What's Your StORy?

Alan Briggs, CAP

Alan Briggs, CAP

August 2015 What's Your StORy?
Project Manager & Data Scientist, Elder Research

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What has been your best INFORMS experience?
I’d have to say my best INFORMS experience was attending the INFORMS Professional Colloquium. It was the first INFORMS activity I participated in when I attended the 2011 Analytics Conference in Chicago. I’ve been privileged to participate in helping plan the event every year since, and have seen first-hand a number of careers transformed just as mine was. It’s such a fantastic way to help students get involved with INFORMS and transition from academia into the practice of advanced analytics and O.R.


What is your favorite method of visualizing data?
I really love the way network graphs look and the insight you can gain through simple observation. I remember exporting nodes and edges from one of the social media sites I use and importing them into an open-source graph visualization tool (Gephi). Using a force directed graph algorithm, it was interesting to see how my early life is [and isn’t] connected to my life today (see below).

Visualization tool

What have you done to improve your data analytics knowledge in the past year?
I’m fortunate that there is a thriving data community here in the DC Metro area. I really enjoy plugging in with other data scientists and analytics practitioners through Meetups and other informal events (there’s plenty of O.R. folks there as well). More formally, I did part of a Coursera course, attended a variety of industry trainings, and did some independent study on a couple topics of interest. For me, the key to improving data analytics knowledge has been to keep an open ear for interesting applications and then mapping it back to a problem I’m familiar with.


Why did you become a CAP and how has it helped your career?
The Certified Analytics Professional designation is something I’m really proud of. To be perfectly honest, I wanted to get it done early, fearing it would only get harder to attain as the program grew. Elder Research really delighted in my achievement and they’ve made a point to recognize me both internally and externally. Since completing the certification last year, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how much it’s served as a conversation starter—people want to know what those initials are on my business card, and I’m eager to tell them.


What is your favorite O.R. application?
I love logistics problems—facility location, vehicle routing—basically, anything involving getting something from point A to B. Shortly after graduating from college, I began working at UPS and spent almost a decade there in a variety of different roles. Even though I’ve changed careers into a completely different industry, I’d say I still approach problems from the perspective of a logistics engineer.


What interest do you have outside of work that might surprise us?
Before moving to the DC Metro area, I resolved that I wouldn’t take for granted all this city has to offer. I’m always out and about dragging my wonderful daughter from museum to museum, park to park, and event to event. I’m also a [barely] budding foodie.


Which INFORMS journal do you read the most? Why?
I would have to say Operations Research is the journal I read the most. While Transportation Science is more relevant to my graduate coursework, I like that Operations Research represents the true breadth of methodologies and applications that define our field.


What is your spirit animal?
The moose, Alces alces, of course. In the early 90s I went on a canoe camping trip to Northern Minnesota with high hopes of seeing a real-life moose. Although I never saw one on that first trip, I returned years later for a summer job in college and finally got to see one.