It’s that time again: another month has come and gone, which means we’re shining the spotlight on another outstanding leader here at Maven Wave. This month, we spoke with Brian Ray, Managing Director and Global Data Science Lead, and learned all about his journey from the cornfields of Indiana to the warm, sandy beaches of LA — and how he made a name for himself in Chicago’s tech scene. Check out our full interview below!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Hammond, IN, raised outside (yes, in the cornfields; think “Footloose”) of Kokomo, IN, attended Culver Military Academy College Prep, Wabash College, and lived in Chicago for 22 years before moving to Los Angeles three years ago. I started my career in data for a direct marketing company (mail) leading their data teams and then consulted for places like Sprint PCS, Abbott, Cerner, CouponCabin, SpotHero, Textura, and many others in association with Deloitte.
I joined Maven Wave before we became part of Atos to help build and grow the data science team (I’d held a similar role at Deloitte). I had no clue what I was getting into, and I was astonished by the exponential growth — as well as humbled to lead the best data science team on the globe.
What are the top highlights of your career so far?
10 years ago, Crain’s Tech 50 list named me in the very first batch of Chicago’s top technologists (where I was considered a surprise choice at that time) with very little public presence before that. What amuses me the most is that I was not the business-minded technologist I am today. I was a hacker. As the co-founder of ChiPy Chicago Python User Group in 2003, I mentored folks like Aaron Swartz, was in the room (possibly the first user) when the Django web framework was born, got my own mentorship from Dr. John Hunter, creator of Matplotlib, and was the first one who saw iPython (that eventually became Jupyter notebooks by his best friend at the time Fernando Parez).
While doing so, I wrote some models for places like Abbott on predicting their clinical trials, Cerner on population health, and Textura on financial payment systems. Once formally part of Deloitte, I learned how to scale things as I led the data science team and a COE of over 300 practitioners and wrote the most profitable product and solution tools in big-four consulting.
What is your favorite part of working at Maven Wave?
Over the past 25 years — through working with some of the fastest-growing technology companies, consultancies, or Fortune 500 — I’ve noticed that technology and technologists suffer from a lack of enablers, thinkers, and “get-it-doners.” Mavens are all three of those things by nature. I enjoy working alongside driven, optimistic people who know how to get things done. Mavens are all of those things, which is refreshing.
Which of the 7 C’s is most meaningful to you and why?
I pick “Communication.” I have seen great ideas die in a vacuum due to the lack of knowledge transfer, collaboration, or documentation. These problems are solved by all 7 C’s, but communication is key.
Where do you see the cloud market in the next few years?
I’m astonished by the number of data scientists out there who have no facility to use the cloud to solve problems. Their company either does not give them access or they don’t know how to use it. Scalable computing for data science is a really good thing. It can solve problems, assist in collaboration, allow access to more data, and give better results.
What goals do you have for your team in 2022? What are your long-term goals?
Exponential growth. We have done it so far. Let’s keep it going.
I also want to see what “embracing the blue” can get us. I think in the long run, Atos will make strong comebacks, and it’s exciting to be a part of that. A lot of folks have doubted us, and we are the underdog in some regards, but I’ve always been the underdog and it will make our successes even more joyous once achieved.
On a more personal note, my new year’s resolution is to use my contacts to grow the pipeline and candidates. I’ve always been good at keeping connections; however, I have been trying to make it support the business as well. So far, it’s working: I see some folks from my past becoming Mavens (shout out to Jose Ochoa) as well as clients, too.
What is something about you that always surprises people?
Starting as early as age 7, when not at school or after school, I would wear a three-piece suit and walk up the street to my dad and grandfather’s trucking business headquarters, had a desk with my name on it, and would walk around (provoked by my dad) and ask folks if they enjoyed their jobs.
How do you like to spend your time outside of work?
I’m living the California Dream: golfing, hiking, surfing (sort of), attending art openings as a mentor/curator in the NFT Space, sailing as a member of LA Yacht Club, and rubbing elbows with creative folks as a member of SOHO House.
Rapid Question Round
- Brand new or vintage? Vintage. You would be amazed by my Levi collection.
- City or countryside? City
- Introvert or extrovert? Extrovert
- Music or podcasts? Music
- Karaoke: Singing or spectating? I’ve been banned by most karaoke lounges in North America and East Asia.
- Comedy or drama? Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
- Art, science, or history? Philosophy of all three?
- Early bird or night owl? Insomniac
- Fiction or nonfiction? Nonfiction (especially documentaries)
- Planning it or winging it? Plan it for work; wing it for everything else.
- Favorite vacation spot: Japan for food/culture; south of France for sailing, movies, and leisure
- Favorite season: I didn’t move to California to shovel snow.
- What you’re currently listening to: I’ve been listening to a lot of things in the crypto space, including NFT, as well as some things on old-fashion paint to canvas art scene stuff.
- Recommend one movie, TV show, book, or podcast: I watched “Return to Space,” a documentary about Elon Musk and SpaceX, and cried a little.
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