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Data-Driven Video Content

Caitlin Smallwood

VP and Head of Data Science and Insights at Netflix
About this episode

Caitlin Smallwood spoke to us when she was VP and Head of Data Science and Insights at Netflix. In this episode, she discusses the future of storytelling.


Be yourself” was just one of the many career tips Caitlin Smallwood shared during a conversation with Stanford professor and Women in Data Science podcast host, Margot Gerritsen. Smallwood urges up-and-coming data scientists to explore “the avenues and nooks and crannies” of the discipline and avoid limiting themselves to the most obvious paths.

Smallwood is passionate about data-driven content and predicts that deep learning will continue to propel advances in applied data science in the future, specifically in the area of machine translation. It will take some time, she says, but machine translation would allow users to watch a movie or video and understand the subtleties of language and culture at a deeper level through nuances in inflection appropriate for different languages.

Smallwood is interested in the ways that data science guides content and helps people “understand regions and cultures around the world through storytelling.” She enjoys the fact that her job allows her to engage and learn as well.“I, myself, have learned so many things from watching different pieces of content. You learn something that’s much more subliminal or that can really impact your empathy when you relate to a character and see the details of how they live their lives in an entirely different culture. And that’s different than reading a news article about a culture,” she says.

About the Host
Margot Gerritsen

Stanford Professor [Emerita] Margot Gerritsen is the Executive Director and co-founder of Women in Data Science Worldwide (WiDS) and born and raised in the Netherlands. Margot received her MSc in Applied Mathematics from Delft University of Technology before moving to the US in search of sunnier and hillier places. In. 1996 she completed her PhD in Scientific Computing & Computational Mathematics at Stanford University and moved further West to New Zealand where she spent 5 years at the University of Auckland as a lecturer in Engineering Science. In 2001, she returned to Stanford as faculty member in Energy Resources Engineering. Margot was the Director of the Institute for Computational & Mathematical Engineering (ICME) at Stanford from 2010-2018 and the Senior Associate Dean for Educational Affairs in Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences from 2015-2020. In 2022, Margot took Emerita status to devote herself to WiDS full time. Margot is a Fellow of the Society of Industrial & Applied Mathematics, and received honorary doctorates from Uppsala University, Sweden, and the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. She now lives in Oregon with her husband Paul.

Connect with Margot Gerritsen on Twitter (@margootjeg) and LinkedIn.
Find out more about Margot on her Stanford Profile.