Introducing Team Gradient’s newest member

Kyle Block, Gradient’s new Research Manager

As Gradient’s newest employee, I’m thrilled to be working with such a talented crew on some fascinating assignments. Admittedly, I was a little intimidated by the abundance of brains and expertise, but we have quickly developed a strong camaraderie and settled into a productive cadence. In the first few days alone, I’ve come to appreciate the responsive and efficient approach with which Gradient approaches research. Having had the opportunity to design and execute research for a diverse set of global clients, I know first hand that a lean and flexible research design is essential to getting clients the exact data and analysis they expect.

I’m no stranger to quantitative research, having spent the past 7 years in various capacities using data to help managers make important decisions. I love seeing how the combination of the right research question, data, and targeted analysis can uncover a completely unexpected finding that changes the direction of an initiative, campaign, or upends an established hypothesis. It’s even more gratifying to work on projects with so many different applications, from learning how Sesame Street programming helps young children learn in a developing country to mapping how the population in an upmarket neighborhood has changed over time and investigating the drivers behind it. I feel way too fortunate that I get to spend my days (and the occasional night) learning about people and their habits, motivations, triggers, emotions, and relationships. I used to tell myself that I “understand” people, but I continue to be surprised and have my assumptions overturned, so I’ve learned to approach every new project with a fresh perspective and no expectations.

While Gradient already has an impressive lineup of brainpower and fascinating clients, I hope to draw upon my diverse experience in emerging markets where the growing consumer class is not well understood. Thanks to mobile phones, the marketing tools and mediums available to emerging markets are not drastically different from those of more established economies. That said, the way in which marketers appeal to this new wave of consumers requires foregoing all prior assumptions and investing in extensive formative research to appreciate the values of a new culture before you can even begin to think about analyzing a dataset. I’d like to help Gradient glue together the cultural context and high-level analytics to ultimately produce analyses that are statistically rigorous but not blind to their surroundings. I’m also a lover of maps (see below) and commonly think the best way to make a point that nobody can refute is to toss your arguments on a map. Too often we overlook the importance of spatial relationships and how our environments affect us. There are many promising applications of spatial analysis that I’d love to incorporate into Gradient’s standard methodology, such as analyzing the performance of our predictive models by ZIP code or neighborhood.

I feel quite fortunate that my professional and personal interests align quite nicely, which is a good thing, right? I’m a super adventurous traveler. I’ll go anywhere — the more far-flung, bizarre, unheard-of place the better. I’ve been to more than 40 countries and enjoyed (with one exception) every single one — you can ask me which one over a beer. When I travel, I’ll eat or drink anything and prefer to spend at least one full day with no map (which is hard for me!) and just a good pair of walking shoes to truly get a sense of a new place. My ideal Saturday is one spent exploring a city on foot with no itinerary or objective.

I just graduated from The University of Pennsylvania with a MS in Spatial Analytics, which might sound like years of misery for some, but was as close to academic heaven as I could get. Full disclosure: I really like maps, I can’t get enough of them. So much so that I have a designated map wall at home and have spent enough time staring at satellite imagery that I can recognize the footprint of pretty much every major city in the world. Thankfully everyone at Gradient embraces nerdiness, so I can be open about my strange obsessions. At Gradient, we all have them, I assure you!


Introducing Team Gradient’s newest member was originally published in Gradient on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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