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March 19, 2019

Putting Data in Its Proper Perspective

UL Data Scientists Pae Daungjaiboon and Ben Rodrawangpai

Ben Rodrawangpai and Witawat “Pae” Daungjaiboon Turn Massive Amounts of Data into Clear, Visually Compelling Stories

When thinking of “sexy” professions, it is natural to think of models, athletes, lifeguards, and actors, but data scientists? Data science probably does not even come close to the top of your list.

Math, statistics, computer science, IT—none of that sounds particularly sexy.

However, Witawat “Pae” Daungjaiboon, an associate data scientist at UL, was drawn to the field as the result of someone—in this case, Harvard Business Review (HBR)—designating data scientists as the sexiest job of the 21st century.

“It was in 2012, and I was getting ready to go to America to attend graduate school,” said Daungjaiboon, a native of Thailand.  “As I was deciding on a major, I read the HBR article, and it inspired me to choose a degree that could help me obtain a career in data science.”

For Daungjaiboon’s colleague, Ben Rodrawangpai, who is also from Thailand, his interest in the field stemmed from his natural curiosity.

“I had worked with a lot of data in the finance industry,” Rodrawangpai said. “I realized I had access to a lot of data, but I wanted to know more about how we could use it and make better, data-driven decisions.”

What Are the Odds?

Coincidentally, Daungjaiboon and Rodrawangpai attended King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang at the same time but never met due to different programs. Daungjaiboon studied IT, and Rodrawangpai learned computer engineering.

It took a move to Chicago for them to meet and become friends. Both attended DePaul University where each obtained a Master of Science degree in Predictive Analytics. Taking on a new major at the graduate level and having to deal with a lot of big data can be intimidating for some people, but not these guys.

“With Pae’s background in IT and my background in computer engineering, we weren’t afraid of big data,” Rodrawangpai said. “Computer cloud technologies are improving all the time, so no matter how much data we have, the computer will be able to handle it.”

One Job, But Many Hats

Daungjaiboon and Rodrawangpai have been with Underwriters Laboratories for one and three years, respectively. Throughout the development of their many data science projects, Daungjaiboon and Rodrawangpai typically wear three different hats to solve the challenge at hand. First, they put on their miner hats, meaning they scrape all the usable data from the information provided via relevant data sources. Next, they put on their detective hats. They ask themselves, “What happened in the data?” “What is it telling us?” Finally, they put on their artistic hats. They create visuals that reveal the insights found in the data, so that it is easily understandable to people who are not data scientists.

“I love acting as an artist to try and tell visual stories from the data I analyzed,” said Daungjaiboon. “It allows me to go wild with my creativity.”

Sexy or not, data science is here to stay. And data scientists will continue to be highly sought after. Many business decisions are driven by data. Even a traditionally macho industry like sports has been overtaken by data analytic experts who help drive business decisions as well as player-personnel decisions.