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From Ski Slopes to Data Slopes: Data Science Manager Finds a New Career Track

By Kristen Fiani

Kelli Esparham has friends in high places, literally. The once-competitive freestyle skier used to ski with fellow enthusiasts who went on to compete in the Olympics. (Some even medaled!)

Kelli Profile Picture
Kelli Esparham
Manager, Quality Engineering

These days, the Mission Assurance data science homeroom manager spends her time with different friends in high places: those with their heads in the data clouds.

Esparham, who has been with Northrop Grumman for 13 years, credits her time with the company for instilling a “systems thinking approach to all problems.” She has made a career of synthetizing complex algorithms and patterns into digestible snapshots — a skill that ultimately helps the company make informed, strategic decisions.

The Power of Data Enhances Innovation

Esparham uses data from a variety of sources to analyze trends and to do her part in recommending solutions to enhance innovation and affordability. She is also an integral part of the Programs function, which serves as a kind of internal consultant to provide consistent and disciplined methods of program execution to ensure quality.

Esparham’s team has “a vested interest in how data is collected, stored and ultimately utilized to enhance performance and affordability across the enterprise.” Some of her team’s recent successes include using a data-driven approach to P(win) (priority win) calculations, forecasting (and ultimately reducing) program risk, increasing access to supplier information, and providing the ability to combine cost, schedule and quality data to pinpoint where improvements are needed.

“In 2018, our team is working with Manufacturing, ES&T, Global Supply Chain, Programs, Strategy and Mission Assurance to provide additional capabilities to optimize data-driven decision making,” she says.

Shaping Esparham’s career track were studies in mathematics and computer engineering paired with a keen curiosity.

“I love the ability to ask a question, assess available data sources, and then identify algorithms to answer the question,” she explains, adding that she sees unlimited applications for data analytics in the intelligence community, business, social applications and beyond. “Data analytics is an avenue for simplifying our lives and making better decisions.”

“I love the ability to ask a question, assess available data sources, and then identify algorithms to answer the question. Data analytics is an avenue for simplifying our lives and making better decisions.”




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