Why We’re Partnering with MD5’s Startup Innovation Fellowship

Last week, we welcomed the newest addition to our Predata team: Master Sergeant Amy Smith of the United States Air Force. Master Sergeant Smith, however, is not a regular hire for us — she joins us as part of MD5’s Startup Innovation Fellowship, a six-week fellowship program that offers mid-career enlisted, officer and civilian service members an immersive learning experience as part of a startup venture. We’re excited to partner with SIF, and believe that not only will Master Sergeant Smith have a useful experience at Predata, but we will learn from her as well.

We were excited to learn late last year that MD5, a Department of Defense program office, accepted our application to be a partner organization for SIF. The fellowship pairs fellows with innovative startups with technologies that are useful to addressing a challenge facing the fellow’s specific home unit. As Rose Butchart, Program Manager at MD5, noted: “Predata uses machine learning to assess geopolitical risk — a clear translation to a unit that needs to understand where their assets and risks are in real time. I was impressed with how carefully they considered how a fellow might fit into their company, and I think they’ll be a strong partner for the Startup Innovation Fellowship.”

In January, MD5 paired Predata with Master Sergeant Amy Smith, who has served on active duty in the Air Force for over 17 years. She is trained as a Cyber Systems Operator, working in jobs such as communications security, server administrator, tactical communicator, and network administrator. She has deployed seven times, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Department of POW/MIA Accountability Agency, and Inherent Resolve Campaign, holding jobs ranging from web administrator to communications site lead for over 1200 users. She currently serves in an IT operations role, researching new concepts and technologies.

As of last Monday, Master Sergeant Smith is working alongside the Predata analyst team in Washington, D.C. The analyst team is training her in our methodology for data analysis and exposing her to analytical workflows to help further her research on her command-sponsored problem within the platform.

Our hope is that her experience at Predata will provide Master Sergeant Smith with skills that will be of help to her both in her military career and whatever comes after. She’ll gain practical experience in evaluating a new technology; she’ll develop a framework for analyzing broad patterns of internet metadata activity as an early indicator of potential geopolitical risks; and she’ll have the opportunity to hone other skills such as problem solving, research, reporting, and presenting, within a startup environment.

Master Sergeant Smith is looking at the experience with a similar perspective as well. “I’m treating this fellowship like I would a new deployment to an area I’ve never been,” she said. “Treading new waters working with a civilian company will be rewarding in a lot of ways for both myself and Predata. I’d like to bring my experience and frustrations working with companies and acquiring and implementing software and new technologies while learning their assumed frustrations as well. As I’m approaching the tail end of my military career, it will also be interesting for me to experience a taste of what a civilian company is like and be able to witness firsthand how vastly different they are compared to government organizations.”

We are excited to welcome Master Sergeant Smith to the team and we expect to learn a great deal from her during her six week fellowship with us. Predata currently employs three veterans and recognizes the value they bring to the workplace. Veterans bring exceptional skill sets and knowledge to their work at Predata, enabling us to better understand the problems the military and other large organizations face in deploying technology solutions and giving us the ability to better support our clients’ missions.

After just a week, our collaboration is off to a promising start and we’re excited to see where the next five weeks take us. For more information on SIF, please visit MD5’s site here. We’ll be checking back in with Master Sergeant Smith on our blog in March and look forward to hearing more about her experiences at Predata in her blog series with MD5, which you can follow here.