Alumni Spotlight: Sean Golden, Cohort 2003

Sean GoldenAlumni Spotlight: Sean Golden, Cohort 2003

1. Tell us about yourself and your background. 

I grew up in Lincoln and then lived in the Republic of Moldova (twice), Chicago, and most recently Oakland. I'm grateful for growing up in the midwest instead of a big cosmopolitan place. I think developing in a place with fewer distractions helped me become more curious about the world and ultimately more balanced in my perspective compared to many other people I've met since graduating. After graduating from the program formerly known as JD Edwards, I did a Fulbright in Moldova (great success), earned a Master's degree from the University of Chicago (working in the lab of the Freakonomics dude), learned the horrors of finance at a hedge fund, demand estimation in retail, advanced analytics at McKinsey, and most recently started building a data science and engineering team at a payments startup. Side note: I'm old enough to remember the days when "data science" was like saying "book reading" or "food eating". This is a funny term that has exploded recently into a big and ambiguous mix of statistics, software engineering, analysis, data engineering, visualization, and product management. So whenever you see the term, take it with a grain of salt. Anyway, it turns out that Economics and Computer Science degrees provide a good foundation for this field.

2. What are some highlights or key take-aways from your experience as a student in the Raikes School/JDE? 

I think we all suffer from status quo bias, but I was able to take some risks (like "hey mom and dad, I'm going to go to the only freely elected communist country in the world. See you next year!"). I would encourage you all to take more risks when considering schools, adventures, and employment - our psychological immune systems are surprisingly creative and effective.

Secondly, I've realized (particularly when it comes to hiring) that drive, curiosity, and honesty are worth a lot more than technical prowess in almost all real life situations.

Finally, if you are interested in data science or AI or deep learning, 90% of your job is framing the problem, acquiring data, cleaning data, re-acquiring data because something was wrong, looking at data, thinking about data, and talking to people about what you see in the data. About 10% of your time is doing fancy things.

3. What have you been up to since graduating from Nebraska and the Raikes School/JDE?

To the shock of everyone that knew me in JDE, I'm happily married.

4. You are currently working at Marqeta, tell us about the company and your role. 

Marqeta is a platform that allows companies to issue, process, and manage credit and debit cards through an open API. It's kind of like AWS for card processing. The payments industry is full of cruft and there are lots of old players, so we think it's ripe for innovation. I am a Data Science Lead building a team* to tackle automated analytics to drive growth, develop fraud analytics using data and machine learning to make life tough for fraudsters, and to build beautiful analytics products that are easy to use, a pleasure to work with, and provide fast and digestible insights to enable data driven decision making.

5. You recently interacted with Raikes School students during their fall trip to Silicon Valley. Tell us about that experience.

It was great to see students from Raikes in an environment (the West Coast) where there are very few midwesterners. The students got to interact with the CEO and CTO. Both of them (after noting how young everyone looked) enjoyed the directness and thoughtfulness of the students. It seemed like information security was particularly popular (and is in high demand). As a startup, it's difficult for us to get a hiring plan together more than a few months out and our internships are pretty improvised - so it was painful seeing a lot of smart Raikes students and knowing I wouldn't be able to snatch too many of them. I think it's clear that Silicon Valley will not be the most dominant innovation hub forever, but it's an awesome opportunity to apply what you've gone through and to collaborate with other driven folks. I've not lived in Nebraska for 10 years, but I've kept my connections back to the state.

6. Have you had any other experiences with Raikes School alumni or current students since graduation? If so, tell us about those experiences.

One of my favorite memories is Alex, Dan, and Travis made their way to the Republic of Moldova (home of the epic sax player) for an adventure to a country that does not exist, a concert with a Russian Justin Timberlake (Дима Билан), and some other shenanigans. 

7. If you could give one piece of advice to current Raikes School students, what would you say? 

Take a chance.

8. Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

*We are hiring.