My General Motors Story

My_GM_StoryIntroduction

General Motors has a new podcast series titled: “What’s Your GM Story?”. I was recently interviewed for that series and this article provides additional background information to my “GM Story”.

On the podcast, we are asked three questions including (1) What brought you here?, (2) What keeps you here? and (3) How does your job move GM forward?  I explain my answers to those questions in this article by going backwards in time to one and a half years ago.

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Question 1: What brought you here?

It was late one night when I received an interesting email. It was sometime in September or October, 2014, when this life-disruption device hit my inbox.  Little did I realize that at that moment, I was about to embark on a path that would blast me out of my comfort zone and provide unbelievable opportunities to me all at the same time.  To understand what it feels like to get yourself blasted out of your comfort zone, you can read this story:  3danim8.wordpre…e-comfort-zone/.

This email contained a job posting for General Motors (GM) that I thought perfectly fit my skills. Upon reading it a few times, I was convinced that I should apply for the job, although I firmly believed that the application would go unanswered since I knew nobody at GM. I estimated that my chances of earning that job were 1 in a trabillion (the biggest number known to mankind, according to my 4-year old son Jett).

Well, a couple of months later, I was at home having lunch when I received a phone call from a lady named Chaquita that completely surprised me. She told me that she had found my resume and thought that I was the perfect person for a job that I had applied for. “What job is that?”, I asked.

I had forgotten about that GM application from a couple of months before, and I’m not normally a person to apply for jobs. She explained to me that it was the GM job posting that I responded to, which made me think that this was the least expected thing that could happen to me (remember the odds were 1 in a trabillion). If you are interested in knowing more about that phone call, you can read this article:  3danim8.wordpre…-thing-happens/.


For my spoken response to this question, click on the audio player shown below.


 

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Question 2: What keeps me here?

Once I decided to take the job with GM, my wife and I had a lot of work to do. The biggest and most abrupt change was moving over 1,000 miles away from our two college-age kids, Sarah and Colton. After about 4 months of living apart, we realized how disruptive the change was for us as a family. For more information about how that feels, you can read this story:  3danim8.wordpre…rt-zone-part-3/.

To be able to restore sanity in my life, I decided that I had to leave both Ausin, TX and GM. The family disruptions were too significant to ignore. I could write a short book on the chaos we experienced in 2015, but for now, those things will remain only in my and Toni’s memory banks.

On a hot Austin, TX day in July 2015, only after 5 months on the job, I was sweating bullets when I explained to my supervisor that I was going to have to leave GM and return to Knoxville. Although I knew that my “dream job” would be lost in that decision, family clearly out-ranked the big motor company.

What I hadn’t learned by that point in time, however, that one of GM’s mottos is “Family First”. Once again, I was hit with a pleasant surprise. My fantastic supervisor immediately said to me: “How would Atlanta suit you and your family?”. Taken aback, I stuttered something to the effect of: “Oh, I’ll have to check with Toni but I think that will work”.

For us, the difference between Austin, TX and Roswell, GA, is huge. The difference means being able to visit our kids when needed in a 3 hour drive versus driving 16 hours or flying for 13 hours from TX. Once my supervisor decided to “go to bat for me” (so to speak), I was hoping that the management would allow me to relocate to GA. If the answer to that question was yes, then I would get to keep my dream job and continue on to write this article. Otherwise, this story would have never been written.

What we learned in the process of disrupting our lives is this: Even if your kids are in college and working towards establishing their independence, it isn’t fair to them to completely remove their stable base. Kids at this age are full of fear, uncertainty, and all types of energy and enthusiasm, but at the same time they still need guidance. They still need their parents looking out for them. There is no question about that.


For my spoken response to this question, click on the audio player shown below.


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Question 3: What is the story behind the role you have? How does your job move GM forward?

Randy Mott has lead the IT restructuring of GM. As part of that movement, he created an office of advanced analytics to help GM utilize its data to achieve higher performance in many aspects of the business. Imagine having decades of data that spans the world, with a growing and changing company (and industry) that his evolving at light-speed. If you can’t quickly make data-driven decisions in this environment, you won’t succeed.

Now I work with a highly-talented group of specialists that will use data to improve many aspects of GM’s performance. We do everything from historical data analysis to real-time analysis, to predictive analytics using our massive data sets. We create solutions and work with application development teams to build these solutions into robust, scalable applications for the managers of GM to be able to use. When you have a tremendous computing platform coupled with terabytes of data and highly skilled workers, anything is possible.

For me, I specialize in the use of Alteryx and Tableau to analyze and visualize data in the context of business problems. I actually get paid to teach 3-day Tableau training courses to GM employees in hope of spreading my 9 years of knowledge on using Tableau for solving difficult problems. Sometimes I think I should be paying GM for that opportunity because it is a whole lot of fun.

I get to be creative on how I attack problems and find solutions. I’m like a data chef, preparing meals by using Alteryx to pull data from Oracle, Teradata, Aster, Hadoop, and DB2’s, mixing, blending, joining and computing until the right recipe is achieved. There is nothing that can’t be done when you have Alteryx at your fingertips, allowing you to perform in-database operations at a moments notice.

At GM, I have everything I need to succeed. This is how I help move GM forward on a daily basis. I uncover and see things in data that nobody has seen before because it wasn’t possible to do. I create pictures of “data stories” and I tell these stories by using Tableau. I guess you can say that I play with data and pictures. I’m kind of like a “data artist” packaged in the form of a scientific programmer, as I tried to explain to my son last night.

If GM has a tough problem to solve, I want to be on the case. That is why this is my “dream job”, and why I love working for GM. This is by far and away the best company I have ever worked for. To the managers of GM that allowed me to move to Roswell, I thank you. I promise to give back to the company all that you have provided to me and my family in allowing us to make the move. Finally, many thanks to Kelly and Kerry for having me on the podcast and giving me the inspiration to write this article!


For my spoken response to this question, click on the audio player shown below.


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2 thoughts on “My General Motors Story

  1. Hey Ken, this is a really emotional written story! Nice to hear that you run the data show at GM.

    Regards,
    Cristian

    • Hi Christian,

      I feel humbled that you took your time to read that article. Thanks for the comment and you are one special person. By the way, I’m a long way from running the show at GM. I’m only 1 out of 216,000 employees! I’m way down the ladder, buried under a mountain of brilliance that stands above me. Thanks again for your kind words.

      Ken

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