A science experiment for the BC Graduate Tech Club (and my wallet)

I’ve been an Uber driver for about a month now. I’ve logged a total of 7.5 hours on the road, chauffeuring people around Boston and the burbs. About a quarter of the people I’ve driven around have asked me how I became an Uber driver and why I’m doing it. I tell them it’s for two reasons. The first reason is to help pad the wallet a bit while I readjust to living without an income. The second is for BC.

Jacqueline Oullet, BC MBA ’16

I was lucky enough to be accepted to go on this year’s Tech Trek West, a field study to visit tech firms in Seattle and Silicon Valley (more to come on that experience in my next blog post.) One of the firms we’re visiting is Uber. I figured some inside insight wouldn’t hurt when we have the chance to talk to BC alumni during our time meeting with the company. I was also incredibly interested in how Uber got so popular, why it works the way it does, and some rider and driver pain points.

Arguably the biggest pain point for riders is surge pricing. As an Economics major (BC ’09!), I immediately liked the concept of surge pricing. Not that I’m willing to spend the money for 4x the normal fare, but it makes perfect economic sense. If you’re willing to pay for it, you should be able to get a ride across the city, even if you are paying top dollar. Many riders hate this, feeling as though they are being taken advantage of when they need a ride the most. Well as it turns out, Uber drivers are real people, too, and also would prefer to go out to dinner on a Friday night or be sleeping at 2 AM when the bars close. Surge pricing gets more drivers on the road when more people need rides. Simple economics, hence the appeal.

On the driver side, my biggest frustration is that I’m not able to choose an area within which to drive. All drivers are at the whim of the riders – drivers aren’t actually shown the destination of the rider until the rider gets in the car and the driver swipes “start trip” or asks the rider, “where to?” This means if things go poorly, as a driver I could potentially end up in New Hampshire towards the end of the night, an hour or more away from home with no guarantee a request will come through for a ride back to Chestnut Hill.

While there are a couple possible improvements in logistics, the ease of use is top-notch. The driver app, like the rider app, is incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Uber certainly makes it easy for drivers to know how much money they’re making and how they compare against the top drivers out there. As you can see in the screenshot below, I’m making better money per hour than the top drivers (because I only drive during times of surge pricing), but I’m working fewer hours and taking many fewer trips. This dashboard makes it easy to see how I’m stacking up against other drivers and definitely provides an incentive to stay on top and keep driving.

Uber Driver Review

The screenshot below makes it easy for me to see when the busiest hours are and when I’m most likely to see surge pricing. This is mostly intuitive, but it’s nice to have a visual. It also makes me wonder why 4 AM Monday – Thursday is one of their busiest hours.

Being involved with the company on a new level like this really got me spending a lot of time thinking about small tweaks they could make to the app to help alleviate rider and driver pain points. As I’m also involved with fundraising for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, it also made me wonder about opportunities to drive for charity. I’m sure there’s a segment of the population out there that has limited funds to donate to charities they’re passionate about, but has a car and time and would be willing to drive people around knowing the money earned would go directly to their favorite charity.

All in all, it’s been a good experience so far. I’ve picked up other MBAs from both BU and Harvard and have even been able to do a bit of networking while driving people around. If nothing else, it’s great practice talking about any topic under the sun with a stranger. More to come on this in my next post!

Reposted from the Carroll School Admissions Blog.

Jackie Oullet is a first year MBA and member of the Grad Tech Product Team.


Chartbeat: Real Time Analytics for the Publishing World

photo 1While Boston was getting pounded by snow, I had the opportunity to head a little ways south where I got to visit NYC analytics startup Chartbeat.  My hosts were Account Executive and BC Alum Andrew Oddo and Head of Talent Cat Hernandez.  The company itself creates sleek dashboards and monitoring tools that help publishing companies visualize in real time what stories, topics, and key words are performing best at any given moment.  The immediacy of the information and insights allows its customers to act upon it in real time to tweak headlines or social stories and see real time results.  The companies tools also help to build a social strategy and the company is constantly evolving to find new ways to help its customers.  I had the opportunity to tour the offices and to see some of the dashboards in action.  Not only were they useful and intuitive, but the design was super sleek and eye friendly…just seeing them made me want to buy the product!  It is no wonder that even though the company is still a relatively young startup, it boasts a customer base that includes many of the biggest names in publishing including Time, NBC Universal, and Forbes.

photo 4

Even cooler than the products themselves, however, is the company’s culture.  Like most startups, the company is young and positive on the whole, it has the obligatory games and kitchen, and of course its people are entrepreneurial.  What really struck me, however, was the description of the company as having a Learning culture.  Just about every company wants employees to learn of course, but these guys really live and breathe that mantra.  They try to move people into new positions outside their comfort zones, and encourage the pursuit of interests even if they are outside of the person’s normal functional role.  When it comes to learning, Chartbeat puts its money where its mouth is, or at least where its office is.  Located directly above the Strand Bookstore, employees are just an elevator ride away from 18 miles of books where they can spend the $30/month the company gives them specifically for reading material.

It’s always great to meet fellow Eagles doing cool things in the Tech space and I am grateful to Andrew and Cat for hosting me at Chartbeat.  Check them out  Not only do they do really cool stuff but they are growing like crazy!

David LoVerme is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and the President of the Grad Tech Club

A Zillion Things Home (And the Data Behind It)

Last week, I was lucky enough to join BC’s Grad Tech Club on their visit to Wayfair. I was excited for the office visit for a few reasons. First, it was due to Wayfair’s unanimous rank as one of the best places to work for. Because of that, I have been keeping a keen eye on their job board for any potentially openings. I wanted to get a good sense for the culture and work environment before submitting an application. Prior to BC, I worked in a very early stage startup in San Francisco’s SOMA district at a shared workspace with several other startups. After working in an environment like that, it’s hard to me to think about going back to a strictly corporate office environment. Wayfair, although now a public company with thousands of employees, they have somehow managed to maintain the vibe of a startup. It was incredible walking around. They have maintained the culture and environment of their early days while growing into a billion dollar company. After our visit and seeing what they were about and what really drives them, I’m 100% going to apply for a job at Wayfair and would be thrilled at the opportunity to work there.

Taking a tour of Wayfair's offices with other members of the GgradTech Club.

Taking a tour of Wayfair’s offices with other members of the GradTech Club.

At first glance, I wasn’t sure what to think of Wayfair. I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a home furnishings enthusiast, so was weary at the thought of working behind a product or business that I wasn’t sure I could get 100% behind. But we had a chance to sit down with BC alum David Aaron and his colleague Chris Roe who really broke down the business intelligence and data science that really gives them a competitive advantage. I saw, firsthand, that the passion David and Chris have is not necessarily for home furnishings, but rather for understanding and predicting user needs and behavior. They are 100% behind their work and their enthusiasm was obvious. Combined with their talent and that of the rest of the Wayfair crew, this passion for data is clearly what has driven Wayfair to be at the forefront of ecommerce analytics, giving them a clear competitive advantage.

I’m thankful to Grad Tech for not only allowing me a sneak peek into working at such an awesome company, but also for giving a rare peak under the hood of a thriving company. It’s a unique experience that we MBAs have access to, and I encourage others to take advantage of future BC Tech Club outings.

-Emmett Shipman is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and a member of the Grad Tech Club

Googlers, Analytics, and Google Correlate

Last night Googlers from the Consumer Insights team visited our Analytics and BI Class.  The presentation was fascinating and really made our coursework come alive.  One of the tools we looked as was Google Correlate and as brief assignment for class, I wrote a quick blog post about my experiences playing around with it and thought I would share it here as well:

Our guests from Google’s consumer insights group definitely peaked my interest so I thought I would have some fun looking at different searches I have done today and what correlates based on recent google searches.  While we know and are constantly reminded that correlation does not equal causation, I thought it would be fun to hypothesize some explanations.  Some are legitimate and some just for laughs.  Enjoy and feel free to add your own.

Job Interview

Top Correlations: Analyst, Product Manager

Most interesting: Pass Drug Test

My Take: I had an interview this morning and was trying to make sure I got the most common questions covered.  Looks like I am not alone as “common questions”, “offer letters” and other such queries related to the job search are commonplace.  It also looks like people are very interested in my old job “analyst” and my new job “Product Manager”.  We also see that a number of people having job interviews may also be recreational drug users and concerned about their ability to pass a drug test.  While there are no hard numbers attached, this suggests that a large number of professionals in the US may be users.

Wedding Photographer

Top Correlations: Wedding Flowers, Wedding Planners

Most Interesting: Free Baby

My Take: I was searching because a friend of mine is a highly rated wedding photographer and I was interested to see what his reviews said.  It looks like, not surprisingly, that most people are actually searching for wedding photographers when planning a wedding and therefore also looking for other vendors.  What is less obvious is what exactly a “Free Baby” is and why those seeking Wedding Photographers are curious about them.  I know I promised hypotheses so I will venture one that is completely absurd: Couples who are both planning a wedding and have no candidates for ring-bearers or flower girls are looking to lock them down now but have just seen the cost of wedding photography and other vendors and therefore needed to get the young ones for very free.

Leveraged Buyout

Top Correlation: LBO

Most Interesting: APA Style Guide, Babelfish Translator

My Take: I searched this because of my corporate finance class and LBO makes sense as it is the acronym.  More interesting, however, is APA Style Guide and Babelfish Translator.  Granted they are in the .6 range below Google’s .8 benchmark but correlated nonetheless.  APA Style Guide suggests that the majority of people interested in LBOs are academics studying corporate finance (like myself) and that those actually taking part in them are both few and generally knowledgeable enough to not need to Google it.  I did not know what BabelFish translator was until now but apparently it is the oldest english translation site on the web.  While Yahoo! replaced it with Bing it still exists to redirect and apparently is still used enough to show up in search results frequently.  Not surprising based on the assumption that most people searching LBOs are students is the fact that non-native english speakers studying corporate finance might need frequent translation.

I’ve had some fun with these but even in a generally unguided exploration of Google Correlate we begin to see how it good be used to create hypotheses.  They would need to be tested of course but the the business and academic use cases certainly make sense.

-David LoVerme is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and the President of the Grad Tech Club