Published: December 16, 2022
As we near the end of the year, I’m once again joined by our 2022 INFORMS president Radhika Kulkarni to take a look back at the past year, her favorite moments and memories, what insight she gained, what she’ll take with her, and finally, any special insight she might have for our incoming 2023 president.
It is hard to believe how quickly this year has gone by! As I remarked at the start of my presidency, I never imagined that I would have the honor to be the president of INFORMS and I would like to thank all of you members for placing this immense trust in me to lead INFORMS. It has been an exciting year for me in many ways and I have learned a lot in the process. Working together as one team – Elena, the Board, and the entire INFORMS staff – we have been focusing on some major initiatives and I’m proud of our achievements. I would like to thank the entire Board, Elena, the INFORMS staff and all of you members for your support of me during my presidency.
Interviewed this episode:
2022 INFORMS President
Radhika Kulkarni retired as VP, Advanced Analytics R&D at SAS Institute Inc., where she was responsible for the world’s leading analytics software products portfolio. She spearheaded the creation of the OR/AIML Center of Excellence to solve the toughest analytical problems for a diverse set of Fortune 100 companies. Under her leadership, O.R. gained recognition as a key contributor to scalability and performance of algorithms in statistics, machine learning, forecasting, data mining, econometrics, etc. She inspired a collaborative spirit across the different domains resulting in several cutting-edge innovations and received the CEO Award of Excellence.
Married to an O.R. professor, Kulkarni is deeply familiar with the academic world and its challenges and opportunities. She sponsored several partnerships with universities including research collaborations and robust internship programs for Ph.D. students and serves on many academic advisory boards.
An INFORMS member throughout her career and an INFORMS Fellow, Kulkarni has been a member of the INFORMS Roundtable and several INFORMS committees and is passionate about ensuring that OR/MS is recognized as a key discipline in the world of analytics. In addition to INFORMS, she has been an executive sponsor for ASA, KDD and other professional societies. She has contributed in numerous ways to advance the careers of analytics professionals, and her WORMS award aptly recognizes her as a role model for women in analytics.
Before we jump into this week’s episode, I wanted to share a special podcast recommendation. If you’re a fan of Resoundingly Human, you’ll definitely want to check out TAG Data Talk. TAG Data Talk is hosted by Dr. Beverly Wright, president of the INFORMS Analytics Society, as well as Head of Data Science Solutions at Birch Works, executive director of the Data Science for Good Initiative at the Technology Association of Georgia and Data Science instructor at the University of Georgia. And if that wasn’t enough, she’s a highly sought after professional speaker and an absolute pleasure to work with.
On TAG Data Talk, Beverly conducts in-depth interviews with movers and shakers in analytics and data science to discuss the latest breaking news, exciting trends and groundbreaking ideas. Recent episodes have explored the impact of data on the energy industry, the challenges of convincing stakeholders to implement data science and ways to effectively lead data scientists. You’ll find the TAG Data Talk podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts as well as on YouTube. And you can find a link to the podcast homepage in today’s show notes at Resoundingthehuman.com. And now back to this week’s episode.
As we near the end of the year, I’m once again joined by our 2022 INFORMS President Radhika Kulkarni to take a look back at the past year, her favorite moments and memories, what insight she gained and what she’ll take with her, and finally, any special insight she might have for our incoming 2023 president. Radhika, this is a bittersweet moment for me, I’ve so enjoyed our conversations throughout the year.
Hi, Ashley. I’ve also immensely enjoyed our conversation throughout the year. Thank you very much for making it so easy to talk with you as you record these chats.
Oh, thank you. So Radhika when we last spoke, it was just prior to the 2022 INFORMS annual meeting in Indianapolis, which was our first fully in-person annual meeting since 2019. Can you share what this was like for you? I know for me, I helped with the virtual aspect of last year’s meeting, so this year was my first time back.
In one single word I would say, amazing. It was amazing to be together with so many of our members for the first fully in-person annual meeting since the beginning of the pandemic. I know I speak for every one of the attendees that this conference was truly a memorable one for all of us. As I walked through the halls of the convention center and the conference hotels, the excitement of being able to meet and talk to old friends and make new ones was palpable. From the opening plenary by Professor Cynthia Rudin to the closing one by Professor and Nobel Prize laureate Alvin Roth and the many other wonderful plenaries and keynotes and hundreds of technical sessions. It was a great learning opportunity for everyone at the conference, whether they were first time or returning attendees. Of course, the best part of the event was the fact that we had more than 6,000 attendees all excited to be back together for the first fully in-person annual meeting since 2019.
For me personally, I felt privileged and honored to be at the helm of INFORMS as the 2022 president during the conference. From the several evening ceremonies to all the sessions and many networking events throughout the conference, it was truly amazing. A couple of events that stand out for me are the awards ceremony on Sunday evening and the member meeting on Tuesday night. As we celebrated the outstanding accomplishments of the winners of INFORMS most prestigious awards on Sunday, I was humbled to have the honor of presenting each award to the winner. I felt proud to be part of this brilliant group of researchers and practitioners who work in so many exciting areas of applications that are so relevant and which make a huge difference in solving critical societal problems around the world.
This year, the member meeting had a special significance for me as we presented a brief overview of the INFORMS constitutional amendment, which has been one of the key efforts that the INFORMS board undertook this year. Throughout the conference, it was exciting to see the large number of students who attended this year’s meeting and it gives me great hope that we can expect wonderful innovations from them in the future. I could go on and on about everything I enjoyed at the conference. Let me just say it was fantastic and congratulations to the organizing committee and the INFORMS staff for making this successful for everyone.
So Radhika, throughout the year you’ve provided our listeners with regular updates about the continued efforts to support the new INFORMS strategic plan as well as our advocacy program, the INFORMS focus on AI and more. Are there any final updates or milestones you’d like to share on these efforts?
Certainly, Ashley. Having been involved in the early discussions on formulating the INFORMS strategic plan, it has been exciting to me to see the various projects and activities take shape that align with the five goals of the plan. Every year, the INFORMS staff under Elena’s leadership, evaluates these activities that are important for our members and prioritizes them taking into account the time and effort needed for them. Needless to say, none of this is possible without the enthusiastic participation by the many volunteer members in our community and I’m always grateful to all of them for devoting their precious time to helping INFORMS succeed. I am glad that I have been able to continue work on the AI initiative. A key activity this year was the second AI OR workshop held in Atlanta in August of this year. We had some interesting outcomes from this workshop including some ideas for increasing funding opportunities for research at the intersection of OR and AI.
It is gratifying to me to see the advocacy initiative continue in its fifth year, I believe. I consider this an important initiative for the INFORMS goal to champion our profession and our brand. We also started out the year with a focus discussion at the board level targeted at exploring ways to increase membership value for industry members and I look forward to moving the needle in this area as we prioritize some of the recommended activities. One important initiative that our board undertook this year is the constitutional amendment effort that I mentioned earlier. Many board members and the staff spent a significant amount of time reviewing our constitution and getting input from past leaders of INFORMS as well as legal counsel to draft the recommended changes. This is a very important step for our organization as we seek to modernize the INFORMS constitution, which was adopted in 1995 and needs an update both from a technology and operational point of view.
By this time I hope that many of you have already sent in your ballots by mail. Yes, I really meant mailed your ballot by snail mail. Our current constitution mandates that voting must be done by snail mail. Can you believe that? It also stipulates that we need a 20% response from our membership. In fact, this mail-in ballot requirement is one of the main items we wish to change in our constitution. This will help our future generations of members who may not even know what a post office is. We are more than one third of the way through the voting period and still in need of many hundred ballots. If you have not mailed your ballot in yet, you should have received a ballot in the mail with a return envelope in early December, please vote and encourage your colleagues and friends to do so as well. These are only some of the items that I’ve been excited about, but there’s a lot more and I could keep going on and on once again on this question as well. Thanks, Ashley, for letting me list some of them.
So I’d love to take a look back over the entirety of 2022. What were some highlights or some favorite moments for you?
Ashley, as you know I have been a member of INFORMS throughout my career and have loved being a part of this community. However, I never realized completely the full breadth and depth of all the activities that we undertake on behalf of our community and in support of our members. With my two years on the board so far, and especially in the past year as president, I have interacted with many of the INFORMS staff and a large number of volunteers who devote their time with enthusiasm to make it all work. I’m proud of the work that goes into so many different activities undertaken by our volunteers and staff. To name just a few, the production of our world class journals which continue to set records in terms of downloads and content printed. The tremendous organization that is needed for our conferences, which tend to be a major touchpoint for all our members. The coordination needed across all our activities to ensure that we advance diversity and equity and inclusion in all we do.
The painstaking effort that goes into promoting what our members do to advance and promote the science and technology of decision-making to save lives, save money, and solve problems. And you, Ashley, have been a big part of this effort with the many podcasts that you have been producing, and thank you for that. And most importantly, this is the first year that we’ve rolled out a five-year financial plan for INFORMS, which is important to ensure our operational excellence and long-term financial health and many more activities like this. It is easy to see the ways in which we strive to enhance member value and experience across the many different touchpoints. My interaction with everyone has reinforced my belief that our community is brilliant and welcoming. We are a bunch of friendly folks, it is no wonder that many of us consider INFORMS as our professional home.
Personally, I have many favorite moments or rather experiences from this past year, I will mention just a few. Expanding my network of INFORMS members and benefiting from their support through the many INFORMS committees and projects. Working closely with Elena, Grace, the INFORMS board, and the entire INFORMS staff and being a recipient of their kind guidance as they help me navigate my role as president. The two in-person conferences of course were a highlight for many of us and witnessing everyone’s excitement to be together after a long period was immense satisfaction by itself. And of course you have heard me say this before, I can never forget the euphoric applause from the Chilean team when I announced them as the 2022 winner of the Franz Edelman Award at the Business Analytics Conference in April. That was an exciting moment indeed.
I think that was a top moment of the year for a lot of us. Very exciting.
So I’ll be speaking with our 2023 INFORMS President Laura Albert soon for her very first interview as president. Any advice or special messages that you’d like to share with her?
Oh, Ashley, Laura is such an experienced professional at this, she doesn’t need any special advice, but here is a message I would like to convey to her. First of all, I welcome you Laura to your year as the president of INFORMS. I have worked closely with you in the past year and know that INFORMS will be in great hands under your leadership. I have appreciated your tremendous help in the past year and thank you very much for it. As we have witnessed together in the past year, it is hard to predict what new challenge and/or opportunity presents itself and we must figure out what is best for INFORMS and our community. The best part of the role, as you know, is that you’re not alone, the entire board and the INFORMS staff leadership are there to always offer support and guidance. Laura, I know that our organization will have a brilliant president next year. I look forward to great things for INFORMS under your leadership and I’m ready to help you in any way you need.
So Radhika, what’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in your continued role with the INFORMS board as the past president?
Maybe a little less hectic year. I’m just joking. In reality, I’m glad the role of the president is structured in this way. You ramp up during the president-elect year, take the lead as president in year two and then have time as the past president to continue some of the work from the previous two years and to help the next president as much as possible. I can think of a few things specifically though that will keep me busy next year. As part of the AI vision for INFORMS, we still have one more AI OR workshop to organize in early 2023. I expect to be quite involved with that. One of the responsibilities of the past president is to chair the nominating committee for the following year. I will be leading the effort to select the slate of candidates for 2023 for the INFORMS board.
The deadline for nominations is January 2023. If you’re interested in running for a board role, please fill out an expression of interest, you can see details about the nominating process on the INFORMS website. I mentioned the constitutional amendment in great detail earlier, the deadline for returning your ballots is February 28th, 2023. So one of my tasks will be to keep an eye on the ballot count to ensure that we are getting the required quorum of ballots. And you may get an occasional email from me reminding you about that. And of course, I’m ready to help Laura and the board with any initiative where I can make a difference.
Radhika, thank you again for joining me today and throughout the past year to share a special look inside INFORMS with our listeners. Any final thoughts you’d like to share before we go?
Ashley, it is hard to believe how quickly this year has gone by. As I remarked at the start of my presidency, I never imagined that I would have the honor to be the president of INFORMS and I would like to thank all of you members for placing this immense trust in me to lead INFORMS. It has been an exciting year for me in many ways and I have learned a lot in the process. Working together as one team, Elena, the board and the entire INFORMS staff has been focusing on some major initiatives and I’m proud of our achievements.
I would like to thank the entire board, Elena, the INFORMS staff and all of you members for your support of me during my presidency. Looking ahead, I will say that the future of our profession is bright and I wish all of you the very best in your efforts to make the world a better place. I wish all of you and your families a wonderful holiday season and a very happy new year. And finally, here is that reminder. Don’t forget to return your constitutional amendment ballot if you have not already done so. Take care everyone. Thank you all.
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