Where can a graduate degree from the University of Illinois take you? In this monthly series, we catch up with one recent Graduate College alum and ask the question: "Where are they now?".
Mert Bay completed his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engingeering (ECE) in 2012. Now, he works as principal data scientist at Conversion Logic, an early stage marketing analytics startup in Santa Monica, California. In this capacity, he builds models that are deployed in the company's software product to help their clients understand the effectiveness of their marketing investments in online and offline media channels.
What skills or experiences are essential to your work?
Math, statistics, machine learning, programming, domain expertise, and research skills are essential for my work.
What is the most interesting, rewarding, and/or challenging aspect of your job?
Innovation is central to Conversion Logic and my work. Evolutions in media and technology lead to new challenges and we find new ways of overcoming them. I enjoy working with a group of talented, experienced, and dedicated people. I enable extraction of actionable insights from an ever-growing universe of data to add real value to our clients’ businesses. Our state-of-the-art automated product is disruptive in the analytics domain and we are changing the conversation with better statistical methodology and insightful data. The feedback we receive from clients is fulfilling.
What has been the most valuable transferable skill you gained from graduate school?
The University of Illinois has some of the world’s top faculty, students, and resources. I gained invaluable experience on how to define a problem, plan, communicate, collaborate with other people, and conduct research. I am very grateful for the learning and opportunities offered during graduate school.
What experiences made an impact on your career choice?
During my PhD, I worked on music signal processing and information retrieval both with my advisor in the ECE department and at the International Music Information Retrieval Systems Evaluation Laboratory (IMIRSEL) at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. This fueled my passion for building models to explain real world phenomena. During my PhD, I also did an internship at a business analytics company and started working with different types of data. However, the job was intrinsically similar to the earlier projects I worked on. I decided I can have the most impact in business analytics and decided to pursue it as a career.
What is one piece of advice you would give to graduate students at Illinois?
Be open minded and mindful! Graduate school at Illinois is a great opportunity to try different areas and learn from the world’s top scientists. Do not blindly follow your original plan. Instead try different areas and find the one that you are passionate about, you are good at, can have the most impact, and also be rewarded for it.
This interview is part of the monthly Grad Life series called "Where Are They Now?" which chronicles the career paths of recent Univeristy of Illinois Graduate College alumni. Interviews are conducted by Laura Spradlin, the Thesis Coordinator at the Graduate College. She is an alumna of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois and studied English and French at Illinois Wesleyan University. Prior to joining the Graduate College, Laura worked in communications and public libraries. In her spare time, you can find her browsing libraries and used bookstores, writing, knitting, or running (slowly).