Meet the Team is a recurring series on the PowerReviews blog, allowing you to get to know the people behind our success.
This week, we sat down with Mike Lombard, a Data Scientist on our Product team to learn about his experience at PowerReviews, his path to becoming a Data Scientist (hint: it involves pirates), and what he’s up to when he’s not in the office.
How long have you worked for PowerReviews?
Three and a half years. I was originally hired as a content intern but by the time I was hired as a full-time employee I ran the Product Catalog. I’ve worn a few hats in my tenure, especially when we were a smaller start up, but my focus has been on data for over two years now.
What did you do before PowerReviews?
Before joining PowerReviews I was a grad student at the University of Chicago where I studied European piracy in the Caribbean from 1715-1725. No joke. I performed a quantitative analysis of what pirates stole, and more importantly didn’t steal, during this time period. When I wasn’t studying pirates, I worked in the registration department at the Oriental Institute where I catalogued ancient pottery. I clearly took the most logical career path for Data Science.
What does an average day look like for a PowerReviews Data Scientist?
All over the place. Whether we’re running performance analyses for Senior Leadership, value calculations for Client Success, or predictive algorithms for Operations, there’s always something happening for Data Science. We’re nested under the Product team but we’re probably one of the most cross-functional teams in the company, which can be really exciting. It means we get to collaborate with and influence a large portion of the company.
What’s your favorite thing about working at PowerReviews?
I really enjoy the problems we get to solve. Due to the nature of our business we have a wide variety of questions to answer. Some questions are fairly cut-and-dry, some are really complex. But ultimately we’re trying to help our clients understand how reviews can help them sell as many of the best products as possible. To accomplish that we may do an analysis to tease out the most common phrases consumers use when writing 1-star reviews for refrigerators. With that insight, our clients can buy or make different products to help their customers. To make sure we’re getting enough feedback from real consumers to answer those questions, though, we need to optimize our solution as well. For example, we may analyze the optimal number of days to wait after a purchase to ask for a review to get the highest response rate. It’s this variety of problems and contexts that keeps things interesting.
What would you tell someone who was thinking about joining PowerReviews?
Expose yourself to new tech skills. I genuinely do not think it matters what team you work on, I guarantee you that knowing more technology will help you tremendously. I started here writing blog articles on space heaters and yogurt makers. Today I write multivariate nonlinear regressions to predict future review volume. That is 100% because I never stopped learning new skills and was given the chance to apply those skills. I’m not saying that’s a career path you should follow or that you may even want to. However, even a cursory knowledge of HTML and CSS will allow you to better understand our product and be a more effective team member.
What are your favorite Chicago-area activities or hobbies?
I love the architecture of Chicago. I used to work as a walking tour guide on the weekends and that really gave me an appreciation for the physical beauty and complexity of this city. I still enjoy taking tours or just wandering around the different neighborhoods of Chicago. There are just so many cool buildings, restaurants and bars to explore in the city.