Win with data: How 5 Chicago tech data teams celebrate their success

by Alton Zenon III
January 23, 2019

It seems like everything revolves around data these days. But many may not realize that professionals in the field are focused on so much more than collecting statistics. Their insights can make lasting waves within a company and lead to huge wins at every level. 

We got the chance to connect with data team leaders from five Chicago tech companies about the projects they’re working on and the celebrations following a team win.

 

TransUnion team standing in office for photo
image via TransUnion

TransUnion, a credit reporting agency, helps companies, government agencies and individuals mitigate risk through its technology. Vice President of Data Science and Analytics Michael Umlauf said his team tackles a wide variety of projects on any given day.

 

What are some of the impactful projects your data team is working on?

At any given time, a data scientist on my team might be collaborating with a fintech client to build a custom model leveraging the latest consumer credit and alternative data products, designing a new segmentation system for credit card issuers that identifies distinct behavioral patterns or potential frauds, or developing a powerful model-fitting algorithm from open-source components to be shared with colleagues across the globe. 

Celebrations often take the form of a team dinner or happy-hour, tickets to local events or games.”

 

How does your team celebrate a big project completion or a team win?

Celebrations often take the form of a team dinner or happy-hour, tickets to local events or games, or you may get to present your ideas to a TransUnion audience, or even at an industry conference.

 

GoHealth team posing for photo in their office
image via GoHealth

GoHealth’s platform works to help individuals find the best healthcare coverage for them. Director of Strategic Analytics Adam Brown said the company prioritizes recognition for a job well-done sometimes with praise from leadership — sometimes with a mechanical bull.

 

What are some of the impactful projects your data team is working on?

We've worked hard over the last several months on two key initiatives. First, we created a model capable of predicting if a potential customer will make a purchase of health insurance or Medicare products, and if they do, what that product will be. With this model, we have been able to differentiate our customer sales and servicing processes. We have also worked diligently to develop survival analysis and customer decay models to better understand our customers’ life time value across all of our product offerings.

We created a model capable of predicting if a potential customer will make a purchase of health insurance or Medicare products.”

 

How does your team celebrate a big project completion or a team win?

On a macro level, we have a company celebration each quarter when leadership communicates initiative progress, successful projects we've completed and how they will positively impact continued success. A mechanical bull may or may not have been involved in the last celebration. On a micro level, we also have a quarterly recognition program across our technology organization. All of our tech members can nominate other people who have gone above and beyond their typical responsibilities. We fill out a nomination then draw winners for a few different prizes.

 

Strata Decision Technology team posing behind a table
image via Strata Decision Technology

Strata Decision Technology offers a cloud-based platform for healthcare providers that helps them reduce costs and make informed business decisions. Steve Lefar and Jennifer Ittner, the executive director and director of StrataDataScience, shared their department’s current projects and means of celebration.

 

What are some of the impactful projects your data team is working on?

Lefar: StrataDataScience is a group within Strata Decision Technology that focuses on harnessing over 50 billion records and financial information of our 200 health system clients. We use the data and advanced machine learning techniques to help our customers and the industry improve performance. In short, we identify actionable patterns in the data to reveal what's working and what may not be effective. This includes validating claims about how various pharmaceuticals or supplies perform in the real world or understanding the effectiveness of various operational practices. We also utilize the aggregated data to provide industry insights on future scenarios such as the impact of Medicare for All.

We all have fascinating and diverse interests outside of work and part of our celebration is taking time to indulge and share in those.”

 

How does your team celebrate a big project completion or a team win?

Ittner: For most of us, spending our days helping to heal healthcare is the reward and celebration. We celebrate success with team outings and light-hearted company competitions that include bowling, water bucket relays and karaoke. It's a team effort and the team gets to decide how to celebrate the win. We all have fascinating and diverse interests outside of work and part of our celebration is taking time to indulge and share in those.

 

VillageMD staff chatting to someone off camera
image via VillageMD

VillageMD provides data analytics, on-the-ground staffing support, clinical tool development and more to primary care physicians so they can better serve patients. Senior Director of Technology Kevin Patel said his team highlights its accomplishments in ways that range from the small, light-hearted celebrations to more formal, ceremonious instances of recognition.

 

What are some of the impactful projects your data team is working on?

Our docOS platform connects hundreds of disparate healthcare systems to enable better decision-making. Each of these systems varies in age, size and type. Despite the vastness of this variety, we have built a series of sophisticated capabilities that connect, understand and synchronize these fragmented sources in order to create single, longitudinal records that both clinicians and patients can act upon — all while ensuring privacy. We're excited about our cloud-first approach and the creativity our team members have used to invent new ways of solving problems.

We're excited about our cloud-first approach and the creativity our team members have used to invent new ways of solving problems.”

 

How does your team celebrate a big project completion or a team win?

We acknowledge our team and individual achievements in a variety of ways. The outward displays include celebratory team outings, acknowledgments at company and team meetings and individual recognition. We're not afraid to use videos and songs along the way to help emphasize the impact. These are the ad hoc celebrations but just as important are the broader retrospectives, which are typically quarterly, to pause, take a moment and review all that has been accomplished.

 

Analytics8 team on rooftop at outing
image via Analytics8

Analytics8 is a data and analytics consultancy that helps companies get the most from their information through services like data visualization, machine learning-based data science, software evaluation and warehousing. Managing Consultant Sean Reynolds said that while his team celebrates as a group, they also receive individual monetary incentives for excellent work. 

 

What are some of the impactful projects your data team is working on?

We are helping one of the world's largest brewing companies analyze their data to ensure inventory levels meet changing demand for retail stores across the nation. We built them a custom analytics solution that extracts data from various inventory systems and uses an algorithm to provide sales and distribution recommendations. This robust inventory management solution allows our client to operate more efficiently, reduce unused inventory, maximize sales, and improve customer satisfaction.

Our president also gives out spot-bonuses for people who go above and beyond.”

 

How does your team celebrate a big project completion or a team win?

We often get together for team dinners, happy hours or other social gatherings as a way to recognize and reward consultants for their hard work. Our president also gives out spot-bonuses for people who go above and beyond and has organized other performance-based games with monetary prizes that benefit both the consultant and our clients.

 

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