Growing up in the Bay Area Kellie Ottoboni always knew she wanted to follow in her parent’s footsteps to attend UC Berkeley. It was in high school that she developed her love of math as she found that it explained every physical process in the world. Kellie’s childhood dreams led her on a path to receive her B.A. in Applied Mathematics and Statistics and a Ph.D. in Statistics both from UC Berkeley.
As a Ph.D. student, Kellie was attracted to data science at the early onsight of its rising popularity as an emerging STEM field. She saw the potential of data science and all the ways data could be used to impact society. Professor Philip Stark became Kellie’s Ph.D. advisor guiding and mentoring her throughout her doctoral journey.
Kellie was drawn to his diversity of research interests. His research was directly aligned with Kellie’s interests. He focused on a variety of topics and social issues such as the U.S. census, election auditing, earthquakes, the lottery, student evaluations of teachers, and more.
Kellie describes her Ph.D. work as the “intersection of Social Good and Statistics.” She focused on data that specifically impacted people such as gender equality and health making an impact on well-being.
Kellie’s path to discovering her passion for social good and statistics was not necessarily linear. She learned through self-discovery that her career path needed to be one that allows her to make an impact in the world.
“To feel fulfilled, I wanted my work to directly impact the lives of others, even if it’s in small ways.” She worked with Professor Stark to identify research that intrigued her. “I had to find my voice to say no to things I didn’t want to do and find the courage to dive into new problems.”
During her doctoral journey, Kellie was also a Fellow at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS).
“BIDS was the greatest part of my Ph.D. I was exposed to a diverse community outside of Statistics,” shares Kellie. “This was where I became excited about open source software and I had my first experience working on open-source Python packages. At BIDS I saw the broader impact that data can have and I learned to understand the fundamental differences between data science and statistics.”
Today, as a data scientist, Kellie is interested in causal inference, experiments, hypothesis testing, and the nuances of data about people. She is currently working on Data and Experimentation at Pinterest where she leads a team that focuses on experiment quality.
“My role is really focused on oversight and governance. Any change to the Pinterest app goes through an experimental process,” explains Kellie. “When I joined the team, it became my job to figure out if Pinterest’s experiments were being designed optimally to get the best results possible.”
Looking to the future, Kellie is excited about what the future holds for data science as it permeates all facets of society. People want to make informed decisions such as understanding all the information around COVID-19 or even the upcoming election but don’t know where to turn.
“With data science, we are looking at what data do we need, what are the problems with the data, and technically how do we acquire the data through the pipeline. Data intuition is so valuable in data science.”
~ Lauren Pitcher