Ben Newton
Jul 29 · 4 min read

In this episode of the Masters of Data podcast, I am joined by Michael Herskovitz, the SVP and Co-Head of Global Operations and Technology at AllianceBernstein. Previously, Michael worked for UBS, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Zurich Scudder Investments. Michael joined AllianceBernstein prior to the financial crisis.

Michael gives us a peek into his background and his experiences in finance and computer science. His interest was piqued in high school when his computer science teacher made assignments revolving around gambling theory. Furthering the interest, his aunt, a professional astrologer, would ask for his help in charting formulas for astrology. Both of these experiences allowed Michael to have a practical application of programming. Michael’s postsecondary education consisted of a mix of finance, computer science, and math, preparing him well for his entrance into the graduate business school at Carnegie Mellon University.

Michael’s education was a great stepping stone to the next years of his career. Michael found himself being a researcher and then applying analytics to data sources. Once he was at AllianceBernstein, he focused on the sell side, using data to form portfolios.

Michael shares how research is changing from a just looking at fundamental economic data, but towards using analytical data to your benefit. This includes using it to understand who your clients are and who your clients should be. He also advises that, while the industry is highly focused on forecasting, it’s beneficial to consider what is happening currently. I agree and reference how companies that are getting real-time data and applying analytics to it are doing well.

Michael and I discuss Michael’s article, “Good Data is a Lifestyle Not a Project”, and how he came to write the article. It began when he sensed reoccurring issues happening, where data seemed overwhelmingly challenging and many solutions were only to mask it, not actually solve the problems. Michael also mentions how people can use a “valet method”, where they drop off a problem for someone else to take care of and then come back a few days later to pick it up. Michael shares what solutions to these problems of masking and data valet have worked, including how it’s important that he gets his colleagues to buy into what the issue is, getting them to see, think through, and solve the issues for themselves. Michael and I also discuss applying a systems management approach to data.

As a final tip, and lifestyle motto, Michael shares a previous professor’s wisdom, that data is not worth looking into unless it’s challenging. Michael has found that living by this idea has lead him to where he is now, to the challenges of data, and to be able to really see and appreciate the opportunities in data that the advancement of technology has allowed. Michael also suggests that for anyone, no matter what sector or career he or she chooses, it is important to take a statistics course. The same lessons and books that he was taught back in high school are still helping him and are still applicable today.

Outbound Links & Resources Mentioned

Interview Transcript — https://www.sumologic.com/podcast/data-lifestyle-michael-herskovitz/

Michael Herskovitz. 2018. “Good Data is a Lifestyle Not a Project”

Find out more about AllianceBernstein by visiting their website

Connect with Michael on LinkedIn

Check out more episodes of Masters of Data: https://www.sumologic.com/resources/podcast/

Takeaways

  • Michael began his career with an initial start in finance.
  • Michael’s start in programming began with practical application.
  • Because of his background, Michael found himself understanding object-oriented programming and client-server technology well.
  • There’s a research pivot in the industry towards using better analytical data to understand clients, who you should sell to, what markets make more sense than others, and alternative sources of data.
  • Within the industry, there is a large focus on forecasting, when actually it may be better to know what’s currently happening.
  • It’s important to go back and understand reference data, which sometimes requires alternative solutions
  • A data steward is someone who has the most vested interest in the quality of data and quality of the information. It is possible to have multiple or different stewards who deal with different data.
  • Michael has the motto that challenging data is worth sticking with and looking at.
  • Big trends that Michael is focused on: 1) understanding how to use data and combine it with machine learning and language processing
  • Not taking a statistics course at some point in your educational curriculum will be disadvantageous to your career later. It’s important to understand how to analyze and manage data.

Newtonian Nuggets

Thoughts on what's going on in technology, data, analytics, culture and other nerdy topics

Ben Newton

Written by

Proud Father, Avid Reader, Musician, Host of the Masters of Data Podcast, Product Evangelist @Sumologic

Newtonian Nuggets

Thoughts on what's going on in technology, data, analytics, culture and other nerdy topics

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