Walmart Data Scientist Jumps To DISQO, Becomes Data Science, Analytics Team Lead

Consumer insights platform DISQO has appointed Yannis Pavlidis as vice president of data science and analytics, reporting to Drew Kutcharian, co-founder and chief technology officer. 

Pavlidis, who joined DISQO from Walmart, will lead the company’s growing data-science team, deploying innovative methods and technologies.

At Walmart, Pavlidis served as the senior director of data science for Walmart's ecommerce business., building and leading data-science teams across various divisions including Sam’s Club, Walmart.com, Walmart Online Groceries and Walmart International.

Pavlidis joined Walmart in 2011 through the acquisition of OneRiot, where he was one of the early architects of the company’s real-time search engine and social media behavioral platform. He also co-founded Personity, a presence and availability company, which was acquired by Openwave in 2002. 

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Search & Performance Marketing Daily caught up with Pavlidis to discuss data, trends, professional goals, technology, and challenges.

Search & Performance Marketing Daily: Why join DISQO?

Pavlidis:  After 10 years in retail with Walmart, I was looking for a new challenge. The two most important parameters were good people and data-driven decision making. I wanted to join a company where data science was paramount to its success. DISQO exceeded my expectations in both areas.

The interviews were phenomenal. The people I met were authentic and real, and I knew I would enjoy the culture. After talking with Armen Adjemian, co-founder and CEO, I realized the critical role that high-quality data and data science play in DISQO's consumer insights platform. It’s integral to the end-to-end quality DISQO provides to their clients who are looking to build insights they can trust.

Finally, the wealth and scale of the zero-party data from DISQO’s audience members, now at my fingertips, is a playground too good to resist for a data scientist like me. It promises to motivate and challenge me and the team I'm building.

S&PMD:  You joined the company in October. What are you working on now?

Pavlidis:  I’m well down the road with my 90-day plan set up for me by Drew Kutcharian, co-founder and CTO. As you would expect, there has been a lot of time spent meeting people and assessing the data science and analytics needs across our clients, our platform, the products we have today, and those that are in the pipeline.

I’m conceiving the evolution of our data-science practice as our platform scales to help ensure the integrity of the insights our clients build with us. 

S&PMD:  What are your professional goals for 2022?

Pavlidis:  Everything we do at DISQO is focused on how we can make our clients more successful by helping them to apply trusted insights to their most critical business decisions — from strategy and product innovation, through to advertising measurement and optimization, and everything in between.

I’m laser-focused on creating a world-class data-science and analytics organization — and culture — inside of DISQO that in turn helps brands and agencies to be more successful.

S&PMD:  Can you describe one data or analytics process missing or challenge you recently encountered in the overall ad industry?

Pavlidis:  Determining return on ad spend and campaign effectiveness have always intrigued me. It was a focus during my time at Walmart with Walmart Connect. While everyone is perennially trying to solve this, it’s still too hard for brands and agencies to confidently measure the effectiveness of an ad campaign, especially across platforms, for an objective, holistic view.

S&PMD:  How would you solve it?

Pavlidis:  I joined DISQO to help solve this exact problem. DISQO’s ad measurement product approaches this challenge in a way that no one else has even attempted. With consumer members 100% opted-in and sharing sentiment and cross-platform digital behaviors, DISQO’s clients are getting an objective and complete picture of campaign impacts for both brand lift and performance. They are able to connect what people say and do across brand experiences and the full consumer journey. Playing a key role in this excites me.

S&PMD:  Nearly a decade at Walmart, and nearly five years at OneRiot, what experience at those companies did you bring to DISQO?

Pavlidis:  At these companies, I learned that successfully building a culture where innovation and best practices in data science are cultivated and valued requires a hub-and-spoke approach. For example, Spotify does this well; they have centralized guild functions such as data science, but also make sure specialist knowledge is deeply embedded and actively participating inside of product teams and domains. This maximizes the impact of their skill sets. As I further scale DISQO’s data science team, it’s my goal to ensure our data science expertise is fully realized in product development and at every client touchpoint.

S&PMD:  When did you develop an interest in data?

Pavlidis:  I am a computer scientist by training, but when OneRiot began processing the Twitter feed, I quickly became a data enthusiast. What intrigued me was the unpredictability of data, driving me to uncover insights and the true meaning of people’s actions (especially how the real world relates to the digital world and the metaverse). Really, there is no better time to be in data science.

S&PMD:  What personal habit contributes to your success as a manager?

Pavlidis:  It’s not exactly a habit, but more of a value that I adhere to -- and that is being authentic. It means making sure my actions match my words, being a good listener and creating an environment infused with psychological safety that allows everybody to achieve their highest potential by being themselves. This was another area of cultural alignment between me and DISQO, where transparency, vulnerability and servant leadership are cherished.

S&PMD:  What is the best piece of professional advice you received, and who did you receive it from?

Pavlidis:  My mentor Ron Benson, whom I worked with at WalmartLabs, he’s now at Amazon, advised me to hire on my weaknesses while continuously enhancing my strengths and growing into new areas. This liberated me and helped me to concentrate on ideation and strategy. It really propelled my career.

S&PMD:  What types of books do you like to read?

Pavlidis:  I try not to focus on one genre. Some books I read help me to escape from the work routine and come back rejuvenated. Recent titles that resonated with me are Sapiens and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval Harari; How Democracies Die, by Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky; and Measure what Matters, by John Doerr. I also always enjoy Harvard Business Review articles on topics such as management, leadership, culture, and innovation.

S&PMD:  Can you connect one of these book’s themes with your professional management style?

Pavlidis:  Absolutely; the book that has inspired me the most was How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen. It helped me establish the right balance between life and work priorities, which is so vitally important -- especially over the last couple of years in the pandemic.

It helped me realize what makes me happiest at work and it also helped inform my people-centric leadership style.

I understand the importance of creating flexibility for people so they can be motivated and successful at work based on their own needs, wants, personal lives, and families.

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