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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

5 Minutes with an Analyst: Thomas Jepsen of Contractor Quotes

Thomas Jepsen's company helps connect homeowners and contractors. Jepsen spoke with Upside recently about his work

Thomas Jepsen is the CEO and founder of Contractor Quotes, a website-based service that helps connect homeowners and contractors. He is personally engaged in daily data analysis to ensure the company is optimizing its content and following the best strategy. Jepsen spoke with Upside recently about his work.

UPSIDE: Are you working on anything interesting right now? If not, what's your dream project?

Thomas Jepsen: I am currently working on how to scale content production for Contractor Quotes in order to allow the manual production of 20,000 handwritten articles per year.

It doesn't only come down to researching which topics to cover -- although it's difficult to come up with 20,000 different home improvement topics to write information about -- I also need to determine which different subtopics need to be covered in each of these articles. Big data analysis can help me judge a topic's popularity. This ensures efficient scaling towards our goal while maintaining article quality.

What's your favorite part about being an analyst? Your least favorite part?

My favorite part about being an analyst is that I get to indulge my sheer fascination with numbers. Numbers tell a story. Numbers dissect behavior. A/B split-testing, for example, will help you decide how to proceed when psychological theories can at best present a qualified guess, although it's important to make sure the process is done correctly!

What's a personality trait you think people need to succeed at your job?

First of all, data analysts must almost have a religious connection with numbers. I also think having too big of an ego might limit your abilities as a data analyst. You may start out with an idea of "the right solution," which could be challenged by the data at hand, and a big ego might mean your ego ends up overruling the numbers.

Whether it's the latest Python build or a 50-gallon drum of espresso, what's the one thing you can't do your job without?

Late evenings. I know that people say early birds catch the worm, but I am very successful at getting my best work done at night, after midnight, when everyone else is asleep. So late evenings and, of course, coffee -- lots of it.

What's your biggest pet peeve (abused buzzword, overhyped idea, etc.) and why?

My biggest pet peeve is usually website designers, not UX experts. In my experience, designers often overcomplicate how a website should be set up and fully neglect some aspects of visitor behavior that are substantiated by data.

Some designers try to turn any website into their own art project and do not maximize conversions; they focus on design but neglect its impact on SEO. Good design goes hand in hand with an understanding of data.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the editorial director of TDWI, including research reports, the Business Intelligence Journal, and Upside newsletter. You can contact him via email here.

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