© 2019 by Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

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LAUREN LOMBARDO

(Sacramento State)

The Data Scientist

"Essentially, I have the incredible opportunity to solve fascinating problems with data and the chance to learn something new every day."

Where did you grow up?

I grew up all over the place.

Who is your role model?

My dad.

Where do you live now?

Manhattan

What is your theme song?

I Just Can't Wait to Be King by The Lion King.

As a senior data scientist for Nielsen Media Research, Lauren creates methodologies used to measure digital content consumption, meaning she utilizes data to create solutions that can inform clients on who is viewing and consuming their digital content.


“Primarily, Nielsen is a data company with the ability to measure and analyze consumption. Nielsen has two main business – watch and buy,” Lauren explained. “I currently work in the watch business, which focuses on measuring what people are watching,
reading or listening to.”


Before she began this job, Lauren was pre-law. While writing her thesis she realized she enjoyed using data to quantitatively tell stories about how people react to or interpret the world. She applied to Nielsen just to see what would happen but ended up accepting a role as an associate in Nielsen’s Emerging Leaders Program and took the leap into this unexpected field.


In college, Lauren was incredibly involved. She served as student body president and chair of the California State Student Association. The association represents the 23 campuses in the California State University system and has a 46-person board. Lauren and her team championed state and federal legislation to improve the lives of students, lobbied for bills at the state and federal level, led monthly meetings on campuses across California and met with system administrators and state leaders to discuss issues pertinent to students.


“I’ve never learned more, worked harder and had more fun in a role,” Lauren said. “My job was to represent the student’s voice
and advocate on behalf of students.” Her hard work showed, too. California State University, Sacramento gives out the Made at Sac State Award every year to alumni who represent the university well in whatever they pursue after graduation. Lauren earned the honor
before she even graduated. She shared, “It remains one of the largest compliments I have ever received because the team was so invested in my future that they were comfortable including me in the campaign so early in my relationship with the university.”

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Extended Interview 

Why do you love what you do?

I get to think about, understand and analyze people’s behavior. That is so cool! As an economics major with a lot of enthusiasm for behavioral economics, being able to work with behavioral data to quantify consumer trends and patterns is interesting and exciting. I also love a challenge. In my current role, I am challenged every day with new technical, strategic or behavioral problems I need to solve. Essentially, I have the incredible opportunity to solve fascinating problems with data and the chance to learn something new every day.

 

How did you discover your passion for your job?

I never expected to be a data scientist. I was actually a pre-law student until I graduated (even after I accepted my first role at Nielsen!). However, as I was writing my undergraduate thesis, I realized that I really enjoyed using data to quantitatively tell stories about how people react to or interpret the world around them. I found a lot of parallels between the behavioral focus of my thesis and the behavioral aspects of Nielsen’s measurement. I decided I would apply and just see what happens, all while telling myself I was still a committed pre-law student. I ended up accepting the role as an associate in Nielsen’s Emerging Leaders Program and loved it. Needless to say, I’m no longer pre-law and am happy I decided to make the leap into an unexpected field.

 

How do you define success?

At this point in my career, failure is a success. I truly understood the concept of appreciating failure in a leadership class at the Panetta Institute for Public Policy. One of the instructors drew a vertical line on the board, “This is your life,” he said. Then he drew a horizontal line through the vertical one and said, “This is failure.” Right above that line he drew another horizontal line and said, “This is success.” Success is just past (above, on the drawing) failure. If you’ve never allowed yourself to fail you’ve never given yourself the opportunity to reach your maximum potential, and that’s worse than failure. At this point in my career a day where I get to work through a tough problem that I have to let myself fail at is my most successful day.

 

What motivates you?

The fear of complacency.

 

How long have you been a senior data scientist for Nielsen?

I’ve been a senior data scientist at Nielsen since July 2018.

 

What attracted you to the role?

When choosing a new role, I primarily focus on the skills that I will be able to learn and the amount of autonomy I’ll be afforded. As a senior data scientist at Nielsen, there are several different types of roles you can have which can primarily fit into two different paths. The first is an extremely technical role with a lot of time for research and model creation. The second is a client-facing role with a large focus on product strategy and client deliverables. When I graduated from the Emerging Leaders Program, I wanted a role that would allow for some combination between the two paths. I wanted to continue to advance my technical skills while working with the bigger picture and talking directly to the client I was building the methodology for. The role I currently have is my perfect combination of the two! As I lay out below, most days I have time to devote to technical work and time to work directly with clients or client facing teams. This allows me to develop the skills that are most important for the type of data scientist I want to be in the future.

 

What does a regular day at work look like for you?

Briefly, a normal day at work is balanced between in-depth methodology creation or analysis work and strategy discussions or client-focused meetings. That’s the main reason I love my job, I get the best of both the data science worlds! In more detail, I tend to have a pretty similar high-level work schedule each day. I am a morning person but most of my team works on the west coast, so they don’t log-on until 10:30 a.m. This allows me to ease into the workday each morning. I leave my house around 6 a.m. and go to the gym near work. I get to the office around 8:30 a.m. every morning and use the first 30 minutes to read the technology and political news. Then I have about two hours to dive deep into a methodology I’m working to create or a statistical problem I’m trying to solve. In this time, I can normally make a significant amount of progress on that day's challenge. Around 11 a.m., meetings start to pick up since everyone is online. I usually spend 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. in meetings or preparing for meetings relating to ongoing digital measurement work. My day from 4 p.m. onward is always different. If a major issue arises during one of my meetings, that monopolizes my time for the rest of the day. If nothing that needs to be addressed immediately comes up, I spend another two to three hours continuing my methodology or analysis work from the morning. I like to stay online (either in the office or near my work phone) until 7:30 p.m. in case any issues arise while the west coast team is still online.

 

Can you explain what the Nielsen Watch Product Organization is for those who may not be familiar with it?

Primarily, Nielsen is a data company with the ability to measure and analyze consumption. Nielsen has two main businesses, watch and buy. I currently work in the watch business. Nielsen’s watch business focuses on measuring what people are watching, reading or listening to. The product people most commonly know about is the Nielsen TV Ratings (or, “the ratings”) but we also measure digital content, digital advertising, radio, print and music consumption. Within this large watch business, I work in the data science department, specifically on the watch digital product data science team. Within this team, I lead our custom solutions for digital content measurement. This means that I create customized solutions that help clients understand how consumers (all of us that watch anything) are consuming digital content.

 

How do you create solutions that communicate how consumers see the world through a digital lens?

My role is to create, enhance and maintain methodologies used to measure digital content consumption. I use Nielsen panel data, along with third-party data, to create solutions that can inform our clients about who is viewing and consuming their digital content. Right now, I am working on several enhancements to an existing custom methodology that estimates audience numbers and demographics for a large digital client. These enhancements will improve and scale our measurement for this client.

This or That

Early Bird or Night Owl

Facebook or Instagram

Podcasts or Audiobooks

Left Brain or Right Brain 

Hours a Week

50+

Can you tell me more about the Emerging Leaders Program?

Nielsen’s Emerging Leaders Program is a two-year management and leadership development program for recent college graduates. The program is made up of four six-month rotations each in a different area of Nielsen. I was a member of the Data Science Emerging Leaders Program so most of my rotations were data science focused. The program also includes 10 weeks of leadership, technical and managerial training to prepare associates for their upcoming rotations and roles after the program.

 

How were you selected for the program?

Aside from meeting the minimum requirements of eligibility, I went through a series of rigorous interviews, including several phone-screens and three on-site interviews at Nielsen’s Global Technology and Innovation Center in Tampa, Florida. These interviews focused on technical depth and ability, leadership experience and aptitude for a dynamic rotational program.

 

What did you learn during it?

Fundamentally, I learned how to be a technical leader. I gained people and organizational management experience from my leadership roles as an undergraduate, but I didn’t fully understand how to lead technical projects or manage extremely technical teams. During the program, I expanded my own technical depth, gained several new technical skills and learned how to oversee technical projects and teams.

 

In your application, you talked about dedicating your university career to being a servant leader. What does servant leadership mean to you?

My roles as student body president and chair of the California State Student Association required nothing less than true servant leadership. For me, servant leadership is genuinely listening to the wants and needs of the group I represent and then building my policy agenda and strategy from what they care about, not from what I care about.

 

Why is being a servant leader important to you?

In both of these roles, my job was to represent the student's voice and advocate on behalf of students. The issues that both of these organizations focus on (student food insecurity, student housing insecurity, sexual assault on campus, the cost of tuition and fees) are so personal in nature that I could not have been an effective leader if I wasn’t able to listen, emphasize and let the voices of the students I represent help dictate policy and change.

 

What was it like to be chair of the California State Student Association?

It was an incredible, fascinating and terrifying responsibility. Our executive team championed state and federal legislation to improve the lives of students, lobbied for bills at the state and federal level. We led monthly plenary meetings on campuses across the CSU system and met with system administrators and state leaders to discuss issues most pertinent to students. I’ve never learned more, worked harder and had more fun in a role.

 

How many student body presidents were on the board you led?

The California State Student Association represents the 23 campuses in the California State University system. The association has a 46-person board, with 23 voting members. Every student body president (23) within the California State University system was either a voting or non-voting member of the board.

 

What was the best lesson you learned from that experience and how have you applied it to your career after college?

I learned how to say “no.” I was traveling an average of 20 days a month to go to meetings or events, a full-time student, an active member of Gamma Phi Beta and other campus organizations and somehow tried to find time for friendships and personal well-being. I was overwhelmed. I quickly learned that saying “no” to something is actually saying “yes” to something else. Everyone has a limited amount of time in their day, and there are some things that are more important than others. They might bring you more personal happiness, provide a greater collective good to the world or make a bigger impact than something else you could have decided to do with that time. I learned that saying “no” so that I could say “yes” to something else that is more important to me was the only way I could continue to enjoy my job and grow as a leader. I’ve applied this lesson to my role at Nielsen by forcing myself to continuously think about these trade-offs.

 

What went through your head when you found out you were awarded the Made at Sac State Award before you were even graduated?

The Made at Sac State Award is a way to showcase impressive California State University, Sacramento alumni. When I was first asked if I would be willing to take part in the Made at Sac State campaign, I didn’t really understand what that meant. It wasn’t until I sat down to discuss the idea for my video that I finally understood, and I was simply shocked. It remains one of the largest compliments I have ever received because the team was so invested in my future that they were comfortable including me in the campaign so early in my relationship with the university.

 

Is there anything you’d like to share with me that you think would be beneficial for me to know?

A fun, and Gamma Phi Beta related fact! I love traveling. In the past two years, I’ve traveled to 13 countries spanning four different international trips. One of these trips was inspired through a Gamma Phi Beta alumnae meeting where I met another young alumna who wanted to spend more time traveling. We didn’t know each other well but continued to connect through the alumnae chapter and decided to plan a trip together. We spent two weeks traveling in Ireland, Paris and Prague!

"If you've never allowed yourself to fail you've never given yourself the opportunity to reach you maximum potential."