Employee Spotlight

Data Engineer

Eric F. is a Data Engineer at 84.51˚

Employee Spotlight - Eric Freeman

Employee Spotlight: Eric F.
Hometown: Fishers, IN
Office Location: Chicago, IN
University: Indiana University Major: Computer Science 84.51° Mission (Project Team): Data & DNA

Describe your role as a Data Engineer.
I work with a team of data scientists and engineers to develop models of shopping preferences for millions of Kroger customers, across several dimensions including health, price and convenience. My work leverages Python, cluster computing and various automation tools, both on 84.51’s Hadoop cluster and the Microsoft Cloud.

What was your experience like in the Development Program?
For the first few weeks I was in training sessions learning a high-level overview of our technology stack, as well as some background on the business and what kind of problems our engineering teams are solving. Then I was integrated into a scrum team where I was able to learn from a mentor and start picking up the codebase and contributing to projects over the course of a few months.

How do you believe the 84.51° Development Program compares to other comparable programs?
The development program has evolved somewhat since I was in it. At this point it’s a fairly robust program that builds on your skillset coming out of college, gives you practice collaborating on a cross-functional team with other new grads, and still allows you to get involved in production-level work fairly quickly.

How do you believe the Development Program equipped you for success at 84.51°?
The most valuable part of the development program for me was not the actual training sessions, but the opportunity to spend a few weeks playing around with our datasets, studying my team’s existing codebase, and performing a few low-stakes tasks to learn the ropes. That gave me a much stronger foundation when I started getting fully integrated into my role.

What did you learn from the Development Program that you have transferred into your current role?
The development program introduced me to the Python version of our cluster computing framework, Apache Spark (I had previously used the Scala version), which I have leveraged more than any other technology in my role.

Is there anything you wish you had known about the Development Program prior to enrolling? I wish I had known more about 84.51 and Kroger, and how broad the business is, especially in regard to our media arm, Kroger Precision Marketing.

What has been the most memorable experience or favorite project you’ve worked on?
I spent about 6 months developing an internal Python package to simplify the more repetitive aspects of creating new models, both for my team and other teams within 84.51. This greatly improved my understanding of Python and API development and allowed me to apply the skills I learned in my first year with the company to create a product that will enable my team to be more successful moving forward.

What advice would you give students who are interested in working in the analytics industry?
Pick a topic you’re interested in and figure out a way to answer questions about that topic using data. Along the way you’ll learn both how to reason about data and how to solve common programmatic obstacles involved in Analytics. In school, I’d take any class that gives you exposure to R, Python, statistics, cluster computing or cloud computing.

What’s your favorite part about working at 84.51°?
There’s a really wide variety of work you can do here as an Engineer, both in terms of the technologies you’re leveraging and the problems you’re working to solve. We don’t just produce data assets, we also produce full-stack applications that allow our CPG partners to consume them, and we’re not just the Analytics arm of Kroger, we’re also a fast-growing media company.

What do you like to do in your free time, outside of work hours?
I love exploring Chicago and enjoying the parks, lakefront and restaurants. I’m into cycling and running and am a fan of pretty much all professional sports leagues, in addition to being a huge elections junkie.