2021 Alumni Notes 2009-10
I’m still working in digital marketing for Ansira, going on eight years with a great group of people. A couple include fellow stats alumni Max Klingmann and Christina Garcia. They have a good story — read their updates! My company has adopted a "remote first" policy moving forward, so my wife and I decided to take the opportunity to move the family from Southern California to Boise, Idaho. We drove straight through overnight with two kids and two cats, but we made it alive (not recommended). We’re loving the seasons, the change of pace, shorter commutes and fresh air. Our boys just turned two and three and are loving all the parks as well. We also just got a black lab named Racer (The boys love everything cars.), and he’s added an extra bit of love and excitement (and a little stress) over the past month.
For fun I play a lot of fantasy baseball and run a baseball site called Prospects Live with some friends. Because of the site my new favorite R package is reactable. We have team prospect boards, and the package allowed us to easily display a full player report when expanding out a row. Definitely a game changer for what we were trying to do! I actually submitted an example of this list to the RStudio table contest. It didn’t win. Or get an honorable mention. But they still sent me stickers, so I was pretty hyped.
It has been awhile since I have been able to make the newsletter. Generally, I miss the deadline due to studying for actuarial exams, but as of 2019, I no longer have that excuse. I am now a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society! I would call my fellowship the most exciting news of the past few years, but my wife would not be too happy with me. Yes, I said wife. I also got married in 2019! And I would also be remiss not to share the news of our pandemic Puli puppy named Marshie (short for Marshmallow).
Professionally, I am working as an actuarial manager for PwC in the Chicago office, typically performing loss reserve analyses for corporate clients and self-insured entities.
My favorite pandemic pastime has been planning vacations: a post-busy-season vacation to Costa Rica and a late summer trip to Europe (fingers crossed the various vaccines allow for eased travel restrictions). A close second would be getting some exercise by taking my puppy on long walks (He absolutely loves the snow).
Last April, my family and I moved to Portland just before the quarantine began. We’ve been enjoying the weather and as much of the outdoors as possible with everything going on. We just got our first snow this week!
Professionally, I left Twitch last year to form an esports social media startup with a fellow Cal Poly alum, which is bringing me back to more statistics in my day-to-day work. I even dusted off some of my old textbooks (shout out to Concepts in Probability and Stochastic Modeling open on my desk right now) to help with designing indexes for game stats.
Launching a business is stressful. With everything going on in the world, I’m not sure why I chose to do it. However, I took 21 units for a year straight in my final year, so I acknowledge that I’m a bit of an odd bird.
I am currently a fourth year Ph.D. student in the UCLA Department of Statistics. My research interest is in applying point process data (events occurring randomly or in a clustered process in time or space) to disease outbreaks. It happens to coincide with the once in a century pandemic (COVID-19), so my research has become way more exciting and practical (Everyone knows R0 now). It has been an interesting adventure, from TAing online to literally living what I research in real time, but some semblance of normalcy would be great in the near future. My future aspiration is to continue working in epidemiology either as a professor or as a consultant in a public health department.
This March will be my six-year anniversary of moving to Seattle and working for Amazon. I am currently leading the Amazon Go category team, helping to redefine the convenience store space. Over the years each career move has taken me further away from statistics and analytics as a core job function, but my Cal Poly stat degree and early roles as an analyst set the foundation for how to run a business — deep dive into data, pull out insights and drive business decisions. On a personal note, 2020 has been a year of many ups and downs — but also some important life milestones. My fiancé and I purchased our first home in Seattle, officially planting roots in the Pacific Northwest and giving us a bit more space for our new WFH COVID-normal. And while our plans for a wedding were not exactly what we envisioned, by the time of reading this we will be officially married in a small ceremony with just our immediate family. Here’s to hoping for a better 2021. Cheers!
Things have been going pretty great for me since my last update. I am nearing four years at my current position as senior data scientist at an awesome startup company called Switch Automation, located here in Denver, Colorado. (Our company is also spread to hubs in Lviv, Ukraine; Sydney, Australia; Manila, Philippines; and Singapore.) As a data scientist I’m across all of the data that flows in and out of our platform, ensuring that the data is mapped and ingested appropriately. I then work on building energy models to predict energy consumption across the different portfolios (primarily using R but also using Python as a resource), as well as building dashboards/workspaces to allow users to interact with their data (MS Power BI, Tableau, internal tools, etc.).
I’ve also been working as a product owner for some of the tools within our platform, with the ultimate goal of automating a lot of my processes within our platform — so working with our development team and CTO to build out functional specs and use cases around my machine learning scripts and ways to build them into the UI. It’s been an incredible experience not only as a Data Scientist but to also work for a smaller company and to learn all of the intricacies that make our company successful.
On the personal side, while the COVID pandemic has been quite the bummer overall for most of us, 2020 was actually a major plus for my personal life. I got engaged on Feb. 29, 2020 (leap year), right before things started getting locked down (I actually flew my now-wife out to San Luis Obispo for a fun trip with friends and ended up proposing on the Pismo pier!). We then booked a wedding venue here in Colorado and were scheduled for Sept. 2020 before COVID basically halted that plan entirely. Her family and friends live in Georgia, and most of mine are in California. So the travel aspect of our wedding really put a big question mark on how we would be able to do this.
So on a walk one day in late May 2020, we spontaneously decided that we wouldn’t let COVID spoil our plans, and so we altered them. We decided to elope in the most epic way we could think of, which was to climb to the top of one of the "14ers" in Colorado (a 14er is a mountain with a 14,000+ foot peak, and the Colorado Rocky Mountains have quite a few of them.) to get married at the peak. So, with a small group of friends, we ascended Gray’s Peak. We started our climb around 12:30 a.m. so that we would reach the peak at sunrise. It was beautiful and unbelievably special to us.
We had the mountain to ourselves, and one of our friends even lugged a violin up with her and played the beginning and end of the ceremony! While we didn’t hike up in our wedding attire (We changed at the top, and it was COLD, haha.), we did hike down in our attire, which was when most people were hiking up. This kind of created an impromptu wedding recessional line, with all of these random people giving us cheers and taking pictures and stuff, which was pretty cool.
Ultimately that led to the Denver Post catching on to our elopement, and they ended up writing an article about our experience. This went viral a bit and was a cool little bonus (including being congratulated by Denver Mayor Hancock and Colorado Governor Polis).
It’s been both an exciting and challenging time. It’s continued to be a pleasure to be a faculty member in the Statistics Department at Cal Poly, and I was thrilled to get a promotion and tenure in 2020. My involvement in all things related to data science has only deepened and spread in all of the most wonderful ways. On a more personal note, my wife and I purchased our first home in Summer 2020 and were lucky enough to find almost all of what we were looking for. While there has been plenty to be thankful for, I will admit that teaching virtually does not fulfill me in as many ways as teaching in person does. My students have been very patient with me throughout this transition, and I very much appreciate it as I strive to maintain a fruitful learning environment for them — but I think we all miss each other. I look forward to the day when I can code shoulder to shoulder with my students again.
Mary Ellen DeHaven Rosales
I think we can all agree 2020 has been significantly different than recent past years, my little life included. I am still at 24 being their data scientist and working on a wide variety of projects. But this year I was given the opportunity to expand and take on projects that were much more computer science heavy. For example I created an automated report that detects credit card chargeback fraud.
Even with all the fun projects at work going on, I had the most fun at home. We brought a healthy baby boy into the world on August 28, 2020. It has been a wild ride, but I am so thankful.
Daniela Sakamoto Saldana
This past year I have continued my role at AIG as a customer insights manager. The team that I oversee has grown, and I now lead a team of three insight analysts. We are responsible for speech analytics, predictive modeling, dashboard development and survey programs. It’s a very exciting role with interesting high visibility projects. One thing that my husband and I have decided to do is relocate from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas. I am able to keep my job remote permanently. We are moving to be closer to my family and to get out of the city.
I’m now in my second year as a math coordinator for the Merced County Office of Education. While this has been an extraordinarily different year for everyone, my work has focused much more significantly on supporting teachers’ technology needs during this year. I’ve also been able to work on some initiatives this year at the high school level. The California Mathematics Framework is currently being revised and will directly focus on the inclusion of data science throughout elementary and secondary schools with specific emphasis at the high school. I’ve been working with many districts to implement a data science course for next school year so that they will have multiple pathways for math that will make them college-ready. Of course, my statistics background has made me very excited for this new direction.
Updates on my personal/family life... lol, it’s a pandemic... I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix. Joking aside, we escaped to the mountains in July for a few weeks. I’ve done a number of home improvement projects. I’ve also been enjoying some of the small things in life that the pandemic brought me like actually getting to know my neighbors and letting my kids run wild with theirs while the adults chatted six feet apart. Mostly, just thankful for the health of my loved ones and heartsick for those who haven’t been as fortunate.