Gradient is now powered by windmills

Meet our newest team member, Stefan, from the Netherlands!

We can all relate to the thoughts of playing in the Major Leagues when we were a kid. It’s an indescribable feeling when you dream about hitting that near 100 mph fastball out of the stadium. This feeling became my reality as soon as I joined Gradient. The high-profile clients, excellent deliverables developed with meticulous care by using state-of-the-art modeling and analysis techniques make me feel like I’m batting in the MLB!

Feelings of uncertainty and doubt about the future are inextricably linked to being a recent graduate. However, after my first week at Gradient, these feelings vanished immediately. I’ve been taken in as if I was a long-lost son. At first, the transparency within the company was overwhelming, yet it is quickly becoming my favorite feature. It not only improves internal communication — it also makes me feel that, even after a week, I’m already a fully integrated employee.

Alright, enough about my feelings. Let’s talk about what my role as a Quantitative Analyst means for Gradient. But first, let me take you on my academic journey. I started my university adventure at the technical university in Eindhoven (TU/E). Wait, where? Right, I forgot to mention that I’m a Dutch citizen. I’ll be generating quantitative insights while sitting in a field of tulips wearing clogs. Anyway, I studied Innovation Sciences. Which is a broad term for everything related to the combination of technology and psychology. Afterwards I finished a more business related master’s degree at the Tilburg University (UvT) in Marketing & Management.

As you might know — a data scientist, or quantitative analyst — operates at the intersection of statistics, business and computer science. All these things are right up my alley, and make me into the utility player that Gradient has been searching for. For each new client, I will immerse myself into their business and understand their underlying goals, motivations and opportunities.

Once we have developed a hypotheses, obtained the required data and transformed the information into a usable format, I’ll get cracking on developing statistically robust models. Which is where a lot of data scientists call it a day — not me though, and especially not Gradient. We will guide you through our development process and surface meaning from the analysis.

Each project will require me to learn new techniques and explore new research topics. Not a single day will be the same. One day I might have to code non-stop to finish a sprint, while the other I will be practicing a client presentation in front of the mirror. Variety drives me, be it in my work or in my personal life, I never want to live the same day twice.

Working for an international company like Gradient resonates deeply with me. The cultural dynamic is extremely interesting and provides a challenging yet rewarding workflow. On a more personal level I enjoy learning about one’s background and cultural habits. Back in 2010, when I was 18, I went on a life-changing backpacking trip to Australia and New Zealand. Even more of a cultural shock came to me when I followed an internship in Dubai.

I’m adventurous by nature and my passion for the outdoors might be an obsession. Climbing in the Scottish Highlands, hiking through the Belgium Ardennes, camping in a French province or actually enjoying an outdoor bootcamp in my local town, ‘s Hertogenbosch. Besides the outdoors, I’ll be listening to music wherever I go. Spending hours on Spotify optimizing a playlist (of course accompanied by a meta-data analysis.) for every single occasion is one of my favorite past-times.

Now it is time to start my latest adventure with Gradient.




America is on the move

Wherever I travel, I ask myself if I could live wherever I’ve found myself. Is the food good? How are the parks? Are the people friendly? And most importantly, can I find a job I like and a decent place to live? Now that we are in prime summer vacation season, perhaps other Americans are asking the same question at their holiday destinations.

As the effects of the financial crisis are waning and housing prices have largely rebounded, Americans are again on the move. On top of this, many struggling cities are seeing population growth for the first time in decades and employers are following along.

We’re curious where and why Americans are packing up and moving. With some creative number crunching with Census Bureau migration data and beautiful mapping applications we built a few tools to visualize migration patterns. 

First, we tackle the simple matter of showing which cities are attracting more people than they are losing. Because cities are complex creatures and have an influence far beyond “downtown”, we used migration data from each of the 374 metropolitan areas (called “MSAs”) across the country to calculate the number of people that moved in and out to arrive at a net migration value.

The map below displays net domestic migration for each metro area. There are clear source and destination clusters. Check out the the industrial Midwest and Northeast — massive out migration. Meanwhile, parts of the South, Texas and Pacific Northwest are attracting many new residents from other parts of the country. Don’t forget about Puerto Rico — the debt crisis and economic malaise are driving a lot of Puerto Ricans to the mainland.

What surprises do you see? Columbus, Ohio and Des Moines, Iowa were surely not on my up-and-coming radar although both have large, well-regarded public universities that are attracting the region’s best students and, critically, providing opportunities and amenities to convince them to stay after graduation.

To me, the biggest surprise is the decline in large coastal cities in the Northeast and California. As a resident of Philadelphia and a frequent visitor to cities up and down the Northeast Corridor, LA and SF, the energy on the streets and sky-high housing costs seem to indicate an unstoppable resurgence.

So why are more people leaving large, established cities than are moving in? Well, one hypothesis could be that the sky-high prices and endless energy are deterring more people than they attract. Perhaps people who are moving to cities are wealthier and live in less-dense housing than residents who are leaving. This is definitely a question we will attempt to answer using predictive models and algorithms in the next phase of the project. (We’re really excited about this part!)

Having established which metro areas are growing or shrinking, we really wanted to know: “Ok, so where are Americans moving from?” and the inverse: “Where are Americans moving to?” The interactive map below shows exactly that. Pick your favorite (or least) metro area and select either Incoming or Outgoing migration change. Any surprises?

Most metro areas aren’t attracting too many people from far away. A long-distance move is certainly not the norm. There are a few exceptions, however. Take a look at the incoming migration to Atlanta —  thousands of people are fleeing NYC, DC, LA, SF, and Chicago for Atlanta.



This is just the beginning of our look into Americans’ migration patterns. Over the next few weeks we will be modeling the drivers to moving and embark on a deep-dive into one metro area to identify prime business opportunities using a site suitability analysis.

So while enjoying your summer vacation be sure to ask yourself if it’s somewhere you can live. You might end up moving there.

If you want to look under the hood, the source code is available here.