Machine-learning bootcamp

LS&Co. Develops 100-Plus New Data Scientists

Mark Cazares, Unzipped Staff
Levi Strauss & Co.
November 24, 2021

Earlier this year, we launched our first-ever Machine Learning (ML) Bootcamp which gained industry-wide accolades and attracted overwhelming employee interest. With an influx of fresh perspectives and practitioners, data science, ML and AI solutions have increased across the company, accelerating how we do things better, faster and more efficiently — from managing our supply chain to equipping our retail stores with insightful real-time data.

This month, our second cohort of 58 employees graduated from the eight-week intensive program where they learned coding, Python programming language, statistics and more. In our first year of the program, we had roughly 450 employees apply for limited spots and have  trained more than 100 employees from more than 20 locations spanning North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

“Investing in our people will yield the biggest return from LS&Co.’s digital transformation. Our employees are already experts in apparel retail and their functional areas. Training them in machine learning gives them new skills, new careers, and new abilities to make an impact across the company,” said Dr. Katia Walsh, senior vice president and chief strategy and artificial intelligence officer at LS&Co. “We are also unlocking new ways of working to set us up for continued growth in the future. And, just as importantly, we are cultivating a new bench of diverse bench of Digital, Data, and AI talent. I couldn’t be prouder of the 101 graduates from this year, and delighted to continue the program into 2022!”

Our second graduating class of ML Bootcampers marks yet another milestone in our journey to digitally transform LS&Co., and pays tribute to our belief that our people will help us shape the future of fashion, retail and brand experiences.

“I see the bootcamp as the next phase in my career. I will take the knowledge I now have of programming with Python and statistics to my role and apply it to our in store performance indicators,” said Ricardo Lemos, senior retail operations specialist at Levi Strauss & Co. “It’s nice that the company is preparing us for what’s next.”

Katia added, “People are the most important part of artificial intelligence; the fact is that humans create artificial intelligence. The diversity of people — the team of decision-makers in the creation of AI algorithms — must reflect the diversity of the general population.”

As we build for a digital-first and diverse future, we’re proud that roughly half of the Bootcampers in this second cohort were female, and that 48% of the U.S.-based participants identify as Black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC). We also had a wide range of department/function representation with employees from our product development, planning, marketing, HR, commercial operations, finance, sales and Direct-To-Consumer teams.

“The bootcamp experience fundamentally changed the way I think about possibilities going forward. No matter what part of the organization you’re in, data science and AI will increasingly be applied to everything we do, from decision-making tasks to making workflows easier and more efficient,” said Shelby Greeley, manager of insights & analytics in Wholesale Ecommerce. “I also realized being a student helped me find my curiosity again to question how we can do things differently and how I can progress in my career with that new understanding.”

We’re thrilled to continue this program into 2022 and look forward to conducting two additional bootcamps with employees who are curious problem solvers, analytical by nature and persistent to look for various ways of approaching business issues.