2021 Alumni Notes 2015-2016
Just over a year ago I left Google to join Fremont Bank (a Bay Area community bank) as their director of digital marketing. It’s been an exciting task to try and figure out how to bring a company along towards being best in class at a specific type of marketing because as banks transition towards a more digital-based approach to banking, so does their marketing take on a largely digital focus.
Honestly, the most important thing that I learned from statistics and still use is the thought process to take big generic problems and turn them into manageable steps toward improvement. I still remember my one experience at DataFest, where they give you a giant messy data set, and say in the next 12 hours, create valuable insights in a beautiful format. That’s the type of thinking that is valuable for me. Both the ability to map out the best steps to solve a big problem, and also the time crunch that creates the need to not let perfection get in the way of progress.
For example, creating an email strategy seems straightforward in theory. But then you have to understand the data architecture in your email program. How do you get all the data to flow in correctly? What happens to data if a user has a consumer and a business account? How do you handle data from sales prospects that submit a website form? What if that prospect already has an account? Is it a new entry or merging onto an existing profile? And that doesn’t even get into the right way to communicate via email. How to cross-sell, how to do AB testing, determining the right time to message, and how many emails is too many? On and on it goes. You can drown in the considerations for something so straightforward. And it impacts every single project that we take on.
So for me, I don’t use statistics on a regular basis. But thinking like a statistician has allowed me to thrive in ambiguity, especially in a world like digital marketing where everything changes so rapidly. Half of the best practices that we use for testing and targeting users only became feasible in the past year. Things will likely look completely different by this time next year. No one is an expert because by the time you’ve mastered an approach, that approach is probably outdated. So all you can do is test, run the numbers, and test again.
In July 2019, I left Berkshire Hathaway and moved down to Orange County for an actuarial analyst position at First American. Orange County is beautiful, and it’s great to be so close to many beaches. Exploring Santa Monica on weekends is a treat, and luckily, I was able to see the Dodgers play at Dodger Stadium for the first time before the pandemic shut everything down. Professionally, I passed my third actuarial exam in Dec. 2020. However, my position at First American was eliminated due to the company being acquired by a larger insurance company in Jan. 2021. I just accepted an actuarial analyst position that hasn’t begun yet at a small insurance company in Walnut Creek, so I’ll be moving back to the Bay Area where I’ll be much closer to my family. My goal is to stay in insurance and continue taking actuarial exams, “only” four exams left. My favorite pandemic pastime is trying out new recipes and going on bike rides. I miss SLO, my classmates and the faculty a lot and hope everyone is doing well.
Even though it has been a while since my graduation in 2016, I always miss my school time at Cal Poly. After graduation, I worked at a non-profit organization for a year while trying to start my own cake business. Unfortunately, the cake business didn’t go well and was closed down after the second year, but it was a challenging and fun experience. Currently, I work at a small lighting firm called Jonathan Browning, Inc. as a production manager. Part of my role is to analyze data. I am glad that my statistics background knowledge comes back to me when I need it. Now, R programming is the number one tool I use to do data cleaning and create reports. One fun fact is that I keep all my statistics notes, so I review them when I need to. On the side, I am taking some online classes to brush up on my programming skills such as SQL and Python for data analysis. I hope to continue learning and exploring more possibilities in different industries.
See following update for Bradley Skubic.
Despite the pandemic, this year has treated me rather well. Donna and I got engaged in February, bought a house in September, and are still loving the East Coast and Boston. I have also been enjoying my job in the riveting world of accounting for the past year and a half. The restaurant/bowling alley I work for even seems to be making it through these tough times as well as can be expected. Hopefully 2021 is a great year for all.
I am a business data analyst at a biotech company down here in San Diego, and I am enjoying my career more than ever (never thought I would say that!). Most of my projects now are data engineering-focused, so I am usually working with Python, SQL, Apache NiFi, Postgres and other forms of databases building out data pipelines that feed our analytics. I also have a project I am working on for fun that analyzes stock data using R, so maybe by next year’s update I will be rich and own a yacht where I will type my update from. :) Other than that I am either surfing, enjoying the outdoors down here or losing to my older brother in chess. Every day I am grateful and proud to have a statistics degree from Cal Poly. Can’t believe it has been almost six full years now since graduating. I miss everyone!
My time at Cal Poly feels like it was much longer than six years ago! Life in Georgia has continued to progress better than expected and certainly better than it started. My wife and I celebrated our one-year anniversary in October, and we expanded our family in 2020 as well. I didn’t know much about poodles before we got one. They’re wonderful and strange creatures, which makes Kona the perfect fit for us. On a final personal note, we moved to Atlanta and bought a home. We’re still adjusting to homeownership since it’s a bit different than our last couple condos/townhomes.
Professionally, I couldn’t be happier with my job and the community at State Farm. I’ve been very fortunate in this field — first with Cal Poly and second with State Farm. Working with a group of statistically sound practitioners year after year has pushed me to learn and grow at rates I’m not sure I would have achieved on an alternate path.
Helen Totterdell Hilton
This last year we welcomed our third kiddo, Luke Kevin Hilton to our family. He was a big surprise for us but has been a real light for us during this time of social distancing and minimal contact with those outside of our family. We’re living in Colorado just outside of Denver, and I love having four seasons and snow!
I haven’t been working since graduating from my master’s of public health program, but it’s looking like some temporary, part-time work with Zybooks is going to start soon. I’m very excited to get an opportunity to dip my toe back into the professional world while still enjoying time with my sweet little kids and husband.
It’s currently three degrees Fahrenheit and there’s 10” of snow on the ground, the most it’s ever snowed here since I’ve lived in Champaign (a sign from the gods?). I’m putting together my prelim slide deck for my exam in a week’s time, and I hope to have defended by the end of 2021 so I can van-life myself back to California (as suggested by Dr. Lund). I didn’t achieve that sub 2:50 marathon (COVID ruined the 2020 and 2021 marathon season), but I did get more time to really drill down on my dissertation, learn some productivity skills like a new keyboard layout (colemak) and vim, and do some yoga. In all seriousness though, 2020 has been a tough year for everyone, and I hope the second half of 2021 will be better for all of us. If not a dissertation by 2021, definitely a strong headstand!