My guest this week is Justin Swenson, Product Technical Lead at Sub-Zero Group, who builds high-caliber, specialized luxury appliances. Justin has been in the data space since 2018 and has great ambitions to move up into the role of a Chief Data Officer, leading a data team at the front.
At Sub-Zero, Justin’s role is varied. It spans from being a product owner, a people manager, and an engineering manager for data teams. When he’s not working, Justin is heavily involved in youth and semi-professional soccer in the US, and that’s helped him become a better data team manager.
Sub-Zero Group recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. Their CEO describes them as "attempting to be the Bentley for your kitchen appliances." When a company is that old, it looks at data differently. That involves “data literacy throughout the company so that people can better work with data and get more value out of it and ultimately understand that it's about making good decisions.” This data usage isn’t just about “accumulating data.”
They’re creating a customer 360 “to really understand what are all the interactions our customers are having with us at the many different places they can interact with us, whether that's online, whether that's through social media.” There are several different touchpoints for customers, including showrooms, tours, hiring professional chefs to cook food using the equipment, or working with house designers.
The reliability team is looking at the data for any issues in the field. “One of the teams I lead right now specifically is looking at doing predictions on warranties and trying to then connect that back to predictions on part failures for the reliability team.”
The supply chain was another big use case that was made even more critical during COVID-19. He gave the example of foam used for their refrigerators. “You have to start evaluating, are there different foams we can use? And what would work? So there's data that they're tracking on all of that. There's data on supply chains, trying to figure out where products can come into?”
Justin’s professional goal is to become a CDO. “I get more fulfillment out of passing on what I know to others and seeing them succeed.” In partnership with UW Madison, Sub-Zero is helping its managers improve their management skills, “so I went to a manager boot camp and so went through different aspects of understanding your own personality, understanding the personalities of people around you, understanding some of the leading managerial techniques, and really a lot of focus on that emotional intelligence and understanding yourself and your team and the people around you.”
Check out the episode to hear even more of Justin’s thoughts on soccer/football and why he thinks everyone gravitates to being on the offense. We also talk about dealing with IoT data, the perils of automation of home appliances, and what it’s like to think about data with 15 to 20-year lifetimes.