Merrill: Hello Paul. Why don't you tell us about yourself?
Pau: Okay. Well how far back shall I go? I'm originally from Samammish, Washington. I grew up in the northwest and went to school in Bellingham, at Western Washington University, and then lived in Seattle for a little bit and moved to LA about five years ago now. And let's see, moved down here kind of on a whim. My girlfriend’s work is in water treatment and I liked the idea of moving to a big city, so Los Angeles made sense. When we moved down here we didn’t actually have jobs or school lined up, but now she has almost completed her PhD in environmental engineering and I have a job so I suppose things are looking up.
Merrill: That’s awesome - and what do you work on at GumGum?
Paul: I've only been here for about three and a half months now, but right now I'm really focused on automating ad hoc reporting on campaign ad performance. I’m taking one off dashboards or analytics projects that I made for a singular event or campaign and then expanding the functionality so that managers can build their own reports with ease. That'll hopefully free up some time for me to do more in-depth analysis on things like adaptation and further development of internal tools like our ad manager tool. I also want to continue to explore long run analysis of KPI’s. That's pretty much the gist of it.
Merrill: And where did you work before GumGum?
Paul: Yeah, so when I moved down to LA, the original plan was just to go straight to Grad school, but that didn't end up happening. I had experience working in woodshops, and so I got a job, a really cool job actually working as an artist's fabricator. Predominantly I did woodworking and metalworking to help artists bring their ideas to life that they lacked maybe the full range of technical skills or access to tools to pull off.
Merrill: It seems a little different than data, how has that experience helped you on the job now?
Paul: I definitely thought that my past experience would be a pretty serious barrier to getting a job in tech because there isn't, if I'm being honest, a direct line between woodworking and data science. It was kind of funny trying to make that connection in an interview. But somehow, I guess I did it because I got hired here. In order to tackle a complex fabrication project you have to be able to divide seemingly overwhelming abstract tasks into manageable chunks which is not so different from a data problem. You need to be willing to be flexible when the initial plan breaks down, which it often does. As a product analyst a big part of my job is translating high level ideas into actionable reports. When working with artists, bringing their ideas from their imagination to an actual physical representation was a constant exercise in converting foggy, highly abstract thoughts into a physical product.
Merrill: Sounds like there are some similarities, but in what ways are they completely different?
Paul: Yeah. I mean obviously with woodworking, it's manual labor, which part of me loves. There's something great about just being completely physically exhausted at the end of the day, but at the same time that was kind of what drove me away from it because you get to a point where you start thinking “can I do this kind of work when I'm 50 or 60?” Also, the initial problem-solving aspect of fabrication is really interesting but once the initial problem is solved it can get really repetitive, which is hard on the body and tedious. I've been given a lot of autonomy at GumGum on a daily basis to explore new ways of solving problems and learning new technologies, which is a really exciting difference between GumGum and my previous career.
Merrill: So you're finishing up your master's degree at UCLA now. How has your coursework prepared you for your current role?
Paul: My coursework has been super valuable. The Masters of Applied Stats program at UCLA is a pretty high level program, but it gives you a really solid path to dig into the material yourself. So all of my data wrangling, modeling and coding skills originated from coursework at UCLA and then expanded through some internships and independent study. A surprisingly important class that has actually had a really direct impact on my work here is experimental design. I have pulled a lot from what I learned in that class in designing market research studies for expanding our products into OTT.
Merrill: Any favorite GumGum memory so far?
Paul: No…just kidding. yeah, I would say our first, GumGum FC (company soccer team) victory, that was hands down my favorite memory so far. Hopefully we can get a few more of those moving forward.
Merrill: What might someone be surprised to know about you?
Paul: I guess that I had a brief and extremely unsuccessful acting career when I first moved to Los Angeles. As I previously mentioned, I was unemployed when I moved to LA and when my girlfriend and I were hanging out at MOCA Geffen we were approached by a very eager man and asked if we would be interested in auditioning for a Dunkin Donuts commercial. My girlfriend has integrity, so she said no, but I jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t get that roll, but it led to several more auditions. I landed one roll in which I was entirely edited out of aside from my nose. I decided to retire when I was auditioning for Sofia Coppola, who I really like, for some commercial she was directing, and I was jumping on a tiny trampoline pretending there was birds flying over my head. She seemed really bored, but when I was auditioning, she actually looked up from her book and said, “I don’t understand, do you even want to be an actor?”
Merrill: I’ve heard you developed a bit of a nickname what is it and where did it come from?
Paul: I've actually developed several nicknames in my really short period of time working here. Um, none of them on the surface are very great. So through soccer I was initially called Paul Wall which, because I played goalie, I guess is flattering, but also it’s a reference to an absolutely abysmal rapper. So I, I don't know how I feel about that. Then that was replaced by “crazy Paul”, which is not a clever nickname at all. I have no idea how that name manifested itself, but that has seemed to be the one that has stuck and propagated throughout the company, which I've decided to embrace it. (elongated pause) I should probably rebrand.
Merrill: So, other than work and school, what do you like to do?
Paul: So right now I'm finishing up my thesis, so that's kind of crushed a lot of my hobbies, but I still like to try to find time to do woodworking. I play music as well. I have friends, so that's fun. My main focus right now is training to climb Mount Whitney. I've been doing a lot of hiking in my free time. I like to go to concerts. I probably just said that, I don't know, go to movies, stuff like that.
Merrill: Great - Thanks crazy Paul!
Paul Beeman (Product Analyst) interviewed by Merrill Bajana (Product Manager)