2023 Will Be a Big Year For Data in the Windy City

Data science is one of the most in-demand jobs in tech. Built In Chicago sat down with three companies for the projects and culture that keep their data teams engaged and growing.

Written by Anderson Chen
Published on Dec. 14, 2022
2023 Will Be a Big Year For Data in the Windy City
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Faced with raw numbers, abstract figures and complex formulas, it may seem easy for data scientists to lose sight of their passion for their job. After all, the field is not usually a public-facing one. 

But data science remains one of the fastest-growing roles in the tech industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ forecast, its employment rate is projected to grow 36 percent in the next decade. Fortune reports that data scientists have ranked among the top three in the 50 Best Jobs in America list for the past seven years.

And for Brian Pivar, senior director of data and analytics at Kraft Heinz, the trending lines on his company’s stock graph speak for his craft and dedication — and a rewarding year ahead. 

“The projects the team is working on have the ability to move the stock price of the company, which to me is very exciting and motivating,” Pivar said. 

At the forefront of the food and beverage industry, he and his data team operate within the realm of large-scale influence, where projects and adjustments see sizable change in the industry — the company’s “big, bold bets,” Pivar calls them. The stakes might be high, but the thrill of wielding influence and the flexibility to experiment drive his passion, especially at such a globally relevant enterprise like Kraft Heinz. 

Data informs company strategy, and data scientists relish molding raw numbers into tangible change for their clients. For healthtech companies like GoHealth, this translates directly to patient well-being. “What really excites our team is the direct impact that our solutions have on the lives of our members,” said Andrew Kang, senior director of data science, product optimization. 

But such propensity towards change isn’t limited to stock markets or medical bureaucracy. The diversity of projects and tech stack afforded to data scientists also signal the role’s creative appeal. Digital consulting firm Kin + Carta works with businesses across industries of different scales, which makes the work an ever-changing puzzle. “Often our path there is filled with pivots,” said Senior Technical Consultant Dhyaanesh Mullagur. “The more we dig into the data, the more we learn about the problem.”

For a closer look at how their teams turn granular numbers into a mosaic of real-world impact, Built In Chicago sat down with Pivar, Kang and Mullagur about the value proposition of working with data, and a look towards the promising year ahead. 

 

The Kraft Heinz Company team photo in a lobby with white couches
The Kraft Heinz Company

 

Brian Pivar
Sr. Director of Data and Analytics at Kraft Heinz • The Kraft Heinz Company

 

The Kraft Heinz Company is a food and beverage company behind some of the world’s most well-known food brands, with a portfolio that includes Oscar Mayer, Grey Poupon and Jell-O. As the third-largest company of its kind in North America, Kraft Heinz works on a massive scale, which means its data team is responsible for projects with outstanding impact on both the company and the industry at large. 

 

What projects does your data team have lined up for 2023, and how do they fit into your company’s overall strategic goals for the year?

The data science team has a lot of exciting projects in 2023. We run fully agile in the digital organization and have data scientists spread out over various pods tackling different initiatives. The overarching goal of the digital org is to add $200 million in value in 2023. Some of the projects we will be working on vary by opportunity area.

 

Kraft’s Upcoming Projects

  • Data science models to help with personalized digital marketing at scale.
  • Tools to help the sales team with “next best action”
  • Models to help optimize promotions, pricing, and price pack architecture.
  • Best in class forecasting team for shipments and consumption
  • A digital twin for the supply chain organization and a separate one for the manufacturing organization.

 

In your opinion, what makes these projects particularly interesting, challenging or exciting for data scientists to work on?

What makes these projects particularly interesting is the sheer value that this will bring to Kraft Heinz. I love working on projects that are new for the company, and a lot of the projects we are doing are things that have never been done here. This gives you the freedom to tackle the project however you would like. Something I have always tried to do in my career is focus on big, bold bets: These are companies’ hardest projects for the future.

 

How is your team growing to help meet those goals? 

In 2019 the data science team was a team of three people. In 2020 we grew the team to five, and then to 15 in 2021. Now, in 2022, we have 25 people on the team, and are still hiring. We also plan to launch five new pods next year for additional data scientists, including areas of expertise in supply chain, R&D, revenue management and forecasting. 

Some development opportunities that we have include a modern tech stack comprising Azure, Data bricks, GCP and more. We have a big data science team, with principal data scientists all the way to associate data scientists, so there are opportunities to be mentored by more senior members or to manage more junior colleagues. We also try to promote from within, and are constantly challenging the team and giving people stretch projects.

What awaits new hires is the opportunity to work on really challenging problems with really smart people. 

 

 

Dhyaanesh Mullagur
Senior Technical Consultant • Kin + Carta

 

Kin + Carta is a B Corp certified digital transformation consultancy, partnering with clients to help them build resilient and responsible businesses. Many businesses are moving towards digitization to future-proof their operations and products, part of which relies on Kin + Carta’s data team to help them implement data-driven strategies and experiences. As data continues to drive business models forward today, the company ensures that its clients don’t get left behind. 

 

B-Corp

A B-Corp certification is an official designation of a company’s adherence to high social and environmental standards for factors such as performance, accountability and transparency.

 

What projects does your data team have lined up for 2023, and how do they fit into your company’s overall strategic goals for the year?

Data is one capability that’s been top of mind for nearly every client we work with. It’s because of this that we see our data capability as an integral part of the company’s differentiated value. Our unique approach appeals to Fortune 500 companies as an alternative to global systems integrators and has proven itself in furthering their journey to becoming data-driven businesses. 

As we look ahead to 2023 I’m excited about the data-forward work that spans industries across the focuses of data strategy, data platforms, data products, AI and insights. These projects have outcomes that span the internal and external domains, from supply chain sourcing to operational efficiency, from lead conversion to customer retention.

We see our data capability as an integral part of the company’s differentiated value.”

 

In your opinion, what makes these projects particularly interesting, challenging or exciting for data scientists to work on?

Many of our data projects start with a high level of ambiguity. There aren’t necessarily defined pieces of work to complete, but we have the opportunity to collaborate as a Kin + Carta team alongside the client to work towards the goal of solving business problems for their success. 

Embracing agile methodology is crucial and makes these projects compelling; the more we dig into the data, the more we learn about the problem. Through our strong partnerships, our data team also tends to learn about and work with cutting-edge technology.

 

How is your team growing to help meet those goals?

Our data team currently has over 100 data professionals, and we continue to see this capability as one of our firm’s highest demands. Additionally, we often bring in product specialists from strategists to user researchers from Kin + Carta’s global team of 2,000 to round out our teams in delivering data as a product. We also have a great team of talent acquisition specialists focused on hiring and sourcing talent that’s skilled in data, augmented by internal and external training that we make available to both new and existing employees. 

Kin + Carta invests in training by providing an annual budget to all practices for employees to tap into for continuous learning. This was what I used when I switched from being a full-stack developer to a data engineer. I took advantage of our training budget, learned the basics of data engineering, got certified as a GCP cloud data engineer and began to use that knowledge to deliver on data projects for our clients. It is a common path that team members take when they want to acquire new skills and grow their career with Kin + Carta in a new space.

 

 

Andrew Kang
Senior Director of Data Science, Product Optimization • GoHealth

 

GoHealth is a Medicare marketplace platform that helps users connect with the best health insurance plan, tailored to their individual needs. Health insurance is a complex system to navigate for many Americans, making the product-facing responsibilities of GoHealth’s data team all the more important, especially as they pertain to a more vulnerable Medicare demographic. 

 

What projects does your data team have lined up for 2023, and how do they fit into your company’s overall strategic goals for the year?

In 2023, the product optimization data science team is focused on driving positive outcomes for our Medicare beneficiaries through industry-leading technology capabilities powered by data and machine learning. The company culture is really exciting right now and all of us at GoHealth are working as a team to continue reinventing the customer journey to quality healthcare in a simple and personalized way. The embodiment of that is GoHealth’s recently expanded Encompass solution in which our agents use our plan fit recommendation model to analyze all of the different elements of an insurance plan, along with an individual’s current health needs, benefit preferences and future needs to find the right option for that individual.

 

In your opinion, what makes these projects particularly interesting, challenging or exciting for data scientists to work on?

What really excites our team is the direct impact that our solutions have on the lives of our members. They trust us with advising them on very important healthcare choices and it is something that we all take pride in. For consumers picking their own health insurance for the first time, the number of factors to consider when selecting a plan can seem daunting. The right plan depends on the doctors you see, the prescriptions you have, which medical benefits are most important to you, how frequently you use your medical benefits and where you reside. On top of that, different insurance plans offer varying levels of eligibility, benefits, premiums, medical coverage, prescription coverage and deductibles.

Our members trust us with advising them on very important healthcare choices and it is something that we all take pride in.”

 

How is your team growing to help meet those goals? 

Our team is growing rapidly and we are looking to add multiple data scientists and machine learning engineers that have experience both developing and integrating models into software products. As a tech company, we not only value data science and machine learning, we implement the concepts across product management, software engineering and data engineering. 

For new hires in the beginning stages of their career, you will have the opportunity to further develop core technical skills in a team-based setting and quickly gain experience working on production models. For experienced hires, you will have core strategic production models in your portfolio along with the runway to build and deploy new models for our yet-to-be-announced future initiatives.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by companies and Shutterstock.

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