From aerospace to data science
Javier Cerezo always had an interest in science and engineering, but later developed a curiosity about other fields, such as finance and economics. He has long been fascinated by scientific computing and building models—what is now called data science. After graduating from the Technical University of Madrid, he worked for several years at Airbus, mostly on aerodynamics and structural analysis—both fields requiring expertise in numerical simulations. He was grateful for the opportunity to address “intellectually challenging problems” and for the professional experience which introduced him to research and development.
After completing his MBA at the University of Chicago, Javier worked in a strategy and operations role at McKinsey, undertaking projects in countries including Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile. This highly demanding role, spanning the telecommunications, consumer goods and manufacturing industries, exposed him to a wide variety of professional experiences within a short period of time. These ranged from determining the price strategy of a Mexican TV channel to working on a copper mine in Chile. A desire to be closer to the operations of a technology company led him to a role as Senior Product Manager at Amazon, but when an opportunity arose at Novartis, he joined their data science department, where he is now Associate Director in the area of finance.
Javier now combines his role as Adjunct Professor of Data Science and Economic Modeling at IE University’s School of Global and Public Affairs with his post at Novartis. He feels the two complement each other well: while his job blends corporate finance with the scientific approach of data science and machine learning algorithms, the programming classes he teaches at IE University allow him to share his experience of a subject he knows well at a more fundamental level. “It is also great to be in contact with young, curious students who experience the thrill of learning to program for the first time,” he says.
“Programming is a great skill to have because it gives you autonomy and leverage to solve complicated problems.”
Javier was attracted to teaching as he wanted to do something which had an impact on others, in an area where he could add value. When an opportunity arose at IE University, he was thrilled to become part of an internationally recognized institution. He feels programming is a great skill to have, as it provides autonomy and leverage to solve complicated problems. “You no longer depend on a particular piece of software, and you can work together with the computer in finding solutions to complex problems in a creative, collaborative way,” he says, adding that programming is a rare field which combines pure science and craftsmanship, and one which is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s world.
Outside work, Javier reads widely, on topics ranging from finance through psychology to philosophy. He tries to stay in good shape and also enjoys learning techniques for focus and introspection, such as Vipassana meditation. The keys to success, he says, are finding a balance between risk-taking and comfort, as well as learning from pain while trying to steer your life towards activities which bring you inner calm and joy.