A person could get winded just reading Melvin Greer’s LinkedIn profile.
Besides his day jobs as both the chief data scientist for all of the Americas for Intel Corp., and as an Intel fellow, he’s also a fellow at the National Cybersecurity Institute and he serves on the board of the National Academies of Sciences.
All his work steers him in the direction of data.
“I’m in the position of being able to guide and direct the ethical, responsible and transparent use of data in making decisions,” he said. “This is a very, very impactful role.”
Greer gets to advocate for that position through his role as an Intel fellow, the highest level of technical achievement in the company.
“Our primary role is to anticipate emerging trends, to synthesize and simplify complex technical problems,” he said.
The work extends through to his role as chief data scientist. In that position, “it’s my job to ensure that our customers understand the full portfolio of Intel capabilities and solutions,” he said.
Greer works across various industries and throughout the public sector to help clients take in large amounts of data “and to turn that data into insights that helps them make better decisions and be more competitive.”
From this high-level perch, Greer has been able to identify a few key trends impacting federal agencies and the GovCon community.
First, there’s the growing role of the chief data officer.
“It means that there’s somebody in almost every agency that is responsible for treating data as an enterprise asset, someone who is going to be responsible for helping to mature it and clean it and make it available via secure access,” he said.
Next, there’s a significant focus on the workforce and on getting people capable of doing the work of data science and artificial intelligence.
“When we think about the upskilling and reskilling of existing and new employees in agencies and organizations, that is one of the things that leaders are have top-of-mind,” Greer said.
Finally, he’s seen a growing emphasis on the ethical, responsible and transparent use of AI and data science.
“If people in organizations, especially in the public sector, don’t trust how AI, machine learning or data science systems operate, if they can’t put trust in the insights and outcomes that these systems create, then the adoption is going to be muted,” he said.
A native of Detroit, Greer undertook a long personal journey to get to this point — literally, a long geographic journey. He built his early career abroad, working in Europe as a chief financial officer and in Hong Kong as a chief information officer, with stints in Brazil and Canada, too.
“In order to be proficient in a career in science and technology, you have to learn how it’s being done in other places,” he said. “There’s no one right way to do anything. I learned how important it is to hear every person’s perspective, no matter how diverse from yours.”
Along the way, he’s also put a heavy emphasis on connecting the dots between technological innovation and financial outcomes.
“One of the things that my mother taught me is that engineering and science don’t happen outside of an economic shell,” Greer said. “To monetize really great ideas — to provide the benefits that we want in a way that is going to bring economic development to both the consumer and the provider — that’s a skill that you definitely want to harness.”
Another key success factor to Greer’s way of thinking has to do with technologists’ ability to share what they know in ways meaningful to others.
“It’s important to be very good at articulating what it is that you’re trying to achieve,” he said. “Be concise, and be as precise as possible. Technologists have a vernacular that is sometimes esoteric, but it’s really important to get to the heart of a subject quickly so that people can understand what it is that you’re actually talking about.”
Guided by these principles, Greer has risen to become not only an Intel fellow, but is currently the only African American to hold that position.
“It says that Intel is not just talking the talk when it comes to driving a diverse set of people in senior technical roles,” he said.
“I’m very excited about being able to provide a pathway for more people from diverse populations to aspire to,” Greer added. “It’s really important for people to see people who look like them represented at senior executive levels.”
The best part of the job? Being able to shape critical conversations about the uses of data.
“Data decisions are impacting every facet of every person’s life on the planet,” he said. “It’s likely going to decide where you live, whether you can get a loan, where you will go to school. I’m absolutely enthusiastic about being not only a data scientist, but also an activist in helping to shine a light in how we use these advanced tools to benefit all people, especially underrepresented people of color.”