2017-18 Alumni Notes Graduation Years 2011-12
Jenna (Colavincenzo) Carlson
Wow, 2017 has been quite a year! Earlier in the year, I redesigned the curriculum for the introductory biostatistics course for public health graduate students, and then taught the class myself. I’m also very proud to say that I earned my doctorate in biostatistics in April and am now a postdoctoral associate in the Human Genetics Department at the University of Pittsburgh. I’m currently researching the genetic mechanisms underlying adiposity in a Samoan population. Personally, I am loving life here in Pittsburgh. My husband and I adopted a puppy in the spring, and are enjoying exploring more of the city with her. Best wishes to all!
Thanks to the Cal Poly Statistics Department, I found a company that affords me the opportunity to take the rest of the day off once I submit this update. It's just too bad I waited until 11:30 am. Wish I would have seen this email Thursday night. Having a flexible schedule, being able to work remotely when I want to travel, and being able to snag last minute airline tickets and fresh powder days is perfect for me. I live in Oceanside, Calif., and have worked as a stats programmer at Agility Clinical in Carlsbad for the last four and a half years. The smooth five-mile morning commute along the beach is terrible, and I don't recommend it to anyone.
After five years of graduate school at North Carolina State University, I successfully defended my dissertation on August 14, 2017. I am now employed as a data scientist at Phylagen, a biotech startup in San Francisco, where I am continuing my research on statistical methods for forensic microbiology.
This time last year I was working for a diagnostic laboratory as a statistician. As the company went through a series of layoffs and restructuring, the entire data team decided to move on and look for new work. I had been eager to venture into the world of machine learning, hoping to tackle problems of prediction over problems of inference. I was fortunate enough to be hired as a data scientist with a small demand response and energy efficiency software company in downtown Denver. Immediately after accepting the position, they were acquired by a large energy resource management company called Itron, though business has remained as usual.
It has been a wonderful experience building machine learning models and generating predictions of future energy usage that are incorporated into software and utilized by utilities, blogging about my findings as I go. While I am grateful to have studied statistics and to have learned to think in a statistical way, I do not see myself ever returning to a job as a statistician fitting linear models and reporting odds ratios. I’m having way more fun generating and evaluating predictions.
After earning my master’s, I left the San Diego bio-stats scene to enjoy a couple of years working at a start-up predicting rent and sale prices for U.S. homes. When the start-up failed, I used my redshift database experience to find a job as an AWS consultant. It has always been my goal to consult. I was able to apply many of the techniques discussed in Heather Smith's and Jimmy Doi's consulting class at Cal Poly. But, after eight months of database backups and other IT work, I was motivated to find data to analyze again. I pushed to join Amazon Studio's Research team in Santa Monica where I now build predictive models for TV series' success. They also force me handle all of the AWS tasks. In August, I married my Cal Poly girlfriend (biology major). We miss San Luis Obispo plenty.
Since graduation I've had the privilege of working at Pacific Life in Orange County, Calif. I started here as an intern in 2010, and I'm approaching seven years with the company, which blows my mind. Time seriously flies. I'm currently an assistant actuary in the Retirement Solutions Division's Product Design Department, where we develop annuity products. We have a rotation program here, so I've had the opportunity to work in multiple departments since I started and experience different elements of the actuarial profession. In the past couple of years I achieved my Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA) and Chartered Enterprise Risk Analyst (CERA) designations and I'm working towards my Fellowship (FSA). Two more exams to go. I'll be thrilled when they are over!
On a personal note, I bought a duplex, and my dad and I have been renovating one of the units. It's been a fun adventure. That's what has soaked up most of my free time lately, but I've really enjoyed the DIY process. I am looking forward to moving in and enjoying the fruits of our labor.
I've somehow managed to stay in San Luis Obispo since I've graduated. I have been a sales consultant for the last three years for a residential solar company, Sunrun. When I am not trying to make the planet run by the sun, I love to take my labradoodle pup, Panda, to the beach. I always have too many destinations on my list of places I want to travel. And most recently, I made my television debut by being a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune!
I am grateful to continue to work for the same IT group since my update last year, and I enjoy living in Thousand Oaks where I have close access to many hiking trails. I crossed Glacier National Park off my bucket list this past summer, including a 13-mile day hike to Cracker Lake. I was also excited to view the solar eclipse in totality on the trip to Montana.
I currently work as a data scientist for an analytic software company called FICO in San Francisco, (our flagship product is the FICO Credit Score). Over the last year I also traveled to India for a side project, where I helped a non-profit school that teaches English to adolescent Indians put together an analytic approach to running their operations. Across both endeavors I’ve consistently used a whole bunch of what I learned from the brilliant professors of the Cal Poly Statistics Department (special shout out to Jimmy Doi and his analysis of cross-classified data class – still use those notes).