Levi's Fodafone technology executive big data

Levi Strauss & Co. is amping up its tech focus with a new executive hire plucked from the mobile industry: The apparel company announced Thursday that Katia Walsh, Vodafone’s chief global data and AI officer, will join Levi’s leadership team as senior vice president and chief strategy and artificial intelligence officer.

Walsh will step into her new role, effective April 29.

“Katia’s expertise in data and analytics, including big data platforms, analytics services, machine learning products and digital solutions will be essential to setting LS&Co. on a course of continued industry leadership,” Chip Bergh, president and chief executive officer at Levi Strauss & Co, said in a prepared statement.

He described her as an effective team builder and, perhaps more importantly, a “positive change agent, capable of translating data products into successful commercial initiatives and consumer experiences.” It’s easy to see why, based on her track record.

Walsh is viewed as an executive with a unique command of the ins and outs of big data, including governance, platforms, analytics and solutions. As Vodafone’s first chief data and analytics officer, she developed its data and analytics strategy and elevated it to one of the carrier’s highest priorities.

She spearheaded the company’s digital transformation, gave rise to predictive and personalized experiences and pushed for the use of data and artificial intelligence for social good. Meanwhile, she also rolled out data-driven capabilities across Vodafone regions and was built a massive platform that earned it a place among the top 10 EMEA — Europe, Middle East and Africa — big data platforms.

Walsh’s recruitment flies in the face of stereotypes that brand legacy apparel companies as relative luddites in the information era. If there’s one thing that fashion is very good at, it’s reinvention. And, new or old, the brands that master it may be the ones that will define tomorrow’s clothing and retail industries.

Levi’s has been out on the front lines of this reinvention. The company may be rooted in more than a century and a half of jeanswear history, but it also embraces innovation — from connected apparel like its Project Jacquard Google collaboration to its own development in of laser-finishing technology. Now Walsh will help the company connect more of the dots on the information side.

“LS&Co. is more than an iconic company; it’s also an innovation leader across industries,” Walsh said in the press announcement. “Strategic harnessing of data and machine learning will help position it for its next 165 years, and I look forward to contributing to its continued growth.”

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