Khalifeh Al Jadda PhD ’14 doesn’t wait for opportunities. He creates them.
In the late 2000s, while teaching computer science at a university in Saudi Arabia, Al Jadda learned from a mentor that UGA was conducting research in data mining, the exact thing that most interested him. So he applied and got in.
While pursuing his doctoral degree, Al Jadda worked with UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and describes the experience as “eye-opening.” He applied data science techniques to research being done to fight cancer and other diseases.
“What motivates me is always the impact of my work on people’s lives,” he says.
Fast forward almost a decade since graduating, and—through the power of networking—he’s now a director of data science at Google.
When it comes to data science, you use your creativity and critical thinking, explore a large amount of data, and then understand how to use it to solve the problem.” — Khalifeh Al Jadda PhD ’14, director of data science at Google
When he was approached about the Google gig in 2022, Al Jadda was leading the online data science team at The Home Depot and was comfortable.
“In order to grow, you need to be challenged, and one of the selling points for me was building a data science department from scratch,” he says.
After living in Georgia for 14 years, Al Jadda’s new job took him to New York. His team works with other departments across Google and uses artificial intelligence to help small- and mid-sized businesses compete with larger companies online.
“You work on problems that are like research problems; they’re open-ended questions,” he says. “When it comes to data science, you use your creativity and critical thinking, explore a large amount of data, and then understand how to use it to solve the problem.”
For Al Jadda, the fun of data science is that there are always new problems to solve.
In 2017, Al Jadda started the Southern Data Science Conference, which sold out a few days before the event. He’s been organizing it ever since.
“I always like to think of the conference as a birthplace for many great things that happen in Atlanta,” he says.
For instance, a colleague shared a story on LinkedIn about a San Francisco organization taking homeless shelter data and creating a more cost-effective way for shelters to operate. During the 2018 conference, Al Jadda held a hackathon to solve the same problem for Atlanta shelters.
Al Jadda also gives back through a nonprofit he created, ATLytiCS, the Atlanta Analytics for Community Service. ATLytiCS has since completed numerous projects, including one with the Dekalb County Fire Department, and started another program to educate underrepresented and vulnerable populations in Atlanta on data science skills to help them enter the field.
“I’m using the skills and knowledge I have to benefit the community, especially our vulnerable population,” he says. “I believe that when we live in a community, we all owe something to that community.”
As a member of UGA’s School of Computing advisory board, Al Jadda offers industry insights to help shape the school’s curriculum.
“I always say that UGA unlocked my American dream for my family and me. I owe everything to UGA, so anytime I have a chance to give back, I do it in a heartbeat.”