Kevin Feng: ‘There isn’t a normal day-to-day in the startup life’

By Jessie Ying

Kevin Feng graduated in 2018 with an MEng degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. He currently works as the Head of Data Science for a startup called Beam Solutions, which provides financial institutions with a SaaS platform that utilizes machine learning to detect suspicious activity in financial transactions.

We had a chance to ask Kevin a few questions about life after the Berkeley MEng:

What did you do after graduation?

I started work immediately after graduation and was actually already working part-time for my company for a few months before that. Luckily I had a lot of free time to hang out and vacation during the second semester since I didn’t have to worry about job hunting then.

What are you currently working on?

I’m now the Head of Data Science for a startup called Beam Solutions, which provides financial institutions with a SaaS platform that utilizes machine learning to detect suspicious activity in financial transactions. I’m responsible for our end-to-end data science pipeline and support the business side in areas like product management, sales, etc. A lot of people ask what my day-to-day is like, but there really isn’t a “normal” day-to-day in the startup life.

What have you found most rewarding about the work you’re currently doing?

It’s really exciting to see my work rapidly translate directly into a product that will benefit society. At a bigger company, it can be hard to see where exactly your work ends up downstream and it can be a while before you see it in production. Before coming to Berkeley, I was at a big firm, where I had to get through 6 months of red tape to implement Jean Fridays, so it’s nice to move at a bit of a faster pace. Plus I don’t even wear jeans that often.

It’s really exciting to see my work rapidly translate directly into a product that will benefit society.

What do you miss about being a student at the Fung Institute?

My buddies! This is a focused 1-year program where you’ll spend a lot of time with your cohort and have the opportunity to make lasting friendships with super smart and talented people. I don’t know that my friends necessarily fall into either of those categories, but the opportunity is certainly there. Just kidding.

How has the Berkeley MEng program helped you prepare for entering the field you’re currently in?

Data science has a very direct translation from what you learn in school to what you actually do on the job, which is pretty rare these days. Everything you learn in school, granted that you’re a data-centric major like IEOR or EECS, will be useful in your day-to-day work, so all the technical courses were super valuable me. Since I also work on the product and sales side, the leadership courses came in handy as well.

Do you have any advice for current Berkeley MEng students?

Don’t worry so much about finding a job early on in the program. If you came to the program to build technical or leadership skills, then work on building those skills! You’re getting an advanced degree from one of the best engineering universities in the world — take full advantage of it while you’re here and I guarantee (in a non-legally binding way) that you’ll be set up for a successful career.

Do you have a fun fact about yourself that you’d like to share?

I’m 5' 9" but tell people that I’m 5' 10". It’s one of the biggest hoaxes in America right now. They’ll probably make a Netflix documentary about it.