Chris Bennett

Co-founder and COO at Intelisent
Hartford, Connecticut

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am 44, live in New England, and have been in the marketing data and technology industry for about 20 years. I began my career in this industry as a software and database developer at Acxiom before moving into technical leadership. I am now the co-founder and chief operations officer for Intelisent, a rapidly growing marketing solutions and consulting company headquartered in Connecticut.

At what school and in what concentration did you receive your undergraduate degree?

I completed my B.S. in biology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1995, with a minor in computer science.

Why did you choose the I School?

I chose the School of Information (I School) because of the broad mix of course offerings — which covered both newer, big data technologies as well as applied statistics and machine learning. I carefully researched the faculty and was extremely impressed with their academic and industry backgrounds. My research has proved to be correct too. I have had professors who actively held top technical jobs at both Google and Pandora. Most notably, one professor had his research published in The New York Times, NPR, and a major science journal while I was taking his course.

What is the I School's advantage?

The “I School advantage” is a combination of robust technology paired with an excellent curriculum taught by some of the best academicians in the field of data science and applied analytics. The technology not only allows for a strong online classroom setting but also supports group projects where I am typically collaborating with students across multiple continents. The Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) curriculum is so applicable to my career, I have actually implemented solutions for clients within days of learning about them in class.

What has been your favorite class at the I School and why?

My favorite class thus far has been Experiments and Causality. After covering a rigorous curriculum on experiment design and analysis, the students divide into small groups and conduct their own experiments and analyze the results. My group launched a nationwide survey evaluating how source attribution affects news headline credibility differently for liberals versus conservatives.

What are your future plans?

I have a great job with a great company. The MIDS program is helping me grow in two fundamental areas.

First, while I have been working with very large data sets for many years, the technology options available have exploded over the past few years. This program is helping me become proficient in these new technologies, such as Hadoop, Hive, and Spark, as well as refreshing my programming skills in several other languages.

Second, most of my data analytics knowledge has been learned while implementing commercial projects. This program is allowing me to build a much more robust fundamental knowledge of applied statistics, regression modeling, and machine learning, providing me with the tools to design better solutions for our customers.

I have found that there are essentially two types of technical leaders: those who sit in meetings all day talking about building solutions and those who actually roll up their sleeves and lead their teams to build innovative, world-class solutions. datascience@berkeley is helping me stay at the forefront of technology and innovation.

Do you have any advice for aspiring information professionals/data scientists?

My best advice is to budget your time wisely. I typically spend one to two hours each morning and three to four hours each night studying. I give myself one or two free evenings each week, at least until the project deadlines start approaching. But the only way to balance this curriculum with a full-time job is by being extremely disciplined. Still, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in a long time — so it's definitely worth it.

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