Domino’s journey from a pizza company to a tech giant transformed its entire business — and set a new industry standard in food delivery practices. Today, it ranks among the world’s top restaurant brands with more than 17,200 stores in over 90 markets. In this episode, we’ll talk about how technology helped fuel Domino’s change with Lidia Pomana, Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at Domino’s Pizza.
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The Girls in Tech Podcast is produced by Tote + Pears.
Music By: Adrian Dominic Walther
Featured In This Episode
Lidia Pomana is the Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at Domino’s, leading a team that develops machine learning solutions to improve store operations and the delivery experience for customers and employees. She is a huge advocate of leveraging data to make better business decisions and has held positions across a variety of industries that have allowed her to translate complex statistical learnings into actionable insights. She holds a master’s degree in Applied Statistics and a bachelor’s degree in Statistics and in Spanish, both from the University of Michigan. She is a co-founder of WiSDOM: Women in STEM @ Domino’s, an organization with a mission to attract, retain and promote women in STEM careers.
Adriana Gascoigne (00:00):
I’m Adriana Gascoigne, founder of Girls in Tech, and this is The Girls in Tech Podcast, where we’re discussing the ways tech is always evolving and helping the world evolve too. Listen in, get inspired and learn how you can use your skills to create the change you want to see in the world. Here’s your host, Zuzy Martin-Aly.
Zuzy Martin-Aly (00:21):
There’s a company that will value you for you. There’s a tech job where your skillset and unique perspectives are appreciated. By inviting you to share the real you, the Girls in Tech Jobs Board helps you find that job so that you can take the next step in your career with confidence. Go to jobs.girlsintech.org today. That’s jobs.girlsintech.org.
Lidia Pomana (00:45):
Technology really works best when we don’t even notice that it’s there. But it’s making our lives — specifically in decision-making — a lot easier.
Zuzy Martin-Aly (00:56):
Domino’s has come a long way since its early beginnings. The pizza company, which began with one store in 1960 and fought through a reputation of tasting like cardboard, now has not only captured the savory taste buds of pizza lovers, but has grown to over 17,000 stores in more than 90 countries with over $14 billion in sales in 2019. So how did they get there? By leveraging technology to improve their ordering system and customer interactions. Domino’s grown their profits and transformed from a pizza company to a tech giant. With over 80% of restaurants turning to technology to help them run their businesses successfully and most efficiently, it’s safe to say that Domino’s has paved the way. So, today who better to speak to than Lidia Pomana, Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence of Domino’s Pizza about how tech is being used to move the restaurant industry forward. Here’s my conversation with Lidia.
Lidia, so I’m curious to know how you went from growing up in Europe and having a beautifully diverse background, multilingual, thinking about a career in diplomacy to finding your way to America and eventually to Domino’s.
Can you share a little bit about that part of your journey?
Lidia Pomana (02:17):
So, I actually started college in Poland. I grew up in a fairly large city, which had a university there too, so I started college there. At the same time, I kind of realized college is a time to kind of get out of your comfort zone and try something new, and if you’re going to go, you got to go far, right? So I set my eyes on the University of Michigan. I know it was a great school. It was really far away, so it seemed like a great choice, and I moved over here to Michigan. After being here in Michigan for several years, I had decided to get out, go somewhere else, and I have always loved New York City. So I found a consulting job in New York and moved to New York. I lived there for a couple of years with my husband, and I really loved it, I loved the work, the city. But anyone that lives in New York or has lived in New York, you’ll see that the city is really, really expensive. So we had decided to move back to Michigan.
Lidia Pomana (03:24):
This is where our family was, it’s where a lot of our friends were, and when looking for a place that I could come back to and work, I just knew about Domino’s. I had some friends that had worked here. So I looked into it, and it turns out there were opportunities available at Domino’s that would have helped me leverage my background and allow me to keep on learning. Now that I have been here for almost six years, I can tell you I never realized that there’s so much that goes into running a pizza business.
Zuzy Martin-Aly (04:03):
Domino’s Pizza has been around for a long time, it’s a really solid American brand. And I don’t know if people know this, but in 2019 Domino’s had over $14 billion in revenue, so with half of that being international. You think of pizza as being something that’s very American, but obviously not for Domino’s. Can you talk us through a little bit about the history and where you are today?
Lidia Pomana (04:32):
So, Domino’s Pizza was started in 1960, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, by two brothers who took over an existing pizza shop called Dominic’s. Pretty quickly early on, one of the brothers decided to give up his half of the business in exchange for the Volkswagen Beetle that the company had used to make their deliveries. The brother that stayed with the business, Tom Monaghan, he really stuck with it, and he very quickly grew the company. He re-named it to Domino’s Pizza, and within just a few years he started franchising, and then just shy of 30 years after the first store opened, there were 5,000 Domino’s locations around the world. So over the years, the company continued to grow; we also went public in 2004. So, as time went on, we continued to offer more products on the menu, introduce more ordering platforms, opening additional markets, and right now we operate in over 90 international markets; we have over 17,000 stores. So really what started off as a single store in 1960 is now the biggest pizza company in the world with over 1 million customers ordering every single day on every inhabited continent.
Zuzy Martin-Aly (05:59):
I’d love to hear how you use data to analyze customer insights and customer needs. Would you say data is like math? Like it’s a universal language? Or do you need to understand cultural nuances in order to connect with the client?
Lidia Pomana (06:15):
I feel like data is a universal language. So, when you think of your Domino’s experience, I think it’s really important to make that distinction between the pizza experience and the eating of the pizza. So, we use technology, we use data to improve the entire pizza experience. Even though most people probably just think about the eating experience. So, like all e-commerce company, we have really adopted the mentality of driving decisions with data, testing things really fast, iterating and learning, and we’ve gotten really good at using our own data specifically. We collect data on our customers, on the details of their order, on the stores that are making these orders, and with that, we are able to keep on improving the customer experience. Because we just know that great experiences can lead to brand growth.
Zuzy Martin-Aly (07:11):
So, you’re using data to personalize the customer experience and in turn drive growth, right?
Lidia Pomana (07:18):
Zuzy Martin-Aly (07:18):
So, how is artificial intelligence improving pizza delivery?
Lidia Pomana (07:24):
The data science team at Domino’s is really focused on two things, the customer experience and store operations. So, we’re using data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, to automate the decisions that take place in the store and to give our customers more accurate information. So, for instance, we use machine learning to provide our customers with an accurate estimate of when their order will be ready. So there’s no guesswork on part of the customer — and we’ve done some research, and accuracy is really important to customers. People actually value having accurate estimates more than having a quick pizza delivery. So, this is just one example of how data science is being used at Domino’s.
Zuzy Martin-Aly (08:16):
What role would you say tech played in helping Dominos thrive again?
Lidia Pomana (08:23):
So, I think technology really changes how restaurants communicate with a customer, how restaurants can ensure that their restaurants are properly staffed, that they have the right inventory at hand. If you’re a restaurant that offers delivery, it changes how the restaurant gets the order to you and at Domino’s specifically. We want to make sure that our customer experience is really frictionless. We want our customers to be able to order and receive their food really easily, and I think the beginning of that technological innovation started with our online and mobile ordering system, which was launched in 2007. And I’m laughing because it sounds really obvious today to have a good ordering platform, but that’s what really can make a difference in a restaurant surviving now as opposed to what used to be necessary, which was just good food. So, right now, two-thirds of our sales are generated via our digital ordering channels. So you can still call in your order to Domino’s, but, of course, you can order online, through the app or through any of our innovative ordering platforms, which we call AnyWare technology.
Lidia Pomana (09:36):
So, that’s Google Home, Amazon, Alexa, you can text, you can use Facebook Messenger, Slack, or even tweet. Five years ago I don’t know if there are many people who thought that you could order a Domino’s Pizza by tweeting a pizza emoji. But I think this is just one example of how technology has helped Domino’s not just keep up with the industry, but really be on the cutting edge.
Zuzy Martin-Aly (10:04):
What do you expect or perhaps hope for the future of restaurants where technology can help?
Lidia Pomana (10:11):
Something that I hope and both expect, is really better, smarter AI. I would love to see predictive algorithms playing a larger role in preemptively fulfilling customer needs, store staff needs, delivery driver needs. I think nowadays customers are expecting more personalization, customization, really tailored interactions, and consumers want interactions with brands that feel smart, positive and, most importantly, human, and I think paradoxically AI can deliver on those. So, you can think of product customizations, for instance — something really relevant to you or maybe a unique reward system that works for you. I really would love to see personalization with a purpose, just personalization that can anticipate and kind of intercept those nascent needs and provide customers and store staff with recommendations before they even realize what they need. So, for me, it really goes back to technology being so seamless and on-point that you don’t even think about it being there at all.
Zuzy Martin-Aly (11:36):
What types of skills are needed to enter into data science and an AI role? We really like to give the Girls in Tech audience tangible skills and job titles for them to just aim for.
Lidia Pomana (11:50):
So, there are certainly technical skills that are required to be successful in data science and tech in this industry. So, programming languages, data wrangling, statistics, general analytical skills. I would consider those the foundation, and I think what’s also really important is the ability to be able to communicate your work — the finding, the insights, the recommendations — to make sure that your work makes an impact. So, it’s really a combination of the hard skills and the soft skills. One other thing that I think is especially important is curiosity. So analytical curiosity and the curiosity to question the status quo, to try something that’s never been tried before, to go beyond the obvious and the easy approaches and solutions when you’re posed with a business problem. And then lastly, while it’s not strictly a skill, I think there’s also real value in bringing a broad range of experiences to the table. Those fresh perspectives and expertise are always welcome. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like they can’t start a career in tech, because they have previously worked in different industries or they think their background isn’t relevant.
Lidia Pomana (13:13):
As long as you have the willingness to learn and have an open mind to just new things, new environments, new innovations, I think that would serve you very well. And then for the same part of your question, you were asking about specific job titles. Titles like data scientist, machine learning engineer, and then maybe also instead of specific titles, I would suggest looking at keywords that say analyst or e-commerce or digital. Like we’ve been talking, technology is really everywhere. So I wouldn’t limit the search to just specific job titles, but really focus on the skills.
Zuzy Martin-Aly (13:58):
So Lidia, as a woman in STEM, many times no doubt you may be the only woman in the room even though we’ve made so many advancements in getting more women into tech and into STEM fields. What’s that like and what perspective do you bring that’s different? Not only as a woman but with your European background?
Lidia Pomana (14:18):
So it is true, sometimes I am the only woman in the room. The team that I lead for a very long time, it was just me and an all men until we finally hired another woman this year, so now it’s the two of us. But if I do happen to be the only woman in the room, I try not to focus on it too much. Sometimes I do wonder, “If I speak up, will my voice be the voice of the women, or will it be perceived as my perspective? Or will be perceived as the data science perspective?” It’s really hard to say how people interpret that. But I know I am in this position because someone thought I would be the best person for this position. So I try not to think too much about being the only woman, and I really try to focus on being the representative for the data science team.
Zuzy Martin-Aly (15:14):
Thank you for answering that question in such a vulnerable way, because that is something that I think a lot of women think if they… At least for a millisecond, if they are the only woman in the room. “How will my answer be perceived?” But I love how brave you are with just going forward with being yourself and bringing what you bring to the table despite your gender. So, thank you for sharing that; I’m sure it’ll inspire more women to just be confident in what they bring.
Lidia Pomana (15:42):
Oh, thank you. It’s so nice to hear that. But we have this opportunity to have panel discussions with our leadership here at Domino’s, and one of the things we heard from one of our senior leaders who was a woman. She said, “Just fake it ’til you make it.” It was such a breath of fresh air to hear from an executive something like that. Because it means it’s now just women kind of at beginning of their careers that maybe feel a little bit out of place or intimidated and they just feel, “Fake it ’til you make it.” I feel like it’s women at all levels that kind of feel that. So we just going to own it and just fight it, just push ahead.
Zuzy Martin-Aly (16:23):
That’s great advice, and we should remember that everyone, male or female, has their own insecurity. So, be confident-
Lidia Pomana (16:29):
Zuzy Martin-Aly (16:29):
Lidia Pomana (16:30):
Zuzy Martin-Aly (16:30):
Be confident in what you’re bringing to the table, so thank you for sharing that. That’s a perfect segue to ask you if you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with the Girls in Tech audience?
Lidia Pomana (16:41):
Women are underrepresented in STEM, but don’t let that deter you from pursuing a career in tech. The number of women in STEM is increasing, which is really encouraging. So, let’s be those women and be the role models for those that are following in our footsteps.
Zuzy Martin-Aly (16:59):
Thank you. Thank you so much, Lidia. That’s beautiful advice, and I’m so grateful that you were on the Girls in Tech Podcast with us today. Thank you.
Adriana Gascoigne (17:10):
Thank you for listening to today’s episode. The Girls in Tech Podcast is a production of Tote + Pears. Are you inspired by what you heard today? Head over to girlsintech.org to find more resources for starting and advancing a career in tech. Including our jobs for it and personal and professional development programs designed to help you excel, and be sure to tune in every other Tuesday for new episodes. See you next time.
The Girls in Tech Podcast is produced by Tote + Pears.
Music By: Adrian Dominic Walther