So you want to be a data scientist or get a few steps up the ladder in AI. But where do you start?

Digital technology is the life-force of the modern world, and data science, AI, machine learning, and other related skills are not only necessary to get ahead; they’re almost mandatory. A data scientist’s potential impact extends far beyond software development, driving the innovations that define our collective futures.

We spoke with Kevin Heyse, IMBA Alumnus 2017, about IE University, its MBA program, and how that has affected his opportunities and growth in the field.

First, we wanted to know more about Heyse’s current role.

“I am in a rotation program at GSK that I started in 2018,” Heyse said. “Through this program, I move into a different role and/or country every 12 months. Since I started, all the positions that I have taken didn’t exist before, which is exciting and challenging because people don’t understand my role – at least when I first begin. The Innovation Role was the first one in my program at GSK. It had a particular mission, and one of the associated tasks is to create a culture where innovation is a mindset, ideas are the result of a process, and done is better than perfect.”

That sounds like an exciting and challenging position. What are the most critical elements of such a role?

“My big question is ‘how can I bring value to the company and bring people along to make it happen?’” Heyse said. “With that in mind, the three most important things that are useful in all my roles are to expand the capabilities of my team through formal learning, master classes, and inspiration sessions. This brings everyone up to speed, demystifies the tech and digital concepts, and provides examples of how they apply to our business. Then, I want everyone to apply these new skills in practice by ideating and exploring new ideas together in cross-functional teams. We do some of this by working closely with big tech companies and consultancies. Finally, we break each project into smaller chunks, define success, and celebrate each win. This gets everybody motivated and brings them on board for the journey. This third goal is my biggest challenge, and fundamental since digital innovation does not happen if you are alone. You need motivated people to support you.”

Getting to this stage in his career was, in no small part, a result of an MBA program at IE University. What are the main cornerstones of such a program, and how have they helped Heyse achieve his goals?

“Diversity is IE Business School’s flagship experience, and it includes the number of nationalities and various backgrounds that people bring to the program and into the classroom,” Heyse said. “While at IE Business School, I got so much energy from that by learning to understand and consider my classmates’ points of view – it was a big part of the learning experience for me.”

In what ways does Heyse think the MBA has helped him launch his digital-first career? 

“There was a point in which I understood that I wanted to change professions and work in digital, and I realized that I needed a jumpstart of sorts to make that happen, hence the MBA,” Heyse said. “I applied to IE Business School because of the program’s entrepreneurship and technology focus, and so you could say I went into the program with that mission. One of the great things about the MBA at IE is that it is highly customizable, which allowed me to choose electives and work on start-up ideas as well as company collaboration projects focused on the digital area. On top of that, even in the MBA core curriculum, professors discuss digital innovation and entrepreneurship from day one. Although I did not have experience in tech or digital before my MBA at IE Business School, the program allowed me to learn skills and gain experiences, relevant to digital roles in the market.”

Which practical skills did you learn during the MBA that you apply now?

“There are three that stand out for me,” Heyse said. “One is empathy. And the others are being able to speak the language of business and technology, and then the third is creativity.”

Empathy is not something people would usually associate with an MBA program. How does Heyse apply that within a corporate culture?

“GSK is a big company with a wide variety of people,” Heyse said. “As a manager, it is essential to develop empathy so that I could put myself in other people’s shoes, understand where they are coming from, and then begin to lead them effectively. Working with my MBA classmates, who came from all around the world and had very diverse backgrounds and cultures, helped me strengthen this empathy muscle.”

So how about becoming technically bilingual? Where does that make a difference to the role and its responsibilities?

“The MBA at IE increased both my tech vocabulary and understanding,” Heyse said. “Through the different projects at IE Business School, I could dig deeper into new technologies and begin to understand the business applications. All the group work gave me the confidence to lead digital projects – and this was essential because speaking the tech and business language is necessary to make progress in my current job.”

In early education, we often see that creativity takes a backseat to academic prowess. Why is it so essential to unlock our creative potential for data science, AI, and other digital technology positions?

“You need to be creative to work in digital, and that is something that I learned during the MBA program,” Heyse said. “IE Business School helped me find ways of thinking that enable me to uncover innovative solutions for the company and inspire and challenge the people in the organization to bring those ideas to life.”

What is the networking life in the MBA?

“The networking opportunities during the MBA are infinite, and I would almost go so far as to say that they are as essential as the classes,” Heyse said. “Networking starts with your colleagues and continues with your professors and the social events that IE clubs organize. The professors helped me a lot with my job decision by giving me great advice and showing me different perspectives. On top of that, Madrid is a beautiful city that puts everyone in the right mood to be open-minded and build connections.”

Creativity and tapping into those skills have ultimately aided Heyse in his career at GSK.

“In the past, all my jobs included creating something new, and it is something that I enjoyed because I prefer variety during my day instead of routine,” Heyse said. “I also like to challenge myself and learn new things. This job has felt like a continuation of my MBA journey because I am always learning and looking for new and innovative ideas.”

As a Project Manager in digital-first projects, what leadership style has Heyse adopted? 

“This is a true digital transformation role, requiring collaboration across the business,” Heyse said. “One of my goals is to establish a common purpose and joint ownership within the teams I lead. While I may be heading up the initiative, I am not the sole owner of it. I try to transmit the excitement of trying something new, connect each role to the common goal, and create an atmosphere of fun, challenge and support. Creating purpose, showing empathy, and using language, people can understand also defines my leadership style. In digital, people and change management are key. If people do not understand the ‘why,’ they will not commit to the ‘how’ or ‘what’.’ 

What do you think the next five years hold for the digital world? 

“In health care specifically, we see a trend in self-care, which aims to empower patients or consumers to have information to understand more about themselves and identify individual ways to improve their health themselves,” Heyse said. “Analyzing emotions and sentiment on top of what can be tracked today is also going to be a big trend with technologies like AI. Lastly, privacy and regulation. Technology has been quicker than governments and policies, but it will be interesting to see if the newer business models are sustainable and comply with the new regulations.”

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