Lost After College to Top Data Scientist (Kristen Kehrer) - KNN Ep. 102
Updated: Jun 21, 2022
Today, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristen Kehrer. Kristen is currently a Developer Advocate at Comet sharing about MLOps best practices. Since 2010, Kristen has been delivering innovative and actionable machine learning solutions across multiple industries, including utilities, healthcare, and eCommerce. Kristen was a LinkedIn Top Voice - Data Science & Analytics in 2018. Previously Kristen was a Data Science instructor at UC Berkeley Ext, Faculty/SME at Emeritus Institute of Management, and Founder of Data Moves Me, LLC. Kristen holds an MS in Applied Statistics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a BS in Mathematics. In this episode, we talk about how Kristen was able to transform her life and her career after hitting rock bottom after college and how she has been able to break negative cycles in her life. We also discuss how social media interacts with mental health, and we learn more about her new role as a developer advocate at Comet ML. I really enjoyed this conversation with Kristen and I hope it inspires you to break some negative cycles in your life.
[00:00:00] Kristen: You know, what I was doing with time series was way more technical. Like I was building neural nets and arenas, and the whole job was modeling. I didn't do anything besides modeling, but it was like a pretty pigeonholed role. And if I went to general analytics, I actually made even more money.
[00:00:24] Ken: This episode of Ken's Nearest Neighbors is powered by Z by HP. HP's high compute workstation-grade line of products and solutions. Today, I had pleasure of interviewing Kristen Kehrer. Kristen is currently a developer advocate at Comet sharing about MLOps best practices. Since 2010, Kristen has been delivering innovative and actionable machine learning solutions across multiple industries, including utility, healthcare, and e-commerce. Kristen was a LinkedIn Top Voice in Data Science and Analytics in 2018 as well. Before all this, Kristen was a data science instructor at UC Berkeley Ext, Faculty/SME at Emeritus Institute of Management and the founder of Data Moves Me, LLC. Kristen holds an MS in Applied Statistics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a BS in Mathematics.
In this episode, we talk about how Kristen was able to transform her life and her career after hitting rock bottom after college and how she's been able to break negative cycles in her life. In general, we also discuss how social media interacts with mental health, and we learn more about her new role as a developer advocate at Comet ML. I really enjoyed this conversation with Kristen and I hope it inspires you to break some negative cycles in your own life.
Kristen, thank you so much for coming into the Ken's Nearest Neighbors Podcast today. I'm really happy. We could finally get you on, obviously, you know, the last time we were, we were talking, I think you and your entire family got COVID. And so we had to postpone, I'm very happy to hear that you are all well And hopefully firing on all cylinders now. But you have a really incredible story of career transition, sort of finding yourself when you're lost. And I'm really excited to hear about that today. You also have just recently landed a new position as a developer advocate. And I'm really interested in what that actually means. I've seen that title going around quite a bit and I am not completely familiar with it myself.
[00:02:20] Kristen: Right. Yeah. So first of all, super excited to be here. Yeah, totally. I think we were talking a year ago when I got COVID and I'm super happy that we're able to make it work as well. So yeah, developer advocate. I actually wasn't cause I've been working for myself since the beginning of 2019, and I was pretty happy doing that. And a recruiter reached out in February and was like, have you heard about this developer advocate role? And I was like, No, I haven't. And so basically it marries the two things that I love the most.
I get to still build data science projects. So I am currently playing with computer vision, but it's also really you know, out there in the community trying to drive awareness for the company that you work for. So I work for comet and I specifically, so I spoke to a couple different companies, and first of all, at this point in my career, it's like a hundred percent vibe.
So I gotta feel like, you know, the people that I'm working with, I really want to be in their presence. It feels good, you know? But then on top of that, this particular software comment you know, you could start playing with it yourself and just PIP comment, underscore ML. And then what it does is it basically takes a snapshot of your machine learning runs.
So, you know, right. If you commit your code to GitHub and then change something you don't necessarily have, you know, and then run it, you don't have exactly what was run. At the time of the last successful run stored. So this will store like your hyper parameters, your data, your, you know, exact model, the dependencies, like even, you know, your version of windows, you know?
So if somebody comes along with a different machine, you sort of know what the issues are. And then it's also a product for monitoring the models in production. But that part is actually part of the like the, the paid version. But you can go and start you know, making sure that your models are reproducible today.
And that's like the community addition that you can just play. But so, yeah, so I'm super excited. Like the, you know, type of things that I'm doing now are starting a new show and writing blog articles about my computer vision, where all these things that I did for free before. And so, you know, it's very cool.
[00:04:54] Ken: I mean, that's so much fun. I think that I think, you know ... He, I believe was in a, like a similar role before he's been doing these types of things... And I hadn't actually asked him what that entailed. So you're the first one that gets to spill the beans on the nature of those types of roles.
And it seems like a really, a really good fit. I mean, you produce incredible stuff. There's a lot of freedom to explore and experiment and story tell, and I'm thinking that. I mean, I do pretty well with my own content. I like do get paid for it, but it is a very neat space for anyone who maybe doesn't want as traditional a role , but wants to still be able to do machine learning, wants to still be able to do projects, wants to still do real data science work.
To me, that is, that is like such a fascinating space to be in and to explore. Let's rewind just a little bit. I'm interested in, you know, you you've advanced all the way to this developer advocate role. Where did your journey start with data? Was how did you get interested in it or even math for that matter? Was there a pivotal moment where you're like, Wow, this is for me! Or has it been sort of this slow progression over time?
[00:06:21] Kristen: Yeah, I think there's been like a number of epiphanies over time and, you know, Talking about getting into math. My mom applied to college for me and my twin brother for math. And we had no idea what that meant really.
Like we didn't know what calculus was. We didn't know, you know neither of my parents, I'm the first person to graduate from college in my family. I come from a blue collar family and, you know, their philosophy was like, Hey. All businesses need, need math. And what they were really thinking about was, you know you know, what accounting looks like or what finances they were not thinking about, like, you know, theoretical discreet structures, combinatorics, or whatever, where I ended up like this.
It was certainly, certainly had no idea what we were getting into. Historically I didn't do well in high school. I graduated. In the 75th percentile, which is pretty impressive. So I was number 155 out of 205. And you know, I, in my junior year of school, just all of a sudden started trying to do well.
I had always just sort of not shown up to class or not done what I was supposed to do. My parents dreaded you know, going to. Teacher parent night, they'd be like, great. I'm gonna go up. And you. The math teacher with the weird thing in her hair is gonna come up to me again and ask me if I'm happy with my kid's grade.
And I am, because that was like a B in math. And then the teacher would be like, You know, she doesn't study. Right. And it's like, I'm failing Spanish, and like, my parents are like that grade's great. It's great. Leave me alone. But yeah, I had a friend who you know, came over my house one day and was like, Oh, my mom said, if I got on the honor roll, I could get a belly button ring.
And I was like, mom, if I get on the honor roll, can I get a belly button ring? And she was just like, yeah, of course you can. Whatever, because I was like, Failing Spanish and like a bunch of courses. And I stayed, I stayed after school every single day until the end of the term. And I made honor roll and I made my parents bring me into Boston to get my belly button pierced.
I was 16. And since then I've done like amazing in school. I had terms where I got straight. A's like, I ended up graduating my my bachelor's degree, I graduated with a 3.8 in my major in math. And I did it in three years and I didn't have any AP credits. I've never taken an honors course in my life, you know?
But I just fell in love and it took a ton of work because you know, I didn't. The background. I went to seven hours of tutoring a week just to get, like, to get through the classes. And once I caught up in like my second year or whatever it was on. But it took a lot. And so I just went on a real tangent. But that's how I ended up in math and that's, I felt like passionately in love with math. And part of it is because I had to try so hard just to keep up with calculus one, because, you know, I got in there and it's like, what is this?
[00:09:58] Ken: I'm super fascinated by that. I mean, you like, sort of reached the other side. You achieved the honor role. And then there's no incentive to, to revert. I'm interested in what got you hooked. Was it that you sort of proved to yourself that you could do it and then you're like, Wow. Now I don't have any excuses not to do it anymore. Or is there something even further underneath the surface there?
[00:10:22] Kristen: Yeah, no, I think I was like developmentally confused for a bit like showing up to high school after school and getting help. Like, I feel like I figured out the formula for how you're supposed to do it. And for some reason it just didn't click before, you know? And so I got to college and it was like, Okay, I need to show up to classes no matter what, I just gotta show up to class and I gotta show up to office hours and like there's a tutoring center available.
So I'm gonna go to tutoring and. I also too, didn't do any, so, you know, I was a gymnast, I was an Irish stuff, dancer. And you know, I didn't have any of those things anymore. I just had school. I like, I lived at school and didn't do any sports or anything. So I'm sure that was part of it was that I actually had a focus. My parents bribed me too. They said they'd buy me a car if I graduated from college. So. I'm not sure that wasn't a part of it. I am highly motivated by money so.
[00:11:40] Ken: I like, Oh, I mean, I think it's whatever works for you to achieve your goal. I mean, there there's intrinsic, there's an extrinsic and. In some ways for very specific like defined tasks. If I recall extrinsic motivation works incredibly well. I think that, that that's so cool. I actually had a very similar experience where I felt like I just sort of understood the system.
Yeah. I was a, just such a terrible student in high school. I was an awful student through my first three years of college. And then I found a, I found economics, which I was very interested in and I went and I asked the teacher questions and I wanted to know more. And then when I came to the school, I found out that you could just ask the teacher about things you don't understAnd they'll tell you the answer. It was wild. Right.
[00:12:32] Kristen: Right. Like why was I spending all this time? Stressing there's help available.
[00:12:38] Ken: Yeah. I mean, yeah. I mean, it's not like, they'll tell you exactly what is the questions on the exam are gonna be or anything like that, but they'll get pretty close. You know, if you show that you really care about what you're learning about.
They'll let you know what they think is important about the subject matter, because they also care about the subject matter. And I have been increasingly not concerned, but I've been surprised at how little students use the resources that are available to them. You have a career center, you have tutoring, you have all these things and it's, there are very few excuses you're paying for those at a university. You should be using and maximizing those as much as you can.
[00:13:23] Kristen: Yeah. Now, how did your parents feel about your college performance in the first three years?
[00:13:30] Ken: They sort of gave up on me in high school, so I have a really, I think a really good relationship with my parents because I was such a crappy student and I turned it around. I mean, my parents they're, they're both doctors, they're very educated. They put a huge premium on education and I was never interested in school. All I wanted to do was play sports and I was like, that's what I'm gonna do for a living. Why do I even need to go to school? I. Turns out. I was not good enough to, to play sports for living
And maybe they, they knew something that I didn't , but you know, after a certain point of time I recognized the importance and it wasn't until I'm very stubborn. And if it isn't obvious, it wasn't until I saw the utility. Of education. It wasn't until I saw the value that it could create that I started truly applying myself.
And I was also scared. I went to a very competitive high school. I think there's a hundred kids in our graduating class. Probably 20 of them went to Ivy league schools or Stanford or Berkeley or Oxford or whatever it is. And I just felt completely out classed. Like I was not in a similar bucket as these people.
I could try as hard as I wanted and I wouldn't necessarily be able to compete academically. So I just sort of was like, why, why would I do this if I'm not gonna be competitive? And then when I went to college, it was very different. It was like, Okay. Like if I like saw in myself that I could be capable of, of good things.
And that was really transformative for me. I think. It's even worse now with social media, right? We see everyone who's doing all this incredible stuff and they're like, Wow, what am I doing? And we forget that that is not a realistic representation of how everyone's doing, or even how most people are doing.
We're just seeing the highlight reel. So that was a huge factor in my personal development was wow. Everyone else is doing so great. And I'm doing so average. What's going on? And just. The realization that, that wasn't the case was, was really quite compelling for me.
[00:15:41] Kristen: Yeah, no, and I think this is so cool cuz I haven't really talked before about not starting off great. And then actually after I graduated from college, I made awful decisions. But you know, I think it's like a super important message that. Not everything is super shiny, right. Because even I'm sure there's a lot of people out there that think that, like, I just always did well in school. And then I did well in college and then I got a job and it's like, no, I graduated from college.
I went to grad school on a full scholarship. And I got arrested and moved home. like you know, and then continued to make like really bad decisions for a good amount of time. And it wasn't until You know, 2006 that, Okay. So that's, that gives no context to anyone. So I graduated from university in may, 2004.
And so then the end of 2006 after I'd been, it was like a very short period of time, but I just like was partying really, really, really hard and getting in a lot of trouble. And then. You know, the end of 2006, I started sobering up and actually this month, I just celebrated 14 years without a drink. So.
[00:17:18] Ken: Amazing. But yeah, that is a incredible achievement.
[00:17:22] Kristen: Yeah, thanks. So right. But it was very like, and since that time, you know, life has been really good and continuing to get better. Definitely some bumps. I mean, my first job after having three years of a whole on my resume was not where I wanted to be. Right. like that, that, wasn't what I was aspiring to, but definitely an upward trajectory from there.
[00:17:57] Ken: So I'm very interested in like cycles and breaking cycles. So we don't have to go into specifics of, of like, sort of your, your negative cycle there, but I'm interested in like your, your mentality when you were in this like rougher period of your life and how you were able to make a step out of that and sort.
Kind of transform your career and your life you know, was this something that was, again, a gradual change or was it something, you know, like stop like sobriety where it's like, Hey, I have to do this essentially cold Turkey and my life cascade, the, the changes cascade from then on.
[00:18:44] Kristen: Yeah. So I started sobering up the end of 2006. And so 14 years ago was actually May 1st, 2008. So for me, and there's plenty of people who you know, it gets bad enough that they are able to stop right away. And for me it was that bad, but like my. Head man. I had a really hard time giving it up and you know, I would go to, I remember my sister-in-law ex sister-in-law, but you know, she had her bachelorette party and I was like, and we're at, you know, the hard rock cafe and I had to walk outside crying.
And in my head, I thought that people thought. Like would notice that I wasn't drinking and would think it was weird. Right. And like, that was, I mean, but that's just like where my head was at. And I didn't see how, you know, life. It was gonna work. And I thought I was having fun for a long time. Like, that's the thing is like, you think you're having fun or you're gonna do different tomorrow.
And it was just Groundhog day every day. It's gonna be different tomorrow. It's gonna be different tomorrow. And it just never was, you know? And that part of my life. I mean, I'll just go into, it has been absolutely beautiful. You know, I served on a number of conference planning committee. You know, there's just so many young people, we do amazing things together.
I'm not as involved anymore, but you know, at the time, like I traveled all around the country, my bachelorette party was sober. My wedding, I didn't drink at. And like, you know, it's just nothing anymore. And So it's really cool. I think the message is that like, you know, if you're trying to, to sober up and you're having difficulty just know that if you can do it's not gonna be pretty, you know, the first year or whatever, but you know, it's amazing when you, when you get to that place where you feel okay.
[00:21:10] Ken: So you actually, in a previous conversation you described to me that pursuing your master's degree was something that was sort of a pivotal moment in getting you to the other side. Can you talk to me about what that meant to you and a little bit of a story behind that?
[00:21:29] Kristen: Yeah. Right. So I dropped out and then I made a huge mess. And then my first job after being able to hold a job, cause I wasn't employable. I was working for a mortgage brokerage. And you know, the housing bubble was bursting. So I took this job in February, 2007 and like right after you know, and so I had asked, I think it was like, it was 2006. I was still in like a very rough shape actually, when I applied to WPI and I walked to the mailbox, like in the center of town, With my big Manila envelope and I'm like crying and I'm like, life is gonna change.
Like it's so bad, but things are gonna be different. And you know, I got accepted and I got accepted full time and, you know, obviously I couldn't afford to go. I mean, I guess it's not obvious, but I mean, I totally couldn't afford to go full time, you know, and my. And so I'm working this job and they have tuition reimbursement, and they're like, you know, so I just I'm like, Okay, I'll take one class at a time.
So I took my first class. Loved it super hard. I mean, when you go back to school after three years of like doing nothing productive, it is very difficult. And, you know, the second semester, my job was like, yeah, no, the economy's falling apart. Like we can't offer tuition assistance. And I was like, I looked at the lady and I was like, Okay, well, cool.
I'm gonna pay for the class myself. And I'm gonna need to leave at three on Tuesdays to go to class. And so I did that and I was like, just, I just knew I was gonna lose my job. I didn't know exactly what I was doing. I knew it was a dead end job. I was making $38,000 a year. I was living in a garden level apartment and You know, my professor came to me at the end of the class and was like, Hey, would you like to move to school and go full time?
And like have a teaching assistantship. And I like balled the whole way home. It was like, you know, all I ever wanted was to just like, have a second chance at going to school and like fixing all of, you know, where I had ended myself up and. Yeah, and it was super hard, right? Like I made friends in grad school and I just remember someone who actually is pretty prominent on the data community, you know, coming over at like 10 o'clock on a Friday night and I'm working and they're like, no, like we're going out dancing. Like we're going out dancing. And so it was fun. I made connections, but yeah, I did. I pulled a ton of overnights. And yeah, just tried to make it work.
[00:25:01] Ken: Yeah. Well, I think that there is something I maybe it's a little bit poetic about, you know, if you fall in the hard times, it makes you appreciate the opportunities and the really good things that happen in life. And I think. You know, a lot of people probably haven't faced as much adversity or or, gone through the, the low points that that you're describing, but there's always room for appreciation and gratitude around these things. And it seems like you really appreciated this one.
[00:25:35] Kristen: Yeah, yeah, no, I do. I really appreciate a lot. You know. Oh, my God. Cause my life is wild today. Yeah. Like so wild. I, you know, have 86,000 followers on LinkedIn and you know, people will send me a connection request and be like, Oh, I'm honored that you accepted my connection request. And I'm like, honor.
[00:26:03] Ken: Yeah, energy to come on my podcast on your birthday. I mean, this is, this is it's real stuff.
[00:26:12] Kristen: Thank you. Yeah, no happy to be here. Thursday's just another working day.
[00:26:18] Ken: So I have a question about, so, I mean, obviously this master's program was very transformative. I think it serves as like, kind of a really cool pivot point in your life. What is the sort of direction look like after that, what was the path to sort of get to where you are now?
[00:26:38] Kristen: It absolutely changed my life, you know, cuz like WPI is a, has a good name. And so, you know, I didn't even really look for a job leaving there. I personally wanted to, well, first of all, I entered the PhD program and then my boyfriend dumped me and I was like devastated and was like, I'll take the masters.
Right. So. I'm getting my master's and my future boss came to WPI and was like, I need a, you know, statistician for a time series role. And so, you know, my, the faculty, there was like, we know you said you want a teacher, whatever, but like, do you wanna, do you wanna interview for this? And I was like, well, sure.
Cause it was three miles away from where I grew up. And so I took the job. I got offered the job. I took the job I asked for not even close to enough money. I like a year later realized how much I was actually worth . And I moved back in with my parents and lived in their in-law apartment. My dad made me eggs on Wednesday mornings.
It was wonderful. And Adjusting to corporate was really difficult for me. I didn't, I wasn't quite sure how people, like, I just didn't get the system, you know, like no one might, neither of my parents worked in a corporate office growing up, so I don't know. It was just, it was just weird to me. And yeah, from there, they gave me like a great raise and a great bonus.
I think my bonus was like 12%. And my raise was 6% or whatever. And then I decided to move in with my, at the time future husband. And the role was, you know, 40, not the role, but where we were moving. So he got a job at Vistaprint in north of may about 45 minutes north. And so we decided we were gonna move in together.
And so I just got a new job. I learned that you know, what I was doing with time series was way more technical. Like I was building neural nets and arenas, and the whole job was modeling. I didn't do anything besides modeling, but it was like a pretty pigeonholed role. And if I went to general analytics, I actually made even more money.
So I went to this role for more money that was way less technical. And that's sort of, you know, from there, I kind of hopped every couple of years to, you know, increase my pay to get new skills. See different size organizations, see how different companies work and function. And I think that's been super valuable to me in understanding sort of the landscape, you know, how things sort of sort of work. And then, yeah, in 2018 I wrote my first blog article.
[00:30:04] Ken: And the rest is history. So during that transition, going from sort of the hardcore modeling or from a pure, like a more pure statistics background, how did you pick up the programming and some of the like, the more softwarey types of skills compared to the pure math.
[00:30:27] Kristen: Oh man. So I have struggled it like, you know, like it's been worth it, but it was a, so my first course ever in programming was Fortran in 2001 and then, you know, in my master's degree, we did a lot of R, we did a lot of SAS. I decided I hate SAS and was gonna go with R and yeah, I kind of got around. I got around. Okay.
And then like the tidy verse came out and I like, wasn't about to switch just yet. And it really wasn't until I got laid off in 2017 that I started taking programming more seriously. Like prior to that I could do modeling in our, if you talk to people, they'd probably. Tell you, I was quite technical, but like, I certainly didn't feel that way. And then, you know, in 2017 I got laid off and I was like, Oh, like, all these jobs are looking for Python.
I'm gonna learn Python . So I just took a bunch of MOOCs and you know, and then yeah, I got a job that leveraged Python and everything we did was in Python and actually. That was the first time I, so January, 2018, I started at constant contact, but this was the first time I was actually really using GitHub.
And yeah, and like committing my code and like being super technical, you know? And so, yeah, so doing, just learning just enough Python. To pass the technical test there got me in. And then I just, you know, studied my buns off and I still like you know, I was just taking another Python MOOC like a month or two ago, learning more stuff, you know? Yeah.
[00:32:50] Ken: So after working with Python now for some time, how do you feel about it relative to R.
[00:32:56] Kristen: I prefer R, I think I mean, I've been in R since 2004, so I'm biased and I moved over to the Tidyverse. Which is a different world, right? Because prior to the Tidyverse, it was like the Wild, wild West. You didn't know what the syntax was gonna be.
You use one program, the syntax might look one way you use a different library. You don't know what you're gonna get yet to cobble a bunch of libraries together, sometimes to do what you wanted to do. and yeah, I, but I still, I love it. I love it. I wrote an article. That's gonna go out on Thursday and I you know, took a video and made it into an image data set for computer vision and set it into testing and validation sets. And it's just like, it's just such fewer lines and just so much more intuitive looking because I also did it in Python and I'm like, well, maybe we just haven't had a guy go and make like, such a nice library about it, but I don't know. That's just been my feeling is that I find, not that Python's not, you know, intuitive, it's got a lot going for it, but I just find are super intuitive.
[00:34:18] Ken: Yeah. I mean, I think that that's totally fair and that's a reasonable consideration for people when they're, when they're learning or when they're implementing. I would like to talk about, you know, you just mentioned, you wrote another blog article. I'm very interested in the story behind why people produce their first content and how you're able to, you know, more consistently produce content or come up with ideas. What's the backstory there.
[00:34:46] Kristen: Yeah. So that's like another happy accident. My life has been full of happy accidents, but so actually I had noticed on LinkedIn, I don't know if you know her, but Jacqueline ... She was in my LinkedIn...
[00:35:00] Ken: She's been on the podcast.
[00:35:02] Kristen: Okay, cool. Yeah. So, and actually, yeah, so she's actually the one who took me out dancing grad school.
We're going out dancing. Yeah. So But yeah, I see her in my feet and I just text her and I'm like, Hey, like, are you trying to be Miss Popularity on LinkedIn? Like, what is that? And she's like, you gotta write a blog article. And so I just thought about, you know, well, what do I have opinions about?
And so I wrote an article about segmentation using K means and just segmentation in marketing in general, because I have you. just so often in marketing, they'll be like, here's your segments now? Can you like make the day massage the data to like fit these segments? So it was just all about like how you should be doing segmentation and how you should be thinking about it from my opinions.
And I launched it and nobody cared, you know, I got like seven likes. And then, so I always speak at WPI or I frequently annually speak at WPI. Just about my career to the, you know, graduating statisticians and you know, I was like, Oh, I created this presentation about my career. Like I should.
Put it into a blog article since I've already done this. And so that one actually took off and got a lot of traction. And so then I started writing about you know, cuz like I had also been laid off and found a new job. And so it was sort of the going through the hiring pro like going through the interview process as somebody who.
This wasn't their first rodeo, you know? So a lot of, a lot of that kind of content, but that's how I, yeah, so I wasn't planning on writing a blog article. Then I wrote a blog article. I just happened to write a second blog article because the information was there and it like happened to give me enough validation that I can, that I continued to do some more.
[00:37:23] Ken: This episode is brought to you by Z by HP. HP's high compute, workstation-grade line of products and solutions. Z is specifically made for high performance data science solutions. And I personally use the Z Book Studio and the Z4 Workstation. I really love that Z workstation can come standard with Linux and they can be configured with the data science software stack. With the software stack, you can get right to work doing data science on day 1, without the overhead of having me completely reconfigure your new.
Now, back to our show. That's amazing. You know, I, it's been very cool to see your, your follow and grow and people finding so much value in the content and, you know, like the blog articles and things you're putting out there. I'm interested also in the other side of that, I mean, I have a pretty aggressive struggle with social media and some of the more addictive and maybe negative sides to that. I'm wondering what's your take on that.
[00:38:22] Kristen: So, I mean, we're like catching up after a year because I had mostly been gone from LinkedIn. I had come back for like a little period in 2001, then I got COVID and didn't come back. But even before that you know, COVID hit and it was very difficult for me. I had a, you know, at the time my kids were five and two. And a two-year-old with no daycare is just like, it is really hard to keep up with creating content when you've got a two year old and you know, my mental health.
Wasn't great. Just like half the countries is and you know, and trying to like, work a bit. You know, it's just, I didn't have room for the content anymore. And it seemed like on LinkedIn, every, you know what it felt like, I know this wasn't the case, but like, it felt like everyone was just moving on without me.
And, you know, I'd see people giving their like, Oh, hey, I got promoted or, you know, you know, just creating content, like it was another day and it like hurt me because I really wanted to be able to do it, and I couldn't. And so it was easier for me to take a step back. I mean, in general, like this time back now I feel like a much more grounded person.
I still have to watch myself, you know, like I feel like I've gotten pretty good about like, if something triggers me, I can be like, that's not. Real I'm triggered. like you know, and either like block the person or just not engage and keep scrolling, which I think is a skill like I've had to hone that over the last two years because everything's gotten just a lot more. A lot more. I don't have a word for it, but things are spicy out there, divisive, you know? I am interested to hear yours.
[00:40:40] Ken: So, I think social media has exposed me to some of the best parts of humanity and also some of the worst parts. Right with the interconnectedness, with the ability for someone to say, essentially whatever they want on the internet.
You get a lot more exposure to like, maybe not like the best people or like the best opinions than you did when I was growing up. When we didn't have social media, the only things that you hear are from your network and your friends. And that can be a little bit isolated. So it's, to me, it's like yeah, to me, it's been unbelievably.
Eye opening, for example you know, I trained jujitsu. That's why my nose is, I guess, a little red today. And one of the guys in class is a he's a cop, but he works a lot of like the, the really rough cases like murderers and all this brutal stuff. And like, you, I hear about that. And that's not something I don't really read the news.
It's not something I'm privy to on a day to day basis, but you're like, Wow, this guy's life is about all of the. Like worse stuff that happens between people. And I was never exposed to that by any sense. And I think in some sense, social media does a very similar thing where it bubbles up, like really, in my opinion, bad takes on like there, there was a recent one someone had, in my opinion, just like a freaking terrible take on on like women in.
Technical roles, right. And it's like there are gonna be those people out there by the law of large numbers. Unfortunately, this time this person had a very large following. But you know, just by how many people are interacting with the content and the things that you put out there, there's gonna be really bad actors.
And for me, the realization that. I can't ever, please, everyone, there are gonna be people that are frankly, batched crazy that are gonna be viewing my content and saying really mean things. Or you know, I feel really bad. Like one of my best friends is Tina Hong. Who's another YouTuber. And early on, we made pretty similar content.
Now she's gone into a little more like productivity niche, more than pure data science , but I'd read her comments and stuff. And compared to mine, they're dramatically different in terms of what people are commenting about. They talk about what she's wearing and her hair and these types of things. And I'm like, you know, from, from where I sit, I'm like, that's not okay.
Like we're our content early on was very similar and I'm not getting any of these and she's getting all of these. and to me, that's like it's crazy to see that difference. On virtually identical things. And I will say also you start to see really aggressive cultural differences, you know, like and the, the social media atmosphere is a global atmosphere.
And so you see these like really harsh you know, religious differences or perspectives on you know, Like, like sexuality and those types of things that vary really greatly in different parts of the world. And it's like, you know, it's really, it's really complicated and yeah, very scary and overwhelming to me, to be perfectly honest.
[00:44:09] Kristen: I am hoping though that someday I can get invited to one of the Indian weddings where they dance in the. That's on my bucket list. I'm like, you know, cause most of my following is, you know, that's all, that's a big piece of my following and I'm like, I'm gonna make some friends.
[00:44:25] Ken: Heck yes, I my girlfriend went to one a couple years ago and then. A couple of my friends, I missed the one. One of my friends had a, had a beginning wedding. I couldn't go. So I am right there with you. They look super fun.
[00:44:40] Kristen: So fun. So fun. Yeah. No. And I think, I think I've also been really lucky. Like I know a lot of women get message, you know, ... or whatever that are inappropriate and I just I've gotten them, but like, I don't think I get them to the magnitude that other people do. I don't feel like I've gotten a lot of comments about how I dress on my on my content, on my feed. I do get a lot of people who will, you know, if I do something that involves code, you know.
There's always a couple of dudes that are gonna, you know, either say something about me not writing the code, or you know, just a whole plethora of, you know, just questioning how much of it I actually did are, you know, is my methodology sound, those types of things.
[00:45:47] Ken: I mean, that, that to me is the biggest difference. Like I will write, I put some code up on the internet that is frankly, not very good. I mean, I do that too. Yeah, but there's like, there's been this sort of implicit trust. I mean, there's some people that'll question it, but compared to my. Like a lot of my peers, there's just less question of it.
And I don't really know why. Oh, I know why the probably gender different ones, but it's like I don't know. That's like very, I mean, I'm a little bit grateful because I'm like, I would not take that criticism very well, but at the same time, I think it's, you know, inherently, inherently wrong.
[00:46:28] Kristen: I think I've gotten really good at dealing with it.
[00:46:33] Ken: What's your strategy?
[00:46:36] Kristen: I just don't get triggered and I make sure that I Google and be just very tight about what I do. I mean, yeah. So basically it forces me to put in some additional effort, but I also reap the benefits of putting in the additional effort. Anyways, it's not wasted, you know.
[00:47:01] Ken: I really love that. You're sort of turning that negativity into something that's incredibly constructive. That's very powerful.
[00:47:10] Kristen: I try to keep my feed rainbows. I don't... (laugh)
[00:47:13] Ken: I like it. I'm the same way, rainbows and butterflies for me too.
[00:47:19] Kristen: Yep. Yep.
[00:47:22] Ken: So you kind of one last thing you'd, you'd alluded to. During the pandemic. You know, you said your mental health suffered. It was, it was time to take a break off, like take some time off. I mean, that's another, like obviously smaller sort of negative cycle. I was wondering how you, how you got out of that one. I think a lot of people are struggling even now with, with COVID, especially in some Asian countries where they're essentially locked at home and can't really do anything still. What were the steps you took that helped you to sort of break that cycle again?
[00:47:59] Kristen: Yeah, so I'm really big on you know, going with the professionals. And I, and I think it's a little dangerous when a lot of the material that I see for hashtag mental health on LinkedIn is like, you gotta go for a walk, you gotta meditate. And it's like, some people do. Some people have chronic mental illness and need real help. And like, you know, it would probably benefit more from like the suicide hotline, how to deal with a crisis center. And if a crisis center is in your area or, you know, some like discussion about maybe. Maybe they have a substance abuse issue, you know?
And so for me personally, over the pandemic, you know, I was going to a therapy weekly. And we talked about a lot of stuff because a lot of it like centered around my career. Right. Like I had to take a little step back when I had a two year old and a five year old at home. And, you know, so it was a lot of like, Hey, like what's my identity if I'm not working full time, because my identity has always been so wrapped up in my work.
And just like, you know, and I'm watching that, you know, multiple. Of women to men are leaving the workforce at the same time. And it's for that, you know having children and like that really affected me too. It was like, Oh, like I'm, you know, dealing with some of this because of my gender. And I have no control over that.
And well, I mean, I don't wanna say it like that, cause like I have a super progressive husband But, you know, it like bothered it. Like, I don't know. I don't know. It was a weird, it sort of like both bothered me and I wouldn't want it a different way if that makes sense. Like, my mom was a stay at home mom.
And you know, my parents would be happy if I wasn't working, and so, I don't know it's it was just sort of like working through these complex sort of issues. And, you know, for me, like I had postpartum depression when I had Susan and then I went off meds and then, you know, like during the pandemic it was like, Okay, it's time to like, think about meds again, because like life's difficult and we're gonna, we're gonna like work through this, you know?
And so that's sort of been my experience and I don't, you know, I wish there was less shame around these things because especially with the postpartum depression, it's like, you know, that was so hard. Cause I had never been on meds before. And you know, they tell you that after you have a child, you can get the baby blues. And so you just sit there and you're. Is this baby blues or is this something else?
[00:51:08] Ken: Yeah, I mean, I think that that's such an important insight is that, you know, especially during the pandemic, when we're alone, we're, we're spending a lot more time isolated. It's unbelievably important to have dialogue.
And like, at least for me, I found that therapy talking with other people is how I begin to understand things like I can sit there and write in a journal and do whatever, but something inherently is dislodged when it's bounced off another person. I mean, like in a therapy session, I literally just talk the whole time, but there's something about the other person being there that unlocks things that I couldn't necessarily like derive on my own. And I think that that's...
[00:52:00] Kristen: Keep you sick, you know.
[00:52:02] Ken: Yeah, well, I think that that's sort of the nature of humanity is that we are social creatures. Okay. And there's something very, you know, may maybe like mysterious, special, whatever it might be about human connection or human understanding. And I fall into this trap.
A lot of the time is that I find that, you know, like we're, we're inclined to think that other people think in the same way that we do, because we're essentially only exposed to our own thoughts. and that to me is so dangerous because a lot of my concerns, a lot of my fears, a lot of my insecurities come from how I interact with other people.
And what are they thinking? What do they think of me? All of these types of things. And just having other people to have that dialogue with and getting sort of into their brain. I mean, a podcast in my. Like this is legitimate therapy for me every, every week. Cause I talk to someone, I learn their story.
I learn how opinions or views are different than mine. But opening that up and being accepting of, Oh, Okay, this is how I feel. This is how other people feel. They don't have to be the same. Like, this other person is successful. I would like to think that I'm successful. That doesn't have to be the same.
I don't have to measure myself up against them. And it sort of goes also back to the social media stuff. I think that a lot of, at least my. Concerns and my doubts and my struggles during COVID happen because I was seeing what other people were doing and just realizing. You know, our own individual journeys are different from theirs and how we get to wherever we get is sort of up to us. It's exciting, but also very, very frightening and thought provoking at the same time.
[00:53:57] Kristen: Yeah. I'm just glad that now, you know, other people are talking about therapy and the same thing, so I don't have to feel like, you know, Oh my God, am I the only person that goes to therapy?
[00:54:10] Ken: Yeah. I think that I would like to think that the data community is very progressive on that front. I know Mark Freeman is a huge advocate, ..., who we've mentioned before. Zach Wilson is talks about this quite a lot. And I mean, that, that to me is, you know, like it's important to be talking about these. I'm not quite as vocal as those people. I mean, it's, I don't think that that's necessarily my battle to fight, but I have no problem talking about it in my experiences. And I think that that's how it should be. Right.
[00:54:46] Kristen: One on one, even if it's, you know, maybe gonna go somewhere, that's fine, but it's not the content that I'm coming up with to post.
[00:54:55] Ken: But I think that's, in my opinion, that's how it should be. It shouldn't be weird. Or for ... to talk about these things, it should be like, Oh, that's like a natural, just like in this podcast is sort of a natural course of discussion. And you know, that, that does make me quite happy that we can set some groundwork here as well. So those are all the questions I had. I'd love to know what you're working on now, how people can learn more about you and what you're doing here.
[00:55:28] Kristen: Yeah. So, what I'm working on now is a cool computer vision project where, so the school bus drives by my house turns around and comes back to pick up my daughter at the end of the driveway.
So, we're very lucky in the sense that we live across the street from trees. We don't have a ton of other cars or whatever. There's not a ton of there's not a ton of traffic on my street, so it's certainly not. Like an earth shattering, amazing model, but it will detect the bus driving by my house and send me a text so that I can tell Susan to put her shoes on, which is really cool.
It still gets some false positives, but we're also only running it during the window of time where the bus would go by. So it's not like I'm getting texts all day from like my neighbor's Tesla or whatever. But, yeah, that's awesome. So, yeah, so, and I'm like really fortunate that I get to, you know, build that and then build blog articles around it.
And you know, I'm using comment to version my models and you know, I'm just like really lucky to be able to, to have a job that allows me to do this is the stuff I'd be doing myself anyways, you know? So that's sort of what I'm working on now, but also I started it before I started working at come. But.
[00:57:02] Ken: Hey, there you go. My someone wise once told me that do the job you want before you have it, and you'll eventually find it or something like that. I don't remember the, this specific, I was wish I could be bit more eloquent with that, but amazing. So I will if that blog article is out before this comes out or any of the content around it, I'll make sure to share it related to this. Thank you so much again for coming on. This was incredible.
[00:57:30] Kristen: Yeah. Thank you so much, Ken. I really enjoyed it.
[00:57:33] Ken: Absolutely. Let's definitely talk again soon.