ExecutiveBiz recently talked with Tiffany Gates, president and chief executive officer, about trends in data analytics and where she sees Novetta expanding in the future.
“Our customers want to understand how emerging approaches such as deep learning can be applied to their problem sets, particularly in computer vision and object recognition. We think there are significant opportunities for companies like ours that can rapidly migrate proven data analytics models and approaches into new domains.”
ExecutiveBiz: With the explosion in the amounts of both structured and unstructured data, how does Novetta help its clients in analyzing these large volumes of data?
Tiffanny Gates: Having been at the forefront of structured and unstructured data analysis for over 20 years, we’ve built a tremendous body of knowledge around how to prepare, triage and prioritize large datasets prior to ingestion and processing. We’ve learned that the upfront specialized engineering and expertise are a critical complement to the tools you use for large-scale analytics. Spending a small amount of time up front – even a couple of days – can save weeks of wading through suboptimal results. Our tools, such as NEA, have been optimized for extremely high-volume data challenges, but our analysts are the critical part of that chain. There’s a perception that next-generation tools, for example deep learning, are going to reduce reliance on analysts, but the truth is that that human function is still as necessary as ever for data optimization and tuning.
ExecutiveBiz: What new technologies do you see on the horizon that will impact the data analytics marketplace?
Tiffanny Gates: Well, it’s obvious that machine learning and deep learning have disrupted some parts of the data analytics marketplace, but not necessarily for the reasons that you hear discussed. One part of the disruption is the reduction in barriers to entry – it’s much easier to obtain a level of understanding in data analytics due to the availability of open-source tools, simplified cloud implementations and pre-build models from Amazon, Google, etc. Most of these environments are targeted toward commercial or product development applications, so it will be interesting to see how the skills developed translate into data analytics domains (such as Novetta’s) which rely on expertise developed over time, and through experience with customer data, drive decision confidence and accuracy.
ExecutiveBiz: What new market opportunities do you anticipate Novetta will be expanding into in the future?
Tiffanny Gates: In our defense and intelligence customer base, we’ve already begun to expand into machine learning for text, image and behavioral analytics applications. Our customers want to understand how emerging approaches such as deep learning can be applied to their problem sets, particularly in computer vision and object recognition. We think there are significant opportunities for companies like ours that can rapidly migrate proven data analytics models and approaches into new domains. Lastly, we plan to continue to position ourselves to take advantage of cloud-based machine learning platforms like Amazon Sagemaker and MXNet.
ExecutiveBiz: What is Novetta’s perspective on employee enrichment in today’s market?
Tiffanny Gates: Increased investment in employee enrichment efforts is more important to Novetta than ever, for a few reasons. Because the technology landscape in our market segment changes so rapidly, we need to continually enhance and expand technical training programs for our workforce. This allows us to maintain levels of expertise that our customers expect, even in new domains. Further, providing avenues for employee-driven innovation is critical to retaining technical talent. We have increased the visibility and frequency of our innovation initiatives such that we can execute on the best ideas that come from our workforce. Lastly, many of our employees want to develop “hybrid” skill sets – a blend of engineer and analyst, you might say. We’ve increased opportunities for cross-program staffing in response to this expectation.
ExecutiveBiz: As we look back on National Women’s History Month, have you felt the increase of female professionals since you started in this industry, and what are your expectations for that percentage to grow in the next five years?
Tiffanny Gates: Growing up professionally in this community allowed me to be a part of the cadre of women who came from the military, transitioned to government contracting, and are now in leadership roles throughout our industry. While, admittedly, there were fewer females when I started out, it wasn’t something I focused on. The military environment was very similar in both mission and personality, and once I started my own company, I was too busy competing and growing it to notice! However, with increased maturity and a few additional years in leadership roles, it became apparent that there was indeed a scarcity of women. I became more determined to encourage and mentor women who exhibited leadership traits and clearly had natural ability, but in many cases, never considered throwing their hat in the ring. Often, that’s all it takes.
Currently, Novetta’s staff is 22% women and continues to grow. Approximately 17% of our female base are in technical positions, and half my leadership team are women. Additionally, with the increased amount of national and local programs that support women in technology and leadership, there are many opportunities for women to connect with like-minded peers at various stages of their careers. These communities, such as Women Who Code and our own community, Women in Novetta, provide a platform to share lessons learned and best practices from real-life experiences that help others overcome similar challenges. I anticipate as the number of women in tech grow, the pace of the industry will accelerate, as many creative ideas for development have yet to be heard.
Before joining Novetta, Tiffanny Gates served as vice president for cyber strategies at Raytheon’s Blackbird Technologies, and as senior vice president of strategy & business development at ManTech International.