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I’m no warrior princess, but I am a thrill seeker—I race fast cars and almost died three times surfing an expert break in Costa Rica.
I’m drawn to anything that augments human capabilities, which makes me the perfect person to be leading the firm’s work at the intersection of cyber, data science, and the cloud.
I see Booz Allen as stewards of our clients’ futures by using data science to bring capabilities to bear that no one else can, whether it’s eradicating hunger or ensuring everyone on the planet has electricity.
And I hope we can figure out climate change. If we don’t do something, my grandkids’ grandkids won’t have a decent place to live. This is why data science is important to everyone on this planet. Booz Allen will be at forefront and that’s why I came here.
Xena Ugrinsky leads our analytics, cloud, and strategy business. She serves our commercial clients with the best resources in data science and cloud, enhanced with strategy. She works with her clients to extract and exploit all the value they can from their technology investments as part of their strategy execution.
Xena frequently speaks on topics related to the application of advanced analytics to systems modernization and business transformation. She currently provides strategy and expertise related to linking “big data” initiatives to enterprise and corporate performance management to solve business issues for finance, operations, and marketing.
Her areas of expertise include big data, analytics, finance transformation, performance management, and operational risk.
Prior to joining the firm in 2015, Xena was a partner at KPMG's U.S. advisory practice. She served as the global lead for enterprise performance management and analytics and was part of a firmwide innovation initiative around data and analytics and big data.
Xena has an M.B.A. in data warehousing and finance from New York University and a B.A. in finance from Hofstra University. She has a certificate in data science from Johns Hopkins University.
Why are you passionate about the work you do at Booz Allen? What excites me is the work we are doing in data science and the opportunity to go from managing a team of 45 data scientists to having access to 650 data scientists. Booz Allen has been applying those capabilities to solving some of the largest problems on the planet for some of the most complex and sophisticated organizations on the planet. The change that this is going to have on the entire market is going to be transformational.
What excites you about working in data science and analytics? I did a lot of study in statistics and applied statistics, and what I’m doing now with data science is the next evolution of that journey. People are asking, “How do I make this real? How can data science help me improve my cybersecurity posture?” Data science in general is going to be completely transformational for many organizations, if not all. The folks that won’t figure this out along the way won’t exist 2 to 3 years from now.
How do you help your clients prepare for the future? I help them with something I call “intellectual hygiene,” which includes understanding their existing enterprise architecture and evaluating what must happen to leverage their existing technology landscapes in support of optimized and sophisticated advanced analytics that supports their decision making.
What’s scaring your clients? The role a person plays in the organization defines the things they need to worry about, but top of mind is cybersecurity. We do wargaming exercises to help clients think through the realities of a cyber attack—risk to their reputations, clients, and employees. We help our clients to anticipate and understand the risk and make it as small as possible.
What are your three tips for managing and motivating your people? Take seriously the responsibility you have for people’s careers. Get obstacles out of the way so they can do the best work they’ve ever done. Create safe spaces so employees can ask questions that can be corporately sensitive; create an open dialogue where people feel they can ask the stupid questions. You have to model that behavior every day. When you do that well, you create a workforce that will exceed their own expectations and will achieve things that are remarkable.
What’s the best business advice you’ve gotten in your career? If you have a problem, fix it immediately.
What advice would you give yourself as a young professional? Make more time for surfing.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A rock star. I played guitar and I was in a band.
What were you like in high school? I was a rebel. I questioned authority. And my other overarching passion was surfing. I competed at the amateur level for 11 years. When I started surfing, my dad had to carry my board into the water for me.
What is one thing you always have with you? Pictures of my family.
What’s an idea or invention you wish you’d thought of? Rubik’s Cube. It’s a fascinating mix of a physical device that forced out-of-the box thinking and has been useful in lots of different ways to explain analytics to people.
What’s your most prized possession? The first guitar I ever got. It was a gift from my uncle who bought it for me because my parents wouldn’t. They thought it was a waste of time and they wanted me to focus on my studies. I’m also passionate about motorized vehicles. I love speed—anything that augments human capabilities.