What's Your StORy?

Polly Mitchell-Guthrie

Polly Mitchell-Guthrie

February 2015 What's Your StORy?
Senior Manager, Advanced Analytics Customer Liaison Group, SAS

More questions for Polly Mitchell-Guthrie?
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What was your best INFORMS experience?
I really enjoyed a session about case competitions at the Annual Meeting in San Francisco this past year, because a student and professor from the Korean Advanced Institute for Science and Technology spoke about the benefits they received from participating in the case competition SAS and the INFORMS Analytics Section sponsor. Both gave great talks, and it was gratifying to see that the experience had been so positive and useful for both of them. I felt that my involvement with INFORMS had made a difference to others.


What is the best advice you can give to students in your field?
Learn as much as you can about as many different opportunities and areas as you can and then listen to your heart when deciding which direction to pursue upon graduation. Many people around you will have opinions and advice as to what you should do, but you know yourself best. You can always change directions in the future, so don't be afraid to take a risk.


What is your favorite O.R. and analytics application?
A team of my colleagues at SAS helped the Duke Hospital Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit with a discrete event simulation model of their staffing, because tiny, sick babies need truly "intensive" care that is expensive and complicated to staff. But in reviewing the model staff could see where small changes could be made in a cost-effective manner that would decrease morbidity or increase admissions. Helping more babies get admitted and survive is a pretty heart-warming outcome and also a good way to explain the value of O.R. to those unfamiliar with it.


If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be?
Oh, I could never pick just one. A hallmark of all my roles has been great variety, because I am insatiably curious and like to do lots of different things.


What interest do you have outside of work that might surprise us?
I love travel and birdwatching, and if I can combine the two that is even better. I had a great visit to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach when the Analytics Conference was last there and look forward to visiting again this spring.


What are current issues/trends/challenges in O.R. and analytics?
Expanding the use of O.R. beyond its traditional strongholds. Industry analyst Gartner says that 70% of organizations say they do descriptive analytics, 17% predictive analytics, but only 3% prescriptive. This number is too low, especially given the huge value O.R. can bring. Helping business leaders value the power of approaches they cannot directly understand is a challenge but a great opportunity.


What is your least favorite mode of transportation? Can you apply a routing problem to make it better?
I love flying, because I love travel, but I don't like having to take crack of dawn flights, only because the next departure is many hours later and would delay my arrival at my destination too much. The only routing solution I can see is a private jet, which is out of the question, unless someone decides to optimize schedules for my preferences!