What is Your GE Digital Story? Why Are You Here? — An Open Q&A With A DTLP Graduate

Meet Hiro, a Senior Data Scientist at GE Digital, who works on challenging projects in Big Data Analytics and Machine Learning.

Q: What is your GE digital story?

My GE story started while I was in graduate school in Japan at the University of Tokyo. I used Machine Learning for my degree in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical/Space Engineering. Some of my projects involved anomaly detection for satellite sub-systems and I also analyzed aerial images of forests in Indonesia taken from a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). Machine Learning was something I enjoyed a lot so I started looking for an intersection between machine learning and engineering where I could combine the skill sets.

At that time, GE was just starting to focus on a new concept called the Industrial Internet. I thought it would be interesting to work at GE because they have a lot of big machines in aviation and healthcare. This gave them access to unique data and ownership of the data, which is key, because it can be a differentiator for creating new features.

In 2012, during grad school, I did an internship with GE Oil & Gas in Japan. No position existed for a data scientist. The field was still too new. During the internship, I saw the flexibility of GE culture. What I mean by that is if you have something you want to achieve career-wise and it also makes sense from GE’s corporate strategy, people will be very supportive. I thought once I got my foot in the door, maybe I could figure out where to go from there. So, I took advantage of that flexibility.

After my internship, I was invited into the DTLP program, which is GE’s 2-year leadership program. It’s 4 rotations, usually focused on traditional IT or management in Japan. But I knew I was not that guy. I was the only DTLP person in Japan during my second year, and ended up creating my own role. I found opportunities in terms of Data Science. My third rotation was with a GE Healthcare Japan team that wanted to analyze CT scan machine data. That was a match with what I wanted to do so with the support of my boss I created my job description.

While I was working at GE Japan, I helped launch a big data community across GE Japan to increase awareness of Big Data and machine learning. One of the activities was World Café, a collaborative get-together focused on a topic where small group discussions lead to the bigger groups’ shared knowledge. Over 200 people across different GE businesses joined our community. We did workshops and discussed opportunities on how we could create new businesses in terms of data objects. A lot of leaders in GE noticed my commitment and passion for Data Science and opened the path to San Ramon. My fourth rotation as a Cyber Security Architect got me here.

The DTLP program does not guarantee a position at GE after you finish your rotations. I knew I had to find a position on my own if I wanted to stay after the 2 years were up. When I got to GED, I reached out to the data science team I’m currently working with. I networked like crazy, and then interviewed. Eventually, I got a position on the team.

Q: What is your job here on a day to day basis?

I am a Senior Data Scientist in Data Science Services at GE Digital. I code and analyze data every day. My group provides a type of consulting service for internal and external customers. We focus on data analytics that have a potential to bring our platform customers onto Predix. We identify potential applications to use predictive maintenance or Brilliant Factory. I cleanse and explore the data, create hypotheses, develop the model and whenever I’ve found something, I talk to my team members. Next, we discuss the issues or future direction of the project. This iteratively happens pretty much every day.

Most weeks I have a technical update with our customer. Sometimes it is a simple update, but other times it is more of a big report. It’s stressful at that point because we face the customer directly, present our findings and wait for them to make a decision.

This job is not just coding. Interpersonal and communication skills are required. Sometimes our customers are not familiar with data science. There’s a huge knowledge gap so my team gives guidance on data science so our results are easy to understand.

Q: What is the favorite part of your role?

I like this role because I am exposed to different data science problems. Each project is about three months and none go longer than a year. Projects might have a different goal, use a different data set and be in a different sector, like agriculture, building facilities, or aviation. From a data scientist perspective, it is very unique to have exposure to different problems with different unique data sets.

Whenever my group starts a new project, we form a new team based on everybody’s capabilities and the objective. It’s great because I can learn a lot from senior members or other team members who have a different background. Our team is very diverse. Some of us are more skilled in process engineering, others in computer science, and then we have the statisticians and math-oriented folks. Each of us has a different expertise so through the discussions I learn a lot.

Q: What is one project you are most proud of?

When I was in DTLP my team tried to change the repair model on CT scan machines so we could be pro-active about repairs. In a traditional repair scenario, a machine breaks in a hospital and then we get a call to fix it. There’s unexpected downtime. We created a failure detection algorithm and reached out to our customer to say we saw a trend in machine data — we thought a part needed to be replaced or the system would go down.

Our technicians tried to schedule a repair date but the customer was skeptical of our findings and pushed us out a week. However, four days before that visit, the machine broke. Our ability to predict required maintenance ended up strengthening our relationship with the customer.

The trends we saw in the data meant we had the potential to surprise them with our capabilities. This was one of the greatest moments I had here because we mixed data science with domain knowledge. I decided at that time I wanted to create more stories like this for customers by utilizing data science.

Q: Use a few words to describe your manager, co-works, team, etc.

Respectful, intellectually stimulating, flexible. I think in this building the team and the office in general is very diverse, people come from different places, with different backgrounds. Maybe it is the California culture, but I don’t feel any discrimination or feel excluded. They are very open and welcoming. In terms of my knowledge, my team mates also respect me. They ask my opinion even if I’m the junior member, and my opinion counts. I like the fact that they are respectful and understand our differences.

Also, my colleagues have a lot of life experience. Even the casual small talk is stimulating. Everyone enjoys their work but they also enjoy their life outside work.

Q: What is the office culture like at GED?

It might just be California but I think it is open and collaborative. There are no cubicles and a lot of white boards in the building. The kitchen area is open with a nice view of green foothills. It’s a park setting with trees and it’s even nice to look at when it rains. I think this environment encourages us to communicate more. It is ingrained in the culture. Even in the elevator you can hear people talking passionately about their projects.

Q: What is something people may not know about working at GED?

People think about GE in general as a company that makes appliances. GED is focused on infrastructure and digital software. They don’t know we are developing on a platform. Most people in Japan don’t know that GE is working for the Industrial Internet. Luckily for me, I knew that GE was going in that direction!

Q: What is your favorite spot you like to visit in California?

It isn’t one specific place. Before coming to the Bay Area, I didn’t hike as a hobby. The weather is great here so I get out and enjoy nature. I have gone to a lot of regional and national parks like Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. Locally, I hike on a lot of trails near my house.

Q: Any tips for anyone who is interested in applying or interviewing with GE?

At GED, we expect a lot of people to have coding skills. For data scientists in particular, we expect machine learning and some kind of an engineering background or something close to engineering knowledge because our customer is more likely to be in industry. It’s good to have engineering skills from different sectors.

GE is famous for leadership so I think it’s good to have some experience in teamwork, managing people, and communication skills. Also, we respect diversity and understand the differences, whether it is based on nationality or other things. We are expected to respect each other. Anyone applying to GE should be comfortable with this culture.

When I received the DTLP offer letter from GE Japan, I had 3 months of free time and was traveling around the world. I knew that GE software (before it was GED) was here. I wanted to see the office and people, so I reached out to DTLP alumni working in San Ramon and visited. I had lunch with some engineers. I felt like this is a place where I should work. When I started my rotations back in Japan, I was motivated by the people I met at GED and the projects I saw them working on. So, whenever I met leaders in Japan I tried to get their support. I showed motivation not by just saying I was interested in working at San Ramon but by visiting here before I was hired. Many people appreciated this motivation.

Q: Wish you knew before you interviewed?

Before joining, I had an internship and reached out to many people. Just looking at the website and looking at the branding I think is kind of dangerous. I didn’t have any big surprises because I tried to minimize that before I joined.

For prospective applicants, it’s recommended to reach out to employees to understand the culture and the actual job itself. Don’t just talk to people in a single department. Make sure you talk to different businesses or groups so you have a better picture about GE and your team. I think that is a good way for both sides to make sure it is a good fit.

Q: Why do you think someone should relocate to San Ramon?

Aside from warm weather and a safe environment, San Ramon lets you have a better work/life balance. It’s more affordable than some parts of the Bay Area. A lot of tech companies have moved out of downtown San Francisco to San Ramon because it is less expensive. The rent around here is pretty reasonable.

It is easy to focus on work but we can sometimes go to downtown San Francisco and experience the tech community.

Q: What is your favorite thing about working here?

Compared to Japan, San Ramon is more open and collaborative. Here, the communication model is respectful but more flat. In Japan, there is still more of an age-based order to communication.

San Ramon is close to downtown San Francisco so I can easily go to events there. I also have access to a lot of technology events that happen locally. For example, I just went to a Machine Learning seminar at Stanford University.

Also follow GE Careers for additional information. This article first appeared at http://careers.geblogs.com/what-is-your-ge-digital-story-why-are-you-here-sound-like-something-you-want-to-be-a-part-of/.

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