Meet the Data Team

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by Lisa Cox

If you ever find yourself in need of a skateboard, hot sauce, or lipstick in deep hues, pay a visit to our data team’s office.

Daniel Hadley, our chief data scientist and most talented skateboarder, leads an all-star trio with Gwendolyn Reynolds and Jonathan Zadra. “I’m glad I decided to get into data science, because my skateboarding days are numbered,” says Hadley, 36, who earned master’s degrees from Harvard in both divinity and urban planning.

Data scientist Gwendolyn Reynolds, a classmate of Hadley’s at Harvard, said—only half-jokingly—at a staff retreat earlier this fall, “Dan is the boss, but I’m the bossy.” Another of her half-jokes is how she wants to create a data science podcast involving discussions of a different shade of lipstick at the end of each episode, to bring a feminine twist to data science. Outspoken and with a contagious laugh, Reynolds is serious about data science for social good.

“It’s not lost on me how cool my job is,” says Reynolds. She is the kind of person who craves new, massive datasets every week—the sources always changing, depending on the client. Currently, one of her main projects is mining data to help make decisions around pre-K in the state of Oregon. “It’s a constant challenge to tackle different issue areas with different sets of data—I honestly feel like I’m discovering new secrets of the world.”

Jonathan Zadra, a Californian who has a cognitive psychology background and pairs one of his myriad hot sauces with most things, is the newest member of the team. But already, the trio couldn’t imagine the workplace without him. “Aside from his fantastic analytical skills, he’s also worked as an EMT, so I know our office is ready for anything,” said Reynolds.

Zadra recently completed a project that was picked up by CITYLAB, which featured a heat map of drug crime in Salt Lake City. “For that project, we started with a statewide crime trend, we received a ton of data, and we peeled back the layers until something surprising revealed itself,” said Zadra. He and Hadley found that just a few square blocks of crime data were influencing the whole state’s stats.

“I’d like to say that I got this team together because I’m a great recruiter, but the truth is, using data science skills to actually improve the world is so much more fulfilling than figuring out how to sell more ads to people, a typical data science job,” said Hadley. “We work on projects that get us up in the morning,” he said. The data science team is analyzing data to help make decisions around recidivism programs, reducing homelessness, early education, and many other issue areas that will lead to positive changes in people’s lives.

“This is a jack-of-all-trades job,” said Reynolds. “Although we have similar skillsets, what we’re each best at is quite different. A lot of what we do is translating data in a helpful way for our clients, who in turn are using it to improve people’s lives.”

“The bottom line,” said Hadley, “is that we’re not just doing analytics, optimization, and coding. The science of data science is answering the question, ‘Are we actually being effective in the world?’ That’s the riddle our clients hire us to answer.”