A celebration of Research Pride Month
A couple of years ago, I shared the story of how my father was a spy during the Cold War. Well, he was actually part of the Army’s Signal Corps, and his job was to supervise and train soldiers who listened to the Russians, the Chinese, and others. As a researcher whose job is to analyze data to guess at the minds and hearts of prospective donors, I have fond memories of both using my father’s stories for my own work and of trying to explain to him what I do for a living. He was always befuddled.
His legacy didn’t stop with me.
My own stepdaughter, Bridgette, followed in the family footsteps. A brilliant woman – smarter than I am. When Bridgette was in grades school, she used to ask me to create algebra problems for her to solve. When she was a junior in high school, she explained heavy water to me and went off on an archaeological dig. She was younger than I’d want to admit before she learned how to beat me at chess (okay, 11), at Monopoly (okay, 14), and poker (okay, 23).
Just like I love solving the puzzle that a table of data presents, Bridgette loves to solve the puzzle of math and of patterns. When she interviewed with Barclay’s Bank to become a fraud detection analyst, she mentioned that she still made up math problems to solve. That served her well as she zipped through the bank’s interview puzzles. And then she enjoyed catching identity thieves, telling me some pretty hilarious stories (like the man who said, “Please tell my son that I will see him when I get home at five,” after catching the son trying to get a credit card under the father’s name).
The core skill in fraud analysis is detecting anomalies. A credit card application may have an answer that doesn’t match the pattern for that kind of applicant, or a phone reply to the security quiz that is either wrong or given after too long a pause while the thief looks it up. In other words, what I do with statistics software, my daughter does with her brain, her training, and her intuition. And we each work at the opposite end of the bell curve: I’m looking for the wealthiest and most philanthropic while she is looking for, well, the least philanthropic.
Now that she’s been promoted into management, Bridgette is earning her Ph.D. in cyber security. She’ll be detecting even more insidious characters to protect us from mass identity theft, a career that didn’t exist when I went to graduate school, because the world wide web was just being invented. And she’ll probably finally learn the statistics techniques that I use every day.
One of my favorite visits with Bridgette involved us sitting on her couch and showing each other our favorite reporting tools. I kid you not – we are not the shopping at the mall types. Sitting there, showing her Tableau and SPSS, I recalled a time when she was about 10 years old. I asked, because grown-ups all ask, “Bridgette, what do you want to do when you grow up?”
She replied, “What do you do?”
I replied, “I am a prospect researcher.”
She replied, “I want to do that,” and went back to her GameBoy.
And she does.