Semper Gumby! OoRa!

Kimberly WestFLOCK Notes

As the daughter of a U.S. Marine, the motto “Semper Fi!” was taught to me at an early age; my late father instilled in me a commitment to living a life that is “Always Faithful” to community and to country.

Reflecting recently on the many important life lessons embedded in this simple motto, I started thinking about a motto for data scientists: “Semper Gumby!”.  Always Flexible.  A simple but important life lesson – particularly for young, aspiring data leaders.

As a CDO and former college professor, I speak with young, newly minted data scientists regularly.  They are quick to tell me about the long list of certifications they have earned and all of the cool coding languages they have mastered.  Don’t get me wrong – knowledge of programming is important, particularly in the early stages of a career in data science – but it’s really just an ante to play.  Early-stage data scientists who place too much emphasis on coding and modeling can come across as “rigid” and over time significantly narrow their scope of influence and their career opportunities.  As organizations across all industries increasingly rely on data to inform strategy and decision making, effective data scientists have the opportunity to become C-suite leaders rather than one of the data nerds in the basement (among whose ranks I counted myself early in my career – but I digress).

Effective data scientists cultivate an orientation of flexibility for themselves, their colleagues, and their team – they are not just extensions of their computers.  For example, a rigid data scientist takes inputs/requirements and generates output. A flexible data scientist asks questions to increase the impact of their analysis – “What problem are we trying to solve?”, “How will this result actually be used?” “Is there additional data I need that I do not currently have access to?”.  A rigid data scientist will explain results without consideration of the audience.  A flexible data scientist will take the extra time needed to translate the results into the appropriate and most relevant context for the audience (Marketing? Operations? Manager? CEO?… graphics?  1 page memo?).

The role of data scientist is continuing to emerge as a strategic, high impact contributor to organizations at all levels above the basement – and increasingly at the table in the C-Suite.  The most successful data scientists will be those who cultivate a flexible approach to their craft – a simple but important lesson.

Semper Gumby.  OoRa!

For more information about Flock Specialty Finance, contact Jennifer Lewis Priestley, CDO (