Latest Musings from a Traveling Sales Engineer

Writers gonna write! February is shaping up to be a big traveling month for me. I was in Mountain View at the end of January for Sales Kick Off and then stayed for H2O World in San Francisco at the beginning of the month. Topping that off so far was a trip to Orlando for HIMSS last week. All incredible events but my traveling isn’t done yet! I plan to be all over the eastern seaboard in the coming week!

If you don’t innovate, you die.

The cool thing about being a part of Sales Kick Off is that we got to interact directly with the Makers. They pumped us for info on what we hear from the field, the enhancements and the ‘nice to have’ features in both Driverless AI and the Open Source H2O. A Customer to Maker feedback loop is critical for survival. It makes for a happy customer and it pushes us Makers to innovate. If you don’t innovate, you die.

Our open source software is what built our brand, it opened the door to customers.

On the surface it’s a strange thing to have two seemingly opposed products at the company you work for. Why should you pay for a commercial product if you already have a great set of open source algorithms and tools to use? That’s a great question and surprisingly, we don’t face very often. Our open source software is what built our brand, it opened the door to customers.

Yes, 1,ooo’s of organizations use our open source and probably never become Enterprise customers and a large percentage of them will never buy Driverless AI but that’s ok.

They know and trust our fast customer response teams.

It’s ok because they trust H2O to build and produce accurate and powerful models, for whatever they do. On the other hand, it’s the brand/reputation we built in Open Source that leads to Customers buying Driverless AI. They know and trust our fast customer response teams. They enjoy a reoccurring ‘touch point’ of a cadence they choose with our Customer Success team to see ‘how’s it going’ and help ‘get models into production.’

The best part? Driverless AI isn’t just our Open Source product slapped with a new GUI, it’s a product that’s built completely from the ground up. Just like I wrote here:

H2O.ai brings that clarity in the confusing AI space in a very simple way. Create world class algorithms, build an open source platform, and create an automated modeling platform. Our algorithms are used by over 14,000 organizations and by other software vendors ‘under the hood.’ We took all that knowledge and poured it into our automated modeling platform. We asked our Kaggle Grandmasters if you had the chance to build the best automated modeling platform in the world, what would it look like?

From ‘Finding Clarity in the Automated Modeling Space’ via H2O.ai blog

Driverless AI is built by Kaggle Grandmasters to solve highly complex data science problems. It has safeguards and processes in place to deal with Feature Generation, Feature Selection, Target Leakage, Transformations, Validation, Hyperparameter Tuning, etc. It’s really quite an impressive platform.

Driverless AI tends to innovate at what feels like the speed of light. Recently, a new customer asked when we would have a confusion matrix available in the GUI. As it stood at the time, the confusion matrix was exposed in the log file. Good but not great. I went back to the Makers, filed a ticket, and in about two weeks it was available in the GUI. We have a hyperactive and intense group of Makers that are DYING for feedback to keep building cool stuff.

Crazy right?

In all my time as a Sales Engineer (which isn’t that long), I’ve found that listening too and prioritizing a customer’s needs and wishes is what builds your brand and creates a thriving community. Making money from that is really just an affirmation of your brand. After all, what else do you want in your life?

Makers Gonna Make and Writers Gonna Write!

Ray Dalio’s Pure Alpha Fund

Ray Dalio’s Pure Alpha Fund returned 14.6% for 2018. That’s an amazing feat considering the majority of hedge funds averaged a loss of 6.7%. How does he do it? Simple. He always asks, “how do I know I’m right?”

The Westport, Connecticut-based firm is the world’s biggest hedge fund with about $160 billion in assets. The gains for its Pure Alpha Strategy came as other fund managers were whipsawed by volatile markets, resulting in the industry posting one of its worst years ever.

Via Bloomberg

How do I know I’m right?

I can’t begin to guess how his Alpha Funds works internally, how complex it must be. If his book is any indication (a great summary here), then I can guess it’s well thought out with one simple premise, “how do I know I’m right?”

Think about it, 1,000’s of Hedge Funds are operating on similar strategies all the time. They’re either macro, long/short, arbitrage, whatever… What does he do that’s so different than all the rest? The nugget of truth is in his in Ray Dalio’s questioning himself all the time with “how do I know I’m right?”

If you believe the market is going to crash when it’s at an all-time high, how do check yourself? How, in your infinite wisdom, do you test and confirm that you are correct and the 1,000’s of fund manager and quants have it wrong?

History Rhymes

Another great aspect of Ray Dalio’s strategy is that he looks in history where a current similar situation has occurred. According to him, he goes back about 500 years in economic/political/cultural history and looks if something similar (debt crisis, tulip mania, etc) has happened and what the outcome was. Then he adjusts his strategy accordingly.

One great example was when the US abandoned the gold standard in 1971. His initial thought was that the market was going to crash but was shocked to learn that the markets opened higher. Later he learned that history is littered with a few examples where this has happened before. The inflationary result of abandoning the gold standard lifted asset classes higher.

While history doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, it tends to rhyme a lot. Perfect current example: Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a lot like the Tulip Mania (and other manias for that fact). While I’m bullish on Blockchain technology, I’m not sure if Bitcoin will survive to become a sorely needed digital currency.

No matter what industry you come from, you should always ask yourself if you’re right and how can you confirm it. Once you’ve identified the known-knowns (the market already has), the known-unknowns (maybe the market has), and the unknown-unknowns (no one has, but history might provide a guide), then you can apply strategies and processes to win.

Now, ask yourself: How do I know I’m right?

Latest Writings Elsewhere – December 2018

I’m happy to announce my very first article went live on the H2O.ai blog! Writers gonna write! It’s been a long time since I contributed to my firm’s online content and it feels good to do it again.

The article is about seeking clarity in the Automated Machine Learning space. Why? Because it’s plain confusing. Everyone is coming out with their version of an auto modeling AI product. Some were the first, some are not there yet, and then there’s Driverless AI.

Automated modeling is just a fancy term to make the life of data scientists, engineers, IT administrators, and anyone else in the analytics space easier by automating processes. The IT space has done an amazing job of automating server spin ups, logins, or security. So why shouldn’t we in the AI field do the same?

H2O.ai Blog

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while since H2O World in London, but work has been busy! I did find some time pre Thanksgiving Day weekend to work on it, so I’d appreciate it if you gave it a read on the H2o.ai blog.