innovation: When it comes to fostering innovation, having the right talent and a propensity for technology are both critical to success. But so is a healthy amount of competition. When your margins are locked, there’s no sense of urgency and it’s easy to slide into a state of complacency. On the other hand, industries with more competition tend to see higher levels of innovation because teams are motivated to push the envelope.
- Data as a service for internal stakeholders: External facing data apps and operationalizing machine learning are great for data monetization, but applying a product mindset is a key tool for internal stakeholders as well. The reality is enterprises are hungry for insights and it’s important to develop tools with these constituents in mind. Data and insights must come to life for the organization so it can be used by anyone within the organization.
- The scope of tech is always changing: Every new piece of technology is going to possess the latest and greatest features, but it’s important to understand where that technology is in its maturity cycle and a particular tech partner’s focus. Will a particular service solve the need for the business at hand, and will it continue to serve a need into the future? These answers are often more telling than any laundry list of features.
“Know your shelf life quick enough in life and work hard on it. If something’s not sticking, you’re not quitting, you just have to understand that this isn’t my strength. I’ve optimized it as much as possible, to know there’s potentially better situations where I can channel my energy, my purpose, my strengths, where I’ll actually get the outputs I want.”
“As a chief data and analytics officer, it’s a new role, which in and of itself has its complications and challenges. But it’s also within a domain that everyone and no one touches it and owns it. So your ability to communicate, your ability to oscillate between conversations, your ability to pivot across different problems, it has to be there. Most of the time, this role sits within the business, but you’re not running a brand. So you are never really one of them, but you represent them.”
“Talent is everything. Second is the propensity, or the aperture, of the company and being tech centric. There’s a difference between wanting to be, and then providing the services and creating the runway to be. The pace at which we do it could be a different story, and where we prioritize is different, but at least there’s a propensity and sort of propelling it forward. And third is understanding where the source of margins come from. If you have a company where margins are locked, that’s a perfect recipe for complacency, because there’s no sense of urgency to continue to maintain your current stronghold or grow your existing positioning with the marketplace. That creates a level of laziness. But if you’re in an industry where there’s always competition, you meet individuals and you meet departments and functional groups and tech teams where they’re like, now we gotta keep going. We can’t stop.”
“I’m just at a point now where I have confidence in what I can do and I’ve been exposed to some phenomenal talent and how much more we do together. Sharing failures gives the team a bit more confidence that it’s okay. I’d rather you move forward and make a decision because you did so based on the facts at hand. Whether it worked or not, is a totally different story. Because if something didn’t work, guess what? We’re all going to learn from it. I finally have the confidence to be okay with my failures, because it always puts me in a better position in the future.”
On how Sol accesses innovative tech companies:
“Everyone has the bells and whistles and the features and functionalities, but the maturity of where they are in the product roadmap and development is what slightly differs. I’m not married to any one company because my scope constantly changes depending on my position and my company. But the problems that we need to solve for then and there, and the jobs to be done… But for the job that needs to be done now, and for the scope at hand, who has the greatest maturity and who’s the greatest enabler for my team, my talent to do their jobs?”
Sol Rashidi currently holds 8 patents, with 21 filed in the Data & Analytics space and is a keynote speaker at several technology conferences speaking on various topics such as Machine Learning, Data & Analytics, and Emerging Operating Models for organizations taking on transformations in the D&A space. Prior to joining Estee Lauder as their Chief Analytics Officer, Sol was the Chief Data & Analytics Officer for Merck, EVP and CDO for Sony Music, and Chief Data & Cognitive officer for Royal Caribbean.
Goal oriented and a team player, Sol believes in uncomplicating the complicated and cultivating environments that are innovative, driven, and collaborative. Sol has a unique ability in bridging the gap between Business and IT, her deep understanding of multiple functional disciplines (i.e. change management, enterprise data, application architecture, process re-engineering, sales, etc.) enables her to drive change by articulate the need for change in organizations that otherwise wouldn’t evolve.
Sol played NCAA Water Polo and Rugby for Cal on the Women’s National Rugby Team for several years, and completed the Ironman.