Business at the speed of AI: Lessons from Rakuten

The Data Exchange Podcast: Bahman Bahmani on attracting and retaining talent, and the importance of delivery-oriented teams.

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In this episode of the Data Exchange I speak with Bahman Bahmani, VP of Data Science and Engineering at Rakuten, a large Japanese ecommerce and online retail company. When I first met Bahman several years ago, he was finishing up his Computer Science PhD at Stanford, and at the time he was giving technical talks on machine learning algorithms and their applications to computer security. Today he leads a large team at Rakuten, and in my opinion he has established an organizational structure, processes and an AI practice that other companies should study.

Our conversation spanned many topics, including:

  • The impact that AI, machine learning, and data have had on Rakuten’s businesses.
  • Attracting, nurturing, and retaining talent in an environment when data scientists, data engineers, and analysts who all have many other options.
  • The trio of strategic options: operational excellence, product leadership, customer intimacy.
  • Organization and culture, including key roles within an AI practice.
  • The power of delivery-oriented teams with end-to-end responsibility.

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[Image: Hong Kong skyline by Ben Lorica.]