Life at ElectrifAi: Xian Sun, Head of China and VP of Analytics, Strategic Head of Machine Learning Models
Initially joining the company as a pure data scientist, our Head of China, Xian Sun, has been helping transform ElectrifAi’s business for over 13 years now. In that time, she’s created a team that’s “very proactive in thinking and execution,” and this has been especially important as they’ve been adapting to the COVID-19 crisis over the past few months.
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How long have you been at ElectrifAi?
Over 13 years.
What’s your role at ElectrifAi?
My role is the Head of China, VP of Analytics, and Strategic Head of Machine Learning Models (the Model Whisperer).
It’s a combined role taking care of office affairs, expanding local business in the Chinese market and contributing to global delivery alongside all of our other offices.
The Model Whisperer is a new responsibility. I look at all the IP assets of over 1,000 machine learning models and facilitate the presales and sales of these models. I determine the best use cases to use with those machine learning models to address new business problems and add to our model inventory.
How did the Model Whisperer come about?
From the movie Horse Whisperer. The Model Whisperer not only understands machine learning models but also business requirements and how to bridge the two.
The company is like a brand-new startup. I like to face new challenges and try new things, so it’s a great fit for me. In this kind of environment, I can use my strengths and expertise to solve problems for our customers while also continually learning and making myself more experienced. ElectrifAi has an entrepreneurial spirit where innovation and enthusiasm are built into the framework of the company.
What’s the best part of your job?
Previously, when I was a pure data scientist, I loved watching the entire journey of every project from presales to delivery. Now that my role has changed, it opened new opportunities for me to work on my other skills. For example, I’ve had to develop my sales skills and have also had to use my management skills to make sure that everything is functioning well in the office. I love getting to stretch so many different pieces of my skillset together daily.
How would you describe the culture of your team?
I’m always very proud of the culture here in the China office. Over the years, we’ve been very proactive in both thinking and execution. We have a very good tradition of everyone just trying to be the best version of themselves. With the whole team together, I’m always confident we can deliver successfully.
The China team also likes to do work beyond their current role. They constantly volunteer for more responsibility beyond their daily work and I applaud them for their desire to learn new things.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned while working at ElectrifAi?
Having witnessed ElectrifAi’s recent transformation, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to never stay in your comfort zone. You have to improve yourself every day and keep pushing yourself to be better.
In light of COVID, where do we see machine learning going in the next year?
Ai and ML related techniques will dramatically change how people work. Many current positions will be replaced by machines since they can learn how people work. But the key parts of humans that can’t be replaced by machines are domain expertise and accumulated experience.
You can put some of your experiences and knowledge into the machine’s language but there are certain areas when human judgment is still needed. Humans have the advantage of learning things faster, but machines can also easily replicate repeatable jobs and can be great tools in boosting efficiency. In this decade I see the two becoming increasingly interconnected.
A lot of companies, including very traditional companies or industries, have been forced by the pandemic to begin thinking about a digital transformation to survive. Among the process of digital transformation, Ai and machine learning solutions are crucial. That opens us to many opportunities in the market.
How does ReadyML help companies with their digital transformation journey?
Over 1,000 machine learning models have been validated and used by our clients since 2004, which proves the methodology or machine learning framework is critical for the digital transformation. Many people try to build their own solutions but in many cases the probability is it will fail.
Our positioning is unique because we have been in this domain for so many years that we have accumulated machine learning solutions with client-proven use cases. This can give the company a better success rate and higher confidence by using our domain knowledge and model expertise to solve their business problems and accelerate their digital transformation.
What should women do to seek a career in data science?
In ElectrifAi’s China office, there is a 2 to 1 ratio of women to men data scientists. This gives us a great perspective to help women in the US know what to look for.
There are 3 advantages women can bring to data science:
- Sensitivity to numbers is helpful for data manipulation
- Quickly understand business problems
- Capability to present and communicate to internal or external teams regarding complex models or machine learning solutions
If you were to give one piece of advice to a recent graduate looking to get into data science, what would that be?
Be eager to learn and have an inherent desire to leverage the models to solve real business problems.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I have two kids, so I spend a lot of my time with them. Besides that, I like reading books, doing yoga and hiking I also love to travel around the world but that’s harder given pandemic right now.
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