Employee Spotlight

Statistical Learning Specialist

David W. is a Statistical Learning Specialist at 84.51˚

Wanner, David

Employee Spotlight: David W.
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Office Location: Chicago, Illinois
University: Ohio State University (Bachelors 2011), University of Chicago (Masters 2017)
Major: Bachelors in Psychology & Neuroscience, Masters in Analytics
84.51° Mission (Project Team): Data & DNA

Describe your role as a Statistical Learning Specialist.
I work on the Data & DNA Mission. We generate models that help us better understand our customers, and we share those solutions with other teams. With our massive amounts of data, we execute a variety of statistical analyses, decide what customer behaviors and attitudes we’re most interested in, consider how we want to build out target variables, make sure we’re doing proper feature engineering work, and spend a lot of time on model evaluation.

What was your experience like in the Development Program?
Even though I had completed an internship at 84.51°, I wasn’t fully sure where I’d fit in, so that’s where the Development Program really helped. They do a great job of giving a diverse background on the organization. Even though we were Analysts, we heard from Consultants and Engineers, which was really important in helping me understand where I might fit and what kind of role I could play. It’s also helpful with work I do now to understand who the stakeholders are and who might be using the models I’m creating.

How do you believe the 84.51° Development Program compares to other comparable programs?
Talking to some of my peers who went on to similar careers from grad school, I know comparable programs just throw you in right away to start working with a couple trainings scattered here and there. The 84.51° Development Program is extremely robust and I really appreciate that you’re given a chance to hone your skills and work through a starter project.

How do you believe the Development Program equipped you for success at 84.51°?
I came in feeling pretty good with a set of analytical skills, but seeing the different tools that had been developed internally and hearing how they were used day-to-day was extremely valuable. I thought it was awesome to basically get a co-op opportunity to try out a couple different teams. I worked across a few different project teams and got to see the type of work they do to see which area of the 84.51° would best align to where I wanted to develop.

What did you learn from the Development Program that you have transferred into your current role?
One of my biggest takeaways was how all of our data works together. Also, the art of storytelling was covered very well in the Development Program. I was leaning pretty heavily on that material early on when I was doing some projects where I needed to share complex information with a range of audiences.

What has been the most memorable experience or favorite project you’ve worked on?
I worked with another analyst to evaluate a model that analyzed the drivers of specific price sensitivity of shoppers. It involved heavy use of R, model evaluation, and trying to understand the value add it might bring to the organization. It was extremely enjoyable to be able to work on something that technically challenging and strategically valuable early in my career.

What advice would you give students who are interested in working in the analytics industry?
It’s great to learn statistics and programming, but looking at the applied side really matters. I came in not having a great understanding of what happens once you develop a model, but seeing examples of how different companies are deploying models is extremely important in the analytics industry.

What’s your favorite part about working at 84.51°?
I tell people it’s like an extended grad school experience. I’ve learned a great deal of information around the application of analytics as well as 84.51°’s application of data science. I spend a lot of time learning new programming languages, new methodologies. They always encourage you to develop and grow – as an example, I’m in an employee learning group for analysts who are skilled in R but want to learn Python.

What do you like to do in your free time, outside of work hours?
My wife and I like to be active. We live close to a park in Chicago, so we go there and walk around, ride bikes, and play tennis. I have a group of friends who I go rock climbing with pretty regularly.