Published: 29 March 2016
After a few months hiatus, we are back with another impressive exportBI Q&A feature bringing you face-to-face with some of the brightest, most successful and inspiring Business Intelligence professionals and entrepreneurs who have Caribbean heritage or are based right here in the Caribbean. These features of influential and impressive Business Intelligence talents will form part of our quarterly exportBI blog feature where we ask eight (8) questions to gain more insight into their career and journey as a Business Intelligence Professional. We hope you will enjoy reading their stories and they will leave you inspired and invigorated to start your Business Intelligence career or take your existing career to the next level.
Meet Sherwain Williamson - Data Scientist in Training
This quarter we have Sherwain Williamson, Data Scientist in training. After months of trying to land this interview with Sherwain, we finally agreed on a call on a Tuesday evening to catch up for old times' sake and go through the eight questions for the feature, a timely balance as so many things had changed since we last spoke.
I must admit I was not fully prepared to conduct an interview with Sherwain while LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing as I sometimes faded into the background and he proceeded to do his off the court commentary on any foul or missed basket the team made in his blended Jamaican creole and American accent. I tried to be a good sport and patiently waited for him to reclaim his chain of thought and continue telling the story of how he stumbled upon a career in BI and landed his first job out of University of Technology, Jamaica (UTECH) at leading Caribbean Telecommunications provider, Digicel Jamaica to his recent promotion at Amazon as Senior Data Engineer after less than twenty four months on the job. His career accomplishments are not just admirable but inspiring and for some, maybe even enviable but Sherwain is brilliant and his success is timely and well deserved.
Certified in Oracle and Teradata combined with a Bachelors in Computing and Information Technology with a focus on on enterprise computing, not only does Sherwain's academic accomplishments speak for themselves but his career is proof that he is a trailblazer. He will be the first to tell you that he is a programmer and "code is life", so having spent the last seven years focused on data acquisition, integration and analytics is a story worthy to be told and our eight questions below take you on a journey from humble Caribbean roots to what is dubbed as the up and coming Silicon Valley in the beautiful city of Seattle, Washington.
" Maximise every opportunity to learn as much as you can "
~ Sherwain Williamson
1. How did you get into the Business Intelligence field?
I got into Business Intelligence (BI) by accident as it was not my first choice. My first choice was programming but with limited career options I was looking around and I got contacted by Digicel for a Data Warehouse Specialist role. It was not my first choice but with my background and skill-set, I took on the challenge and ended up working in the field.
2. What is your area of expertise?
My area of expertise is modelling, ETL (data integration), analytics and predictive analytics.
3. Who are some of the companies you have worked with?
Digicel was my first job and I was involved with end to end BI, everything from sourcing, extracting, transforming, loading and building reports. We covered data acquisition to publishing reports.
At JP Morgan my focus was credit and debit card analytics. I developed models to compare industry/competitors KPIs for benchmarking and so on.
I did a short stint as Software Engineer at KPMG because after I originally interviewed with KPMG and Amazon, KPMG called back with an offer first but within a week in I got an offer from Amazon and I took it.
In my current role at Amazon, I am focused on merchant analytics to monitor suspicious activity and compliance with tax and regulatory. I write logic to determine fraudulent merchants based on rules built, there is also predictive analytics, scripts to determine when merchants will achieve certain targets based on KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements set out by the Government. We develop linear regression algorithms to determine when merchant will hit max threshold for transactions and check for tax evasion.
4. What is your greatest BI achievement to date?
It may sound unbelievable but starting Amazon, they had all reports being fed by an Access Database for tax compliance. I created a Data Warehouse for tax and compliance using Oracle and Tableau. I created various ETL (extract, transform, load), reporting and analysis to support the business tax compliance department and it is still in use today (over one year and eight months).
5. What are your 5 year goals?
There are two career paths that I want to venture into; one is data scientist as it gives the best of both roles and is more technical versus BI engineer. Data Science gives the freedom to play around with new technology and disciplines like machine learning. The second area would be programming or software engineering.
6. What do you think is the greatest challenge facing the BI industry in the Caribbean today?
Without a doubt, I would say exposure to new technologies which has been a long standing age old problem. With businesses venturing into predictive analytics and taking on the challenge of big data, I don’t know if we leverage data enough to realise it’s full potential. Working at Digicel, who I believe were the main leaders in data, other companies are not there yet.
Companies here are making every single decision based on data, data has to be the foundation for decision making.
7. What is your advice to someone wanting to get into the BI field?
Business Intelligence is a great field to get into but think outside the box. Get into the field with a company that is doing great things with data and utilising it’s full potential. Maximise every opportunity to learn as much as you can.
8. What do you do for fun when you are not working on BI projects?
Watching, playing sports and programming. I program in Java and since lately I’ve been using Python.
Sherwain Williamson's Bio
Sherwain Williamson is a data and analytics professional with experience in Telecommunications, Insurance, Merchant and Banking industries. He writes code for fun and loves to play and watch basketball and football games.
Want more? Get Social with Sherwain Williamson!
LinkedIn: Sherwain Williamson LinkedIn
*Interview conducted in October 2015
About the author: Raquel Seville [@quelzseville] is a Business Intelligence Professional, SAP Mentor, BI Evangelist, Founder: exportBI | Co-Founder: eatoutjamaica. To find out more, please visit her about me page.
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