May 19, 2016

in News

In Conversation: Precision's Benjy Messner

Benjy talks about recent technological advances in data and analytics and the night of the Liberal Party of Canada's huge 2015 victory.

Q: How did you wind up at Precision?

BCM: “I had worked on a number of campaigns and at a political software company previously but really wanted to get into services. I saw the firm’s launch and was very excited by the company and the partners, and was lucky enough to get the job when I applied.”

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about a career highlight of yours in your time at Precision?

BCM: “Far and away, the biggest highlight has to be election night 2015 for the Liberal Party of Canada. The feeling of having all of the hope and hard work pay off after years of working with such great people is really wonderful.”

Q: How has your field changed since working on your first campaigns?

BCM: “In 2008, I was on the Virginia Coordinated campaign’s data and analytics team. I would get up at 5:30 every morning to pull the daily field report because it took over two hours to copy and paste data into Excel.

Now, thanks to all of the work done over the past decade, thanks to all the data, technology, and tools, everything is automatic. You push a button and the report updates a minute later. That sort of technological power wasn’t possible when I was starting out. I think it is the single biggest contributor to the field being where it is today.”

Q:  How does technological change change your workflow and day-to-day decisions?

BCM:  “New technology lets us make decisions much faster and lets staff do more than just move data around. In 2008, so much of my time was spent moving files between systems and matching files. Now, because all of that can be automated, one can actually spend one’s time analyzing data and making strategic recommendations.

We always talk to our clients about (and implement!) real-time iteration, and it’s only possible because we have all the data so quickly and easily. We’re able to see exactly what is happening in all of the programs and figure out how money can be best spent to reach goals.“

Q: Now that your whole life is not spent moving data between systems, what are some skills that someone might need to do your job?

BCM: “The most important thing is being able to think quantitatively. All the skills can be taught, but what can’t be taught is the way you think. If you enjoyed economics in college, this could be the field for you!”

Q: Can you go into what you do day-to-day a little, without revealing any trade secrets?

BCM: “We are running a huge program for a client and doing a lot of reporting right now to understand how our paid field programs are performing. We’re creating spreadsheets and building maps so we can figure out where we need to move capacity to actually find efficient targets for the program.”

Q: What is your favorite thing/memory of working at Precision?

BCM: “My favorite thing is definitely the team. I think one of our strengths as a firm is the quality of the team and of the people. It’s a bunch of smart, hardworking people who want to do good work. That’s something you can’t fake.”

Rapid-fire questions:

Favorite social platform: Instagram

Favorite tweeter: The Onion.

An article everyone should read: How to Start Thinking Like a Data Scientist

Favorite outlet/blog in general: The Old New Thing

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