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Joe Waugh - Meet the Mentor

My name is Joe Waugh, and I am a Data Scientist at FedEx Ground. I have expertise in data science, analytics, machine learning and deep learning. I currently lead technical development of several key initiatives, ranging from fraud detection platforms to computer vision applications for FedEx revenue teams. I have mentored several mentees in the past across various domains such as analytics, data engineering and machine learning.
Joe Waugh

Data Scientist II, FedEx Ground

Why did you decide to become a mentor? 

As someone entering the data analytics field, I had several mentors that gave me the opportunities, knowledge, and experience to continue making my own path in the field. Ranging back to my undergrad experience at Arizona State University, I worked with several graduate CS student mentors and professors on predictive modelling applications for coding challenges. As I continued towards the next stage of my career, I had additional peer mentors helping me in creating different computer vision-related algorithms I worked on at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where I earned my MS in Computer Science. 

The assistance I received from my peers and instructors in the form of mentorship sparked my interest in looking into ways to be a mentor for others following a similar path, which led me to finding the MentorCruise platform. I look forward to meeting new people, and helping them define and work towards their goals via a mentor relationship in the future. 

Before joining MentorCruise, I had worked with several undergraduate students from Arizona State University and several Fortune 500 junior analysts to build their analytics skillsets and gain ML modelling experience. This opportunity was something I greatly enjoyed, leaving me wanting to continue pursuing mentorship opportunities within my current network, and also meet new mentees and help them pursue their goals. 

How did you get your career start? 

After graduating from Arizona State University at 19, I landed my first job in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona as a Process Engineer at State Farm. This role ended up giving me exposure into a variety of different areas, including Robotics Process Automation (RPA), time series forecasting, and A/B testing of vendor products. These experiences quickly made me realize how important data-driven decision making is in a Fortune 500 (or any) organization.

As a result, I knew I wanted to pursue my Master's degree in a technical area. I landed on Georgia Tech's OMSCS program (I graduated in 2022, go Jackets!) where I specialized in Machine Learning. After 18 months of pursuing the program, I landed my first Data Scientist role at FedEx, where I've been able to lead high-impact, highly technical initiatives aimed at improving the customer experience and revenue for the organization. To date, I've been involved in building fraud detection platforms that saved $300M in revenue, in addition to building image classification models aimed at capturing $3M+ revenue yearly.

My experience at FedEx quickly turned into leading several company-wide technical initiatives, and mentoring junior professionals in their roles to build their technical skillsets. It's been a great transition to be able to help others in the area I specialize in, and see them achieve the same "Aha!" moments I go through when finding an important correlation, or getting to a statistically significant answer that can be reported back to their teams. As I continue progressing through my career, a strong focus of mine is to continue sharing my skillsets and perspective to peers and mentees, as a collective sharing of thoughts and ideas always makes for a better end product and team environment. 

What do mentees usually come to you for?

Mentees usually ask me for experience on transitioning into a data science role at their dream company, or how to transition from a non-technical (or less technical) role into a Data Scientist or ML Scientist role. All of my mentees have had different goals, and so I first have an introductory call to understand their goals for our mentor/mentee relationship, and develop an action plan for obtaining these goals. If we decide to continue the mentorship program, we then set reasonable objectives that we can collectively review over the next 6 months to assess how the mentee is doing, and what I can continue to do to help. We keep in touch via SMS, email, and video conference calls. 

In thinking about the transition to a new role, I focus primarily on three areas: learning resources, technical acumen, and networking. Many mentees that I've worked with look at data science as a field that's too vast to know where to start. As someone who made the transition from a non-coding background to Data Scientist with a CS in Computer Science, I can share many of the vital resources I used to get up to speed on the content many of my peers already knew, and share new ones that reflect the latest and greatest tech stack that exists for data science enthusiasts. Developing a personal portfolio is another area that I've worked with peers on, specifically focusing on identifying value in a technical project, cleaning up code used to gather results, and technical analysis associated with the data project they've worked on. Finally, I always stress with my mentees the need to build a solid online presence. LinkedIn and GitHub are a couple very important platforms for data science professionals, and maintaining a presence here with clean, updated code can make or break a mentee's professional opportunities. I spend time to help explain how best to engage with network connections, make new connections, and engage these platforms to their benefit. 

Ultimately, my goal as a mentor is to be flexible in my support and guidance for each mentee I work with. Whether that means following these goals above, or focusing or different types of questions or content, I'm flexible in my working approach, as long as we both agree on the long-term value of achieving their goals! I strive to guide them in their transition to their dream roles, and together we can make it happen! 

What's been your favorite mentorship success story so far? 

I spent several months working with a Fortune 500 employee looking to transition into the field of data science. Coming from a non-tech background, we worked together to understand what his career goals are, and what his timeframe is for achieving those goals. After several months, he landed a new opportunity in tech, specifically supporting ML modelling in computer vision to generate $2M+ in yearly revenue for his company. I've been very fortunate to work with a highly motivated individual, and it's been very rewarding to see him happily accept his new role in the tech industry, and flourish as a data analyst and continue pushing forward to his goals of becoming a data scientist.

What are you getting out of being a mentor? 

Mentoring others gives me an opportunity to help others, and ultimately give back to the industry that has given me so much. Being fortunate to have many mentors in my academic and professional career has motivated me to find similar opportunities to help others follow a similar path. I enjoy seeing others succeed in achieving their goals, and I enjoy getting the chance to work with people from all backgrounds looking to make a life-changing decision to transition into a dream career! 

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