Last week, we lost a great data scientist and a friend of mine, Elizabeth (Liz) Boshardy. Liz lived in Chicago and was on the team I managed at Trunk Club for a little over two years. She died last Saturday; hit by a truck as she crossed the street. She was 29 years old, and was six months pregnant. I don’t think I can articulate how devastating this is for all of us who knew and worked with her, nor can I articulate how much she was liked, so I’ll say this: for the two years we spoke at least weekly on the phone or in person, I would come home from work and say to my wife, “It was a good day. I got to speak to Liz today.” I must have said that 100 times. Liz was someone who could bring peace and calm to situations, and it was contagious to others. She also had a unique way of looking at technical problems.
For a long time, I’ve espoused the virtues of diversity. I’ve seen diversity of thought and approach solve problems faster and more efficiently than they would have been solved with a room full of people who think just as I do. While it’s probably easy to agree with that last statement, it’s magical to see diversity at work. Liz brought this to our Trunk Club team. Her approaches and solutions were often quite different than any of us use to come up with. It was as though everyone but Liz read the same technical papers and articles, so when it came time to brainstorm ideas for that next product recommender or propensity model, she would often surprise us with angles we hadn’t thought of or approaches that got us to an answer more quickly.
I remember working with Liz on the onboarding questions that TrunkClub uses to understand its customers’ preferences. She discovered a novel way to use the product recommender to spot opportunities to ask new and more-effective onboarding questions. It was right there in the pile of numbers and calculus, and she found it. It wasn’t one of the PhD’s or someone with decades of experience; Liz simply had an alternate approach and the technical sagacity to spot an opportunity none of us could see. Look for this diversity when hiring. Ask candidates how they might approach a problem. If you don’t agree with their approach, it might just be a good thing.
It feels unbefitting to end with links to articles I’ve read and enjoyed this week, so I’ll stop here.
Have a wonderful week and if you want, tell someone they make a difference in your life. You all certainly make a difference in mine!