Business stories Interviews

SAS Director Mieke De Ketelaere Comments on Collaborating with Academics and Women in Tech

Mieke De Ketelaere
Director of Consumer Intelligence at SAS Institute
Advisor on Digital Transformation & Artificial Intelligence
Guest lecturer at Vlerick Business School, ISDI and Nyenrode Business University
Nominee for ICT Woman of the Year 2018

ABOUT BUSINESS
What does your day-to-day job look like at SAS?
My job is split in three parts: 50 % strategic advice to C-level, 30% strategic internal business planning & execution, and 20% team management.

What role do professors have in your day-to-day job?
They help in different situations, for example in analyzing the potential of a new data stream in a specific sector when neither SAS nor the customer has the time or knowledge for it, they help with writing advanced research papers, and they run maturity assessments among other things.

Why did you start working with professors?
I believe in the combined value that academics & corporate leaders can bring to end consumers. We have the solutions and the knowledge but not always the time. The customers have the data and the solutions, but not always the knowledge. Professors have the time and the knowledge, but not always access to the data or the solutions.

What are the challenges and best practices for working with professors?
There certainly is a different speed of business. The academic year starts in September and ends in June, and we start in January and end in December. We need more ad-hoc analysis, but from an academic point of view, every request for research is planned months in advance, like a Master’s thesis, Ph.D. thesis, etc. Departmental thinking can also be an issue. For example, the topic of artificial Intelligence intersects with data science, psychology, mathematics, business, etc. You notice that people think in silos, just like in business, and so for one research project, it can be a struggle to get the right team as budgets are split by the bucket as well. Academics also face internal competition.

What value do you see in digitizing the way businesses currently work with professors?
The rapid transfer of data and access to cloud solutions can limit potential errors and speed up the process.

ABOUT INNOVATION
Which innovation/research projects would you like to complete with a professor?
Oh, there are too many examples, but brainwave analysis and insights into cognitive bias using artificial intelligence.

What trends are most important/interesting for you and SAS. Why?
All efforts where people and machines strengthen each other are of special interest. Good examples are human computation or intelligence amplification.

How are you influencing/helping customers to adopt innovation?
Many, many speeches on demystifying artificial intelligence.

ABOUT YOU
What is your experience of being a woman in the tech industry?
It was always a no-brainer for me. I liked cars and Legos as a child. I liked computers at 13 years old. I liked playing the trumpet … maybe I just like to be different. I’m not sure, I have always been like this, but it worked out rather nicely. I claim to have a male 1-0 brain in a female body.

How do you balance work/family/teaching and time for yourself?
Hard work and strict discipline from myself towards myself. Getting up early in the morning in order to work without any interruptions. Focusing on things that matter and dropping situations where I can have little impact or influence.

You have a love for learning, where does that come from?
I cannot entertain myself with political debates or soap series, I love to read a lot of new material around technology in general. Lifelong learning always kept my brain “young”.

Books recommended by Mieke

You can read Mieke De Ketelaere’s Golden Rules for Living here and listen to our podcast with her and Prof. Erik Mannens here.

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