A Data Queen in the Procurement Chessboard
Last updated Jan 30, 2022 - 4 min read
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Meet Maud Rødsmoen, a chess grandmaster, TV-show host, and Data Scientist at Ignite Procurement
It is said that women can wear several capes; yes, capes because they are born super. If in doubt, lay a game of chess and point to the most powerful piece in it. There is a good reason for all the fingers to point towards the queen.
Being a woman, wearing many capes, and finding the right ones sound as perplexing as fascinating to me. To answer this, I am spotlighting one such employee who knows the art of wearing several capes and committing to each.
Meet Maud Rødsmoen, Data Scientist at Ignite Procurement, who won the Woman FIDE Master (WFM) — the third-highest ranking a female chess player can receive — when she was just 17, debuted as a chess commentator for TV 2 in 2020, and wrote a master thesis on chess.
That sounds like quite a ride. So let us hear it from Maud, how she ended up doing all this and a lot more.
How will you describe your journey from winning Women FIDE Master to Chess tournament commentator in TV 2, and now a Data Scientist at Ignite Procurement?
I started playing chess through my school in the US, where I was taught to play through a weekly class. I continued playing chess to catch up to my younger brother, who was better than me at the time.
After moving to Norway, I was eventually selected to play for the national team and obtained the WFM title, which was fun! As I started studying in Trondheim, I had less time for professional chess. Instead, I started hosting my own tournaments in a tiny flat (where I ended up meeting Theodor, who also works here at Ignite. A complete coincidence!).
When COVID and quarantine struck, chess grew increasingly popular, particularly the online format and the Netflix hit series Queen's Gambit. TV 2 started covering online tournaments every single month, and I was lucky enough to be asked to be a guest!
Since then, I have sat in the TV 2 studio for more than 50 broadcasts and was live for more than 200 hours.
But amidst all this, I constantly desired to develop my programming skills further and work in a young environment. All that was heard when I found a company with great potential to grow, and that is how Ignite Procurement became my main gig after finishing my studies!
What was it like whenever you shared a screen with chess Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen?
I was incredibly starstruck and stressed the first couple of times, but now it has become the norm and even necessary if we want good viewing numbers. Magnus has a great fan following, and an important part of the job is to communicate exactly what he does that is so genius.
I have since had the opportunity to play soccer with him, which I was far more nervous about. I think the Ignite team can attest to me feeling that way, having seen me play cage ball precisely one time.
It is said that chess is not a light-hearted hobby. Its practitioner must know the art of sculpting a range of emotions, patterns, and intuitions to succeed in it. Is that where you draw a parallel between chess and data science?
I think there are a lot of similarities in the way one can approach both fields. Both chess and data science require a certain level of obsessiveness and staring at something (potentially for hours) before a solution presents itself. And as you mentioned, pattern recognition is an essential skill in chess and is helpful in data science as well.
Robert Sapolsky, who studies stress in primates at Stanford University, said, "A chess player can burn up to 6,000 calories a day while playing in a tournament, three times what an average person consumes in a day." How much energy does a data scientist burn in a day at Ignite?
Ha ha! I usually joke that I am on the chess player diet when I eat candy because physical health isn't as important as other sports, but maybe that is why I can get away with it!
At Ignite, I would say I have to think a lot harder about the different challenges because there are a lot of new aspects that we discuss with others in the office. While Mondays are usually tough mentally, but at Ignite, we take it to the extreme by running 1000 meter intervals at Bislett after work. I can guarantee we burn more calories this way than in a chess tournament!
Mastering the game of strategies or making strategic procurement easy, what fascinates you more now and why?
For the former, I have stepped away from improving my skills to communicating them to people who don't know chess that well. In that sense, I feel like I have a lot more to learn and explore within procurement. Every day, we work on developing new features at Ignite. And what can be more fascinating than sitting at the interface of technology and procurement and learning amazing new things each day?
What will be your message to other enthusiasts who want to join the procure-tech industry?
If you are motivated by an industry that has enormous potential, or you are fascinated by numbers, graphs, and software development: don't hesitate!
I didn't know much about procurement before starting here. Still, everyone has been willing to teach as much as possible, be it within procurement itself or in obscure programming languages I didn't know existed.
Also, I believe the ProcureTech domain has a lot to offer for challenges businesses face, and hence, we could see an expansion of the market in the coming years. And when a sector grows, the opportunities also grow, and so does you!
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