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Balancing the Possible: A Q&A with Dan Miller, Pandata Project Manager

As a toddler, Dan Miller knew that he absolutely, positively, adamantly wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. No one was going to change his mind. Except maybe him, that is.

Dan’s life since then has been a constant balancing act between adventure and curiosity. Today, Dan is our Project Manager at Pandata. We sat down with Dan for a quick Q&A.

What made you want to become an astronaut?

I think it’s because I love adventure and massive challenges. It’s part of the reason I eventually studied mechanical engineering.

Tell us about that.

I was born and raised in Cleveland. I attended Cleveland State University, where I earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering, particularly as the discipline applies to the human body. While I was still an undergrad student, I founded a start-up medical-device company. I went on to become the school’s first Venture for America Fellow.

How did that come about?

I entered a competition to build a machine that would help people who had experienced a stroke. My pitch won the competition. I was the first fellow to come out of Cleveland State University. The program is selective, with only a 10.8% acceptance rate for the class of 2018.

Tell us about your early career.

After graduating, I worked for a few years as a senior project engineer and yard manager for a minority-owned construction engineering firm headquartered in Detroit. Then I joined Pandata.

Can you describe a typical day or week as an AI project manager?

I am in the challenge-solving business—there are multiple challenges in data science. One of the largest is managing AI and machine learning projects effectively. Each project operates like a research project. I have to figure out ways to ensure that our clients get the quality of work they’re anticipating, when they expect it, and within budget.

Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on recently?

One of my favorite recent projects was for a startup in the continuing legal education space. Their real-time market research platform delivers winning insights in hours. I am a personable kind of guy, and I love to see startups thrive. Startups are ambitious, always looking at what’s coming next. I loved this project because we were creating something from nothing. Plus, we had to overcome a significant barrier: the concept was pretty abstract. Our team held an AI workshop to answer the team’s questions, and then collectively ideated how AI could improve that entire process.

What unique perspective do you bring to the team with your mechanical engineering background?

I have experience as an entrepreneur and as a startup founder through Venture for America. Entrepreneurship usually operates in silos, but I have the opportunity to use my network to connect with hundreds of other entrepreneurs with similar mindsets.

What are the most challenging aspects of being in the data science industry?

Data scientists love the thrill of solving complicated problems. For businesses to adopt AI, we need to connect the dots between granular problem solving and the 10,000-foot view as it impacts the company as a whole. This is always a challenge.

What is one misperception you often hear about AI or data scientists?

People think AI and machine learning are abstract and nebulous. Many find AI intimidating, but it’s not, once you understand it. 

What are your primary goals as a project manager?

My primary goal as a project manager is ensuring that the Pandata consulting team never has to worry about anything except the technical problem they are working to solve.

What advice would you give a business leader looking to implement AI in their company?

If artificial intelligence or machine learning are something you’re curious about, but don’t understand, be encouraged. There are resources out there to help you better understand the opportunities available to you.

Gain more expert insight

Dan’s journey is just one of the many unique backgrounds that make up the Pandata team of expert data scientists. If your organization feels ready to work with the Pandata team to design and implement the right AI solution, schedule an AI Exploration Session with our team.

In this session, we will discuss your current needs, and dive deeper into ways your organization can implement human-centered AI and machine learning solutions to accelerate your business goals. 


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