Director of Predictive Modeling, CUNA Mutual Group
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Click on the questions below to learn more about Ben’s experiences in the white-and-blue collar workforces in a question-and-answer format.
You mentioned office politics as a factor pushing you away from white collar work. Could you expand upon that?
They were going to purchase this expensive piece of software that was not the right choice. We could have done it internally, we could have done it cheaper. I let some people know that. I let some Vice Presidents know that. You just can’t say certain things. You just have to play this game. If you don’t play the game, you don’t eventually change things in the long run. That’s the complexity of a lot of human beings in one place. There’s just a lot at stake.
Was Google the perfect fit for you?
When I was interviewing, there were a lot of signs that indicated maybe I wasn’t a good fit for this role. The questions that they asked me weren’t not technical. I have a very technical background and I’ve learned from the past that you want someone that has an appreciation for the same thing you have an appreciation for. No one asked about any questions with math on a board.
I also didn’t ask any hard questions, such as ‘will I have responsibilities to control the predictive models?’ or will I be the only PhD statistician?” I didn’t care. If they cut my salary in half, I would have taken the job. That’s how badly I wanted to work there, and I threw anything else out of the door that might have suggested otherwise. I left a place where I was a making a difference. I wasn’t curing cancer, but I was making a difference. At a company this size, you won’t.
What was one thing you had to adjust to in the blue collar world?
When you’re stressed out at work in the corporate world, it’s like the game The Sims. Time can just evaporate, it flies. In construction, the minutes kind of just slowed down and I wasn’t used to it. The first day was an eight-hour day and I felt like I was there for 16 hours.
How does the tangibility of work differ from white collar to blue collar?
One thing about Corporate America that I do have a problem with is the value placed on presentation and perception over actual work. You hear gripes about PowerPoint all the time, but it’s not Microsoft’s fault that people think the best part of their work is the presentation of electronic slides to their coworkers. It’s everywhere, it’s absolutely asinine, and the lack of it in the trades is perhaps their best selling point.
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