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Inspiration for Top Gun’s Female Lead Offers Statistics Advice

Monday, November 2, 2015 12:00 am EST
"Concentrate on what your senior leader wants to achieve"

In an interview published on, Christine Fox, who recently served as the acting United States Deputy Secretary of Defense and was the inspiration for the Kelly McGillis character in Top Gun, shares her experiences working in statistics at the very top of the US government.

In addition to providing examples of how statistics has contributed to leaders’ decisions, such as how the Air Force trains its squadrons, she provides fascinating anecdotes of what it was like to work for some of the highest-ranking officials in the Pentagon.

She also gives advice to statisticians and data analysts based on the lessons she’s learned. “Concentrate on what your senior leader wants to achieve,” she says. “The senior leader lives in a complex world, having to think about everything from political constraints to international constraints to stockholder expectations and an expectant Board waiting for good results. If you can help them understand a solution to make a better decision according to the analysis you have made, you are helping them make the best decision considering their own constraints.”

The interview was conducted at the Joint Statistical Meetings held in August.

Additional Information

Link to interview and video:

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