Kirk Borne, Principal Data Scientists at Booz Allen Hamilton is one of the most influential data science leaders around the world. A global speaker, he has more than three decades of experience working as a data scientist. He also works as an advisor and consultant for projects across data science, machine learning, data mining, data analytics and big data. Kirk has been featured in many lists as the #1 data science influencer worldwide including our own list.

He is an expert in scientific databases, data mining, computational science and astroinformatics.

We recently had a chance to interview Kirk and learn about his journey so far!

Here’s the complete interview. Happy reading!

How did you start your journey as a Data Scientist?

My professional career was primarily in astrophysics research and scientific support services for two decades. I focused on scientific modeling and research data analysis plus on data systems for large space astronomy projects at NASA during the years following my graduate and postgraduate work. That focus on data led me to machine learning algorithms and into the field of data science, starting in 1998. In 2003, I left my NASA position and moved to George Mason University to pursue two things: data science research and the creation of the first data science undergraduate degree program in the world. My interests expanded into consulting within a variety of fields and applications. In 2015, I left my university professor position to become the first Principal Data Scientist and an Executive Advisor for global technology and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, where I provide mentoring, training, advising, consulting and thought leadership in data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

You can read more about my journey here

What are your go-to data science books/resources?

There are so many, but I frequently go here:

  1. Data Science Central
  2. Towards Data Science
  3. Analytics Vidhya
  4. Open Data Science
  5. Data Science Weekly

What are the top 3 skills that matter the most to you as a Human of Data? 

  1. Data Storytelling/Communication
  2. Data Literacy/Data Understanding
  3. ML Algorithms: what, why, how and when to use them

Who are some of the Humans of Data you look up to? What excites you the most about their work/any quality that you especially admire?

  1. Lillian Pierson: entrepreneur, writer, teacher, strategist
  2. Bill Schmarzo: writer, teacher, leader, expert luminary and funny guy
  3. Mico Yuk – passion, knowledge, experience, entrepreneur, leader
  4. Self-publishing data scientists: passionate, knowledgeable, generous, smart

Tell us about your work? What problem are you currently working on?

I am developing training programs that deliver data literacy and digital literacy awareness and upskilling to people who live and work both inside and outside the world of digital technologies: to enhance their own career relevance and lifelong learning.

What are the coolest tools that you recently discovered?

I love AI-driven tools such as:

  1. Virtualitics
  2. Thoughtspot
  3. Aible
  4. H20

Describe yourself in three emojis and why?

🔭 Astronomy was my first love in science, starting at 9 years old. 

📊 I love data, especially discovery from data (Data Science).

😎 I am a positive person with a sense of humor and love spending time with similar people. 

What are some tips on collaborating with other people as part of a data team?

Value all ideas with an active listening and learning posture. It’s good to be right, but it’s better to be a good colleague.

Saying that data science is a team sport is not just a catchphrase, it personifies the meaning of team—everyone has a part to play in the success and many different skills are needed. 

What message would you give young and aspiring data scientists?

Trust your stuff: be confident in what you know.

Follow your passion: do what you love since there are data analytics applications in every discipline, domain and industry in the world. 

Never stop learning: lifelong learning is essential now that significantly new knowledge, new technologies and new problem-solving techniques appear every year.

Have more questions? Reach out to Kirk on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Stay tuned for more such insightful interviews with the amazing Humans of Data. You can also subscribe to our no-BS fortnightly newsletter to get the latest interviews directly in your inbox. 


Love all things data, technology, and startups. Tweets at @leenasoni_.

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