#69 Creating Cultural Transformations Using Data Science Leaders with Bülent Kiziltan – Head of Data Science & Analytics and Chief Data Scientist

Bülent Kızıltan.jpg

Dr. Bülent Kiziltan is an AI executive and an accomplished scientist who uses artificial intelligence to create value in many business verticals and tackles diverse problems in disciplines ranging from the financial industry, healthcare, astrophysics, operations research, marketing, biology, engineering, hardware design, digital platforms, to art. He has worked at Harvard, NASA, and MIT in close collaboration with pioneers of their respective fields. In the past 15+ years, he has led data-driven efforts in R&D and built multifaceted strategies for the industry. He has been a data science leader at Harvard and the Head of Deep Learning at Aetna leading and mentoring more than 200 scientists. 

In this episode, Bülent opens up the show discussing his background at places like Harvard, MIT, and NASA. Then, he explains his transition from astrophysics to business. He was intimately aware of the basic processes and procedures you use to extract information from data. The culture change was the biggest challenge of the transition. Business people are hesitant to work with people who are primarily familiar with academia. They tend to want a business veteran who has been in the business industry for ten or fifteen years. Bülent sees job descriptions which have a requirement of fifteen years of experience in data science, he believes this does not exist. People who have expertise in data science, they should have an academic background. 

Data leaders want to drive decisions and have informative interactions with your team members. If you a hard time understanding the ins and outs of different models, it will create an environment that does not make the technical team very happy. From a retention perspective, it will create a challenge for the company. Retention is a significant cost for the organization, having a meaningful conversation with leaders is one way to improve retention. If you approach data science in a limited fashion, you will go after the low hanging fruit and will miss on building internal strategies. Later, Bülent gives recommendations for implementing a culture in the workplace, explains how a leader should balance priorities, and the nuances of hierarchy in the startup space.

Enjoy the show!

We speak about:

  • [02:00] Bülent’s background

  • [05:50] The transition from astrophysics to business 

  • [08:45] Data leaders need technical experience 

  • [12:45] Academics still need soft skills 

  • [19:20] What data science can offer organizations 

  • [23:50] Addressing causal inferences

  • [25:30] Recommendations for implementing culture in the workplace 

  • [30:00] How a leader should balance priorities  

  • [36:10] Challenges Bülent currently faces in the industry  

  • [38:15] Hierarchy in the startup space

  • [40:45] What Bülent loves about data science 

  • [42:45] Future data challenges   


Bülent’s Website: http://www.kiziltan.org/

Bülent’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bulentkiziltan/


  • “Culturally, I was surprised by the mindset of business leaders.”

  • “We asked individual members of the data science group to come up with their own ideas that can be implemented in the day-to-day business operations.”

  • “A diverse team is critically important for the business.”

  • “All companies will become AI companies in one way or another.”

Bülent Kiziltan is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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