Why do diapers and beer go together? At 4C, she helps solve brands' puzzles

Blue Sky Innovation

What's it really like to work at Chicago startups and tech companies? Blue Sky's Inside Job lets people on the ground tell us in their own words.

Diana Palsetia, 35, Data Scientist at 4C Insights

4C helps marketers with this epic battle of customer attention. They’re looking to take their products and their brands out, but they want to get the right audience.

We use data and technology to solve challenges. We have software tools that enable timely and guided messaging to consumers with our data science and by integrating across social and TV.

I use machine learning, and I do large-scale data analysis to find the right audiences from past data and do future prediction on audience segments. If you are looking for a specific age group or you have a specific demographic in mind, we look at what sort of behavioral habits they have.

In the TV space, we’re trying to help strategically place ads at the right time. I look at data, and I develop algorithms, and once I’ve validated what we’re seeing, we put it into production so it gets automated and is accessible for all our clients.

One very classic example comes from looking at the data of a shopping cart. Why do sales of beer and diapers go hand in hand? The correlation is women tell their husbands to go pick up diapers, and on the way, they pick up beer, too. That is data science: finding trends from your data and using that insight to increase your sales or market better.

I always wanted to be part of science, but I didn’t necessarily want to do medicine. So I thought engineering was the route. My older brother may have influenced me back in the day, because he was an engineer and he was working on cool satellite imaging analysis, so that was motivating.

Computers fascinated me. Around ’99, 2000 everything was picking up with the Internet. We had dial-up that screeched like crazy.

I was born in Mumbai. I left home when I was 18, and I came here for my undergrad. I went to Michigan Technological University, which is up in the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan). I ended up getting my first teaching job at the University of Pennsylvania, teaching courses for the computer and information science department. I progressed, and I ended up at Northwestern. I went there for my Ph.D. in the electrical engineering and computer science department.

I interned here in 2013, and then I graduated in 2015, and I basically asked if 4C was still looking for full-time employees either doing data science or engineering, so I interviewed again, for a job job.

I’m one of eight data scientists here. 4C is up to 215 employees globally, and we have 69 employees in Chicago. In the U.S., we’re primarily spread out between Seattle, New York and Chicago. The headquarters is Chicago.

The environment at 4C is open. It’s casual. We have an open floor plan. You’re not bounded by your space. You don’t have to be at your desk 9 to 5. You can work remotely. I come in two days and do three days from home (in Evanston). I’m going to have a kid soon — end of the year! — so the remote working will help.

The snacks are good. One time, we had some chips that had cricket flour in it, which I thought tasted fine. There are also these chips fried in coconut oil. Those are my favorite.

We have uber talent and creative people who work here. Everybody’s really passionate about technology. We have to work with cross-functional teams all the time, so we have a very open, communicative culture.

I love the data science aspect, but lately I’ve been moving into more of a leadership role within our team, so I’ve been mentoring and guiding the new internship folks or new hires. I’m liking that 4C has given me this opportunity to grow beyond my technical talent and is letting me experience the management side of things.

As told to freelance reporter Erin Chan Ding. Stories are edited for length and clarity.

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