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June 2016

Doing Data Science, Helping People Get Jobs @Indeed

I_help_people_get_jobsHaving just marked my 1-year anniversary at Indeed, it occurs to me that I have not yet blogged about my not-so-new job as a data scientist helping people get jobs. In addition to ending a long (7+ month) drought in my blogging practice, I'm also hoping that in sharing a bit about my work at Indeed, I might help more people learn about and get jobs at Indeed's growing Seattle office.

When I tell people I work for Indeed, I get 2 basic types of responses:

  • "Cool - I love Indeed!"
  • "What's Indeed?"

I don't think I can add much to the first response, except to say that I have found several of my own jobs on Indeed (including my current Data Scientist job at Indeed and my former Principal Scientist job at Nokia Research Center Palo Alto) and helped my daughter find two of her jobs on Indeed, so I love Indeed, too.

Job_search_indeedTo address the second response: Indeed.com is the world's top job site, offering a number of tools to both help people find jobs and help jobs find people (or, more precisely, help employers find employees) - an ideal combination for someone like me with a long-standing passion for making connections ... and helping others make valuable connections.

Indeed helps people get jobs by providing tools to both job seekers and employers. Job seekers can upload or create a resume, search for jobs, receive email alerts when new jobs that match their search criteria are posted, directly apply for some jobs, and track the status of jobs for which they have applied, interviewed or been made offers, all at no cost to job seekers. The company also provides parallel tools for employers to upload jobs, search for resumes, receive email alerts when new resumes that match their search criteria are uploaded.

Employers can enjoy some Indeed services for free. Indeed automatically aggregates millions of job postings from thousands of web sites every day. The site also provides an interface for employers to post jobs directly through Indeed. Paid services include sponsoring jobs to appear in job search results (using a pay-per-click revenue model), contacting job seekers who have uploaded resumes to the site, enabling job seekers to directly apply for jobs through Indeed, and using Indeed's applicant tracking system.

Many things have impressed me during my first year at Indeed, but I'll focus on just a few: mission, measurement, transparency and non-attachment.

The most impressive aspect of Indeed - which was apparent even during the interview process - is the pervasive and relentless focus on the mission of the company: helping people get jobs. I've long been fascinated by the world(s) of work, and it is inspiring to work alongside others who are similarly inspired to help people address a fundamental human need. Just about every internal discussion of a new product or feature at Indeed eventually boils down to the question of "Will this help more people get jobs?"

And the next question is usually "How can we measure the impact?" While a steadily increasing number of users are sharing their stories about finding jobs on Indeed, we don't always know when our users get jobs, so measuring impact often involves various proxies for job-seeking success, but such approximation is a fact of life in most data-driven companies.

Agile-boardIndeed makes extensive use of the Atlassian JIRA software project tracking system for new features, bugs and other issues that arise in the course of software development. Some of the other organizations in which I've worked had cultures of parochialism, secrecy and defensiveness, where critiques were best kept to oneself, or communicated privately. Early on at Indeed, I would often report bugs or make suggestions for improvements via email. After gentle and persistent encouragement, I now report them via JIRA, which - being publicly searchable (within the firm) - increases the possibility for sharing lessons learned. I have yet to encounter an Indeedian who has taken any such feedback personally, or felt so attached to a product feature or segment of code that they weren't willing to consider reviewing and revising it (or allowing someone else to do so) ... and unlike reports I've read about the culture at some other tech companies, I have yet to encounter an asshole at Indeed.

My own work at Indeed currently centers on helping people get jobs by taking greater advantage of the data in the millions of resumes that job seekers have created or uploaded at Indeed. This involves a mix of analyzing, cleaning and provisioning resume data to enhance existing products and inform new products designed to improve search and recommendations for both job seekers and employers.

Ignorance_book_coverOver the past several months, I've acted as the chief question answerer in an internal "Resume Q&A" forum we've created to help product managers, data scientists and software engineers better understand and leverage our resume data. Answering these questions has enabled me to practice thoroughly conscious ignorance, offering me numerous opportunities to ask questions of my own, and thereby learn about a broad range of products and processes, as well as various data and code repositories ... and helping forge new connections across them. The work offers me a nice blend of analysis, communication, coding (in Python and Java) and education, a few of my favorite things.

One of the advantages arising from my spiral career path is a user-centered focus I adopted during my years doing user experience research and design. As a practicing data scientist, my UX orientation occasionally helps me trace anomalies in the data back to shortcomings in one or more of the user interfaces or the flow of the user experience across Indeed web services. This UX-oriented data analysis has resulted in at least 2 small, but substantive, changes in the user interface, which I hope has helped more people get jobs.

In addition to regular opportunities to practice my natural inclinations toward instigating and connecting, I've recently started exercising my evangelizing inclinations. I gave a demonstration / presentation on how Indeed can help job seekers to a local job search support group in Bellevue last week, and am hoping to do more evangelizing to job seekers in the future. I am also hoping to start giving more technical presentations on some of the cool things we are doing at Indeed, evangelizing to different audiences, in part, to help us help more data scientists, software engineers, UX designers and researchers, product managers and quality analysts get jobs ... at Indeed, in Seattle and elsewhere.