What Being a Sports Radio Host Taught our New Director of Data Analytics

NOVEMBER 23, 2015

As Director of Data Analytics for QxBranch, Dr. John Kelly leads a team of engineers shaping the technical goals and direction of data analytics capabilities for the firm. This entails building capabilities in machine learning, working with customers to hone their problem sets, and delivering insightful recommendations from complex data. It’s a far cry from hosting sports radio.

John honed his quick thinking and built his ability to work deep in analytics while moonlighting as a sports radio host for four years. With hot-blooded fans calling in regularly, he was subject to verbal berating and a slew of colorful language over Monday morning quarterbacking. But he kept calm and cool.

John Kelly

“People are incredibly passionate and intense about sports. Being able to engage in those conversations is important in the business world as well. It helped me be quick on my feet, focus on the data, and be comfortable speaking with just about anyone.”

It’s this comfort level with people and ease in approaching phenomenal challenges in general that keeps pushing him in personal goals — like competing in ultramarathons and Ironman Triathlons— and has propelled him throughout his early career.

Before joining QxBranch in July 2015, John was the Technical Lead for corporate data analytics at Lockheed Martin, reporting directly to the Chief Technology Officer. For two years, he contributed to the development of data analytics capabilities in the areas of program management, healthcare, predictive maintenance, quantum computing, and business intelligence.

He shaped an enterprise-wide data analytics strategy and acted as a technical consultant for machine learning across the corporation while leading the formation and execution of research agreements with multiple universities.

As a member of an internal entrepreneurship group tasked to seek out and develop innovative ideas from across the corporation, he was granted the autonomy to pursue new technologies, applications, and processes.

“I worked on incredible projects – from healthcare and genomics to space vehicles and defense platforms that help keep us safe. That kind of magnitude and responsibility is unique,” he says.

It’s the storytelling aspect though that he attributes to his early sports radio background that has helped him rise so quickly in the corporate arena. “Storytelling is a vital aspect of data analytics,” he says. “You need to be able to determine what matters and what drives value.”

“Data analytics and machine learning capabilities are in high demand, but in the end, analytics isn’t useful unless it drives strategic actions. That outcome requires ideas to be effectively communicated to stakeholders.”

That’s exactly what John is delivering with QxBranch. The systems engineering capabilities underpinning QxBranch’s team allows the company to incorporate advanced data analytics into complex systems and probabilistic models already in use by customers. This means that the primary output of QxBranch analytics is more than simple prediction or classification, it’s an approach to system optimization that informs key decisions and prescribes value-driven actions in a language the stakeholders know.

John’s game plan is to build QxBranch’s expertise and experience in domains such as finance, insurance, and cybersecurity, and contributing to quantum computing-enhanced machine learning algorithms that will enable their future capabilities to scale to larger and more complex problems.

By joining QxBranch, John says, “I have an opportunity to guide the development and application of new capabilities that are built using revolutionary technologies.”

And that’s something to be passionate about.