April 11, 2019

Employee Spotlight: Dr. Erem Kazancıoğlu, Senior Data Scientist

Erem Kazancıoğlu, Senior Data Scientist

Our mission at Protenus is to advance the science of healthcare by bringing together creative and skilled individuals who are passionate about the security, usability, and applicability of health data. As this information becomes more voluminous, comprehensive, and, as a consequence, more vulnerable, we are building scalable, insightful solutions that address critical issues preventing the efficient, safe, and effective delivery of patient care.

Our team is comprised of a diverse group of people who come together to achieve this shared mission. To get a glimpse into our culture and highlight the diversity of our team, we’ve asked Dr. Erem Kazancıoğlu, Senior Data Scientist, to share more about his experience working at Protenus.

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What’s your role at Protenus, and what do you do?

As a Senior Data Scientist, I use mathematical modeling and large data sets to enhance the Protenus platform. I focus on privacy analytics for our platform, working to detect suspicious activity inside a patient’s medical record. I work on improving our classifier algorithm, perform research on new feature ideas and integrate them into the product. I also field data science-related questions from our customers.

What did you do before coming to Protenus?

I earned a PhD in evolutionary biology from Yale University and a lot of my work involved mathematical modeling and data analysis. After a two year postdoc at Uppsala University in Sweden, I returned to the US and worked as a programmer at a genetic testing company. While in Utah, I attended a data science bootcamp where I learned some of the key skills necessary to be a successful data scientist. Protenus was one of the hiring partners of this program and I interviewed but I did not get the job! Instead, I began working for a media analytics company in Northern Virginia and as a result, moved to DC. I stayed in touch with Protenus and two years later, it all worked out and I joined the team in September of 2017.

What initially attracted you to Protenus?

When I came in for the interview, I felt a great, welcoming vibe. People were very relaxed and they seemed to genuinely enjoy being around each other. I also noticed pretty quickly that the office was not just a place where people came to work every day, but Protenus actually harbored a living, breathing culture. During my visit, I noticed that several people, including Nick (CEO) were wearing the same Star Trek T-shirt, which turned out to be one of the several running themes people came up with at the office (this one: Phaser Friday). Another thing that stood out during the interview process was when I was asked to give a presentation about an area of interest to me. That could have been stressful—but we had a great discussion. The conversations I was having were effortless, which is pretty rare in a job interview. By the end of the interview, it all clicked—I felt like I fit in. I remember how excited I was to be joining Protenus, and I still am.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my role is problem-solving with the rest of the team. We work in a very collaborative environment so you are never really alone in your research bubble. Our team is a group of very smart, motivated, experienced and yet, very humble people. This makes it very easy to discuss how you’d like to approach a problem, remain open about the issues you are struggling to resolve, and leave a meeting with clear next steps. It’s a dynamic environment that keeps you challenged and always enhancing your skill set. 

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since starting at Protenus?

Customers add incredible value when you involve them in the development and evolution of the product. At Protenus, we consider our customers as an extension of our team. Their feedback is taken seriously and frequently gets incorporated into the product. In fact, we have an entire team focused on customer success, dedicated to making sure that the voice of our customers is echoed throughout the organization. I find this aspect of my job to be very rewarding and motivating, as it strongly connects my work to real-life applications of the product and the people it impacts.

How has working at Protenus impacted your career?

Working at Protenus has really enabled me to enhance my technical skill set. Our platform is cloud-based and our analytics run in distributed systems, so a lot of my day-to-day work involves coding in Scala and working with Spark and Amazon Web Services (AWS) applications. I was familiar with these before I joined Protenus, but now I can confidently say that these are some of my core skills. Also, the Data Science team includes several very experienced Data Engineers and I am learning a lot from them.

What has surprised you the most about working at Protenus?

The biggest surprise: how transparent things are. This was emphasized when I interviewed, but it didn’t make an impression because “transparency” is something companies say a lot. But soon after joining it hit me—things are different at Protenus. Every Monday we come together as a company and talk about our progress and pain points, and everyone’s input is welcome and appreciated. We also get frequent updates on financial progress. At Protenus, transparency is not just a buzzword, it’s something I see people live every day, and this motivates me and connects me to the company.   

In 10 words or less, how would you describe the culture at Protenus?

A collaborative, welcoming place where work-life balance is strongly supported. 

Our team is growing quickly! Keep your eyes on our career page for positions you find interesting.

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