Leaving My Mark on This Planet

Lois K. Smith, Director of Machine Learning‍

Afresh Engineering
3 min readMay 3, 2022

A long time ago, I sat in front of a computer in Boulder, Colorado, as an undergraduate research assistant. With a shift+enter, a simple line plot of solar irradiance data appeared on the screen. While most researchers might have tilted their head and tried splicing on a different time range, I gasped, turned to my neighboring research student and said, “Look! There’s a trend! And I made that! It’s real!”

It was at that moment, as I was looking at a connection between two variables, that I fell in love — absolutely and in a life-changing way — with research and using data to unearth the truth.

Exploring exciting challenges in a new role

How does one go from space physics to a company that reduces food waste? The short answer is I followed a combination of what challenged me and my heart. I left academia in 2016 to pursue data science at a startup in Seattle. That led me to Microsoft, where I augmented data science in Outlook and saw what a big company was like. Next was Facebook, where I became a manager with a mission of empowering others and creating pathways for their growth.

It was hard, seemingly impossible at times, but that deep love of research propelled me relentlessly forward to greater challenges.

In late 2021, I began looking for a new role. I was applying broadly and talking to startups and big companies alike, trying to figure out what was the right move for me next — do I go for leadership? Growth? A “chill” job?

Finding purpose and clarity in work at Afresh

When I had my first call with Jeff Kolesky, CTO of Afresh, it all became crystal clear to me. As I met more of the team, I saw the same passion I felt from Jeff, all reverberating and centered around a purposeful mission of reducing food waste. I was scared to want a job as badly as I did that early into the interview process.

I knew Afresh was it for me — what I had spent all those years training, learning, and growing for. In this role, I could leave my mark on this planet in a beautiful and positive way, using this great gift I have of a love of research. I knew this company had everything in place to make this a reality — the right leadership, passion, brilliance, and conviction in the mission.

Despite friends and family trying to (gently) encourage me to take a more comfortable path for my next career move, everyone knew my choice was made. Telling Afresh that I would be their Machine Learning Director was like opening the door at home after a long vacation.

This is a company where the mission and the people allow me to fully embrace who I am — a woman passionate about building purposeful technology. Our energy and time is a precious thing, and I am proud and grateful to be using mine here.

Lois K. Smith is the Director of Machine Learning at Afresh, focused on supporting the Analytics and Machine Learning teams in building and maintaining the best perishable food forecaster. As someone passionate about building purposeful technology, Lois has jumped right into leveraging her love for research to help eliminate food waste.

Afresh is on a mission to eliminate food waste and make fresh food accessible to all. Our first A.I.-powered solution optimizes ordering, forecasting, and store operations for fresh food departments in brick-and-mortar grocers. With our Fresh Operating System, regional and national grocery retailers have placed $1.6 billion in produce orders across the US and we’ve helped our partners prevent 7.9 million pounds of food from going to waste. Working at Afresh represents a one-of-a-kind opportunity to have massive social impact at scale by leveraging uncommonly impactful software — we hope you’ll join us!



Afresh Engineering

We’re a social impact company leveraging new and emerging technology to prevent food waste, one of the #1 ways to curb climate change. Learn more at afresh.com.