Meet Jennifer Flashman, Director of Analytics at Tinder
Data, analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the glue to much of Tinder’s technology, but it’s much more than that to Jennifer Flashman, Ph.D. Dr. Flashman serves as the Director of Data Analytics, managing trust and safety, core experiences, and performance. She joined Tinder after an impressive career in Sociology. Using her skills to get to the heart of the data, she and her team find meaningful and fun ways to improve the member experience. Find out how she made the switch from academia, finding her passion reimagined at Tinder in Data Analytics.
This is a recap of The ConversAItion podcast, which you can listen to in its entirety here.
Making the jump from academia to tech
After obtaining her Ph.D. in Sociology, working in technology was not top of mind for Dr. Flashman. But when she realized academia left a lot to be desired, she looked at her options.
The switch wasn’t very intentional; it was actually accidental. I was a bit disillusioned by the world of academia. I saw a job posting from Tinder on a listserv from my undergrad. After talking with a fellow alumnus, who encouraged me to apply, I got the job. I found that it was a great fit that solved my problems with academia.
Swiping right on data analytics
For Dr. Flashman, working in Data Analytics proved to be the environment she was seeking.
In academia, things were slow. I felt like I didn’t impact anything. I loved my research, but it gets old when you spend two or more years working on the same project. It was a little isolating because you’re basically by yourself. Data science solved all these problems, where I could work fast with a team of people that I could always bounce ideas off. I lucked into a great first role, where I had a lot of freedom and autonomy and where people listened. It was just fantastic.
Where sociology and data analytics meet
While Tinder is a fun way to create connections, there’s a great deal of sociology behind how members make their choices. This intersection is where Dr. Flashman found her niche.
I was interested in Tinder because it helped me get back to a lot of the academic work that I used to do. I studied friendship networks in academics. I was really interested in how people choose their friends, and then ultimately, how those friendships impacted their behavior.
Tinder is actually very similar. We have created this app that shows you a bunch of people, and you get to make a choice, yes or no, on everyone that you see. In contrast to the real world, we just get to see the yeses and see who people end up with. You don’t actually see who they could have ended up with, but didn’t. On Tinder, we get to see that trace process, which was the most intriguing thing about it to me initially,
Aligning work with the culture
Joining Tinder allowed Dr. Flashman to merge her sociology work into her new career path. What she also found was a culture that was true to the company mission.
What’s great about working at Tinder is it’s quite fun. In the office, too, we know we’re Tinder. I don’t think we take ourselves too seriously. Ultimately, it is meant to be a fun experience. We try to bring that into our work, as well. Our work should be fun; it’s not rocket science. But it really does influence people’s lives. And I think that we have this nice balance of meaningful work and fun, and that all comes together at Tinder.
Shifting gears due to the pandemic
The pandemic altered the way people could interact. To help people remain connected, Dr. Flashman and the team worked to deliver meaningful experiences to Tinder’s members.
We saw a shift from a very global world to a hyperlocal world, which was our first look at things. Over time, as people were spending more time at home, we saw a real upswing in engagement. Our members were generally swiping more, messaging more, and spending more time on the app. Those trends are actually driven largely by our youngest members, like those 18 to 22-year-olds, and women in particular, which was very interesting.
In response to a lot of these trends that we saw, we opened up our feature called Passport. It lets you place a pin anywhere in the world and lets you swipe in that location as if you were there. We made that free to everyone that April, and we received a huge response to that. It was our attempt to help our members scratch that itch to get out of their house and travel and at least kind of virtually meet people around the world.
Leveraging AI responsibly to build a better future
AI is only as ethical as the people designing it. At Tinder, the future is bright as Dr. Flashman and her team work to improve member experiences for the greater good.
The thing I love most about Tinder is that it gives people this opportunity to meet people who they wouldn’t otherwise meet in real life. Before Tinder, it was a question of who we were potentially going to meet for a date? It would be someone I met in a bar, a friend of a friend, someone in my neighborhood or someone at work. Tinder broke that open and said, ‘Hey, none of those things necessarily matter.’
When I think about AI and what role it plays at Tinder, I want to make sure that it is continuing to fuel those opportunities. So not narrowing those opportunities, but giving everyone the ability to see that broader world or meet people who you wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to meet if you walked outside the door of your house. Every time we think about how we optimize our algorithm or how we use the information that people provide, it’s something that we have in the front of our minds, making sure that we are still enabling that access and that opportunity.