How a data analyst followed the numbers to Facebook, Uber
By Kylee McIntyre18-Dec-2018Views 4079

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Data analyst Jue Hou currently works at Facebook. Her previous employers include Uber. Location courtesy of The Company Singapore (formerly District6).

As of last month, Jue Hou began working as a solutions engineer at Facebook, keeping ad content safe and high-quality, but when we first speak to her for our [de]coded series, she is still waiting to transition into the job from her previous position at Uber, where she worked on analytics and insights.

Jue obtained her master's degree in statistics from University of California, Berkeley, in 2015. For her, the road to working with startups and data happened organically; she just kept following what she liked.

“I did mathematics and statistics in my undergrad, and in the beginning, of course, I didn't know what kind of careers I wanted to do, but I really like maths, and I really like the mathematical models and concepts - just dissected data, including using programming in mathematical distributions," she details. The whole world was interesting, so she followed the area of study.

Jue completed her undergraduate degree at National University of Singapore in 2014, where her focus of study was on mathematics and statistics. During her tenure there, she began to hear buzzwords that intrigued her. Two of them stuck out during her last year: data science and data analytics. For her, that was a great fit, so she gravitated toward those areas.

One more into data science

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Upon graduation, Jue went to work for Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), Singapore's largest IT and analytics company, for two years. There, she developed machine learning models to identify high-risk patients who had frequent hospital admissions. She also worked with models that helped hospitals keep bed occupancy rate below 95 percent and saw through projects that kept track of hygiene practices, patient traffic, and staff scheduling. In addition, she helped train her colleagues.

After her stint in the public sector, she moved to Uber, where she found that she really liked the pace of work and life in a startup company.

“I really think I made the right choice," she says. Two aspects of Uber's company culture attracted her: autonomy and transparency. While working there, she would have a twice-yearly meeting with her team to look at and edit the roadmap of their work.

She also appreciated the relatively flat structure of the company, where it wasn't always her manager giving her projects; it was up to her to decide with the stakeholders and other members of her team what she would work on next.

“We can talk to the big boss or the director about our opinions, and when someone is promoted, everyone knows why they are recognized," she points out. “It's not like you're blackmailed or something."

Jue also enjoyed working with people who were around her age: in their late twenties and early thirties.

Localizing data

Jue's tasks at Uber included working on projects like driver earnings engagement, general platform insights, UberEATS, and communicating analytics projects to business and stakeholder management. She helped organize data awareness events, since data science involves a lot of education to non-data parties.

Working in Singapore for an American company meant that Jue did a lot of work with her team on localization - translating projects over from the US market to the Southeast Asia region. Localization is rarely easy, so Jue's job also involved a lot of communication - helping the headquarter team understand the nuances of the region - and tweaking models to work.

“Sometimes you can only dedicate 60 to 70 percent of your time to project work, so you have one big project for this month," she says. The rest of her time was spent providing support for other events or issues that popped up.

When Uber left the region earlier this year, Jue went looking for a different job and found Facebook to be a great candidate for her next role. She likes working with data and the versatility involved with having a job that doesn't have as clarified scope as a developer.

“What I found in Singapore [...] I feel like Singapore has a lot of potential that it hasn't reached yet. There are many talents, and the government is pushing very hard for the tech sector," she says. She looks forward to the new developments in the country in the next two or three years.

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Kylee McIntyre
American tech, science, health, and environmental writer. Lover of scifi, fantasy, travel, and coffee. Find her on Twitter @ejkyleem.
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