Parul Singh is the instructor for Boston’s Level cohort starting this winter, and her resume is beyond impressive by any standards. She is the founder and CEO of Gradeable, a K-12 education analytics startup with customers including Teach for America, City Year and Providence (RI) Public Schools. She has six years of experience as a software developer, and was a product manager at NYTimes.com and at a video analytics startup. While at MIT Sloan, she was President of the Venture Capital and Private Equity Club and an associate at Founder Collective, a seed-stage venture capital firm. Parul had the concept for and was the teaching assistant for 15.S16, MIT’s Entrepreneurial Product Development and Marketing course, taught by Brian Halligan and Paul English. She has co-founded the Lean Startup Challenge, and served as Program Manager for the Boston Chapter of the Startup Leadership Program. Parul was born in Nigeria, and lives in North Cambridge with her husband, a public school principal and daughter Lilli. We asked Parul a few questions so you can get to know her better:
What was the most exciting challenge that you solved using analytics?
The most rewarding challenges were probably ones where I figured out something difficult and improbable about users of products I was developing, like that a behavior we had assumed in our users almost never occurred and we needed to completely change how we were acquiring and attracting customers. The most fun one was analyzing the year’s top ten most viral online videos, and identifying a subtrend of winners who had all started their own dance craze. (Remember Crank That in 2007?). The takeaways for my clients who were movie studios and ad/creative agencies were also fascinating.
What is your favorite movie?
Right now, I’m dying to go see Star Wars again and find time to binge watch episodes 1-6.
What advice do you have for aspiring analysts, or, what do you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
Check your work and check it again. Even if you think you’ve checked your analysis, find another way to run cross-checks, triple checks, even go back and check your assumptions. Because no one trusts an imprecise or careless analyst and it’s good to establish those habits early in your career.
What would you do if you had access to all of Google’s data for 24 hours?
I’d seek to understand how their self-driving cars are programmed to handle bad drivers. That’s a massive feat of analysis!
How did you get into analytics?
I was captain of the high school math team (seriously, and we were top-ranked in the state and New England) — after that I was probably doomed for life. Later in life, as a product manager at the New York Times and a couple of startups, I found myself drawn to using data as a way to communicate, advocate, and most powerfully, choose between strategic directions.
What traits are most important for students learning analytics?
Curiosity and a love of problem solving. There are so many fantastic puzzles to unravel in data; someone who loves both is never going to get bored.