Featured Alum: Tyler Ames – From Economics Major to Data Science Consultant

Who is our interviewee?

Tyler Ames works as a Consultant in the Data Science department at Mather Economics, an Atlanta-based business consultancy specializing in applied economics. Most of his current projects involve using data to boost digital subscription revenue and reduce digital churn for news media clients. Prior to joining the Data Science team, he managed print subscription pricing and strategic initiatives for domestic and international news media clients.

Tyler grew up in southeastern Virginia and studied at the University of Washington, where he graduated with a B.S. with Honors in Economics in 2017.

How did you start your career in Consulting? What are some of your most significant responsibilities in your current role?

After graduating I wanted to head to a large city in the Southeast, so I applied to various economics-related positions in Georgia, D.C., North Carolina, and Texas. I chose to come to Atlanta and join Mather largely because they worked heavily with the news industry and were in the beginning stages of what is now robust international growth. I have always been a huge fan of newspapers; even as a child I recall thinking of them as a sophisticated source of usefully summarized information for people who enjoyed learning. Later, I edited my high school newspaper and collected (of all things!) newspapers during my international travels to various countries in South America and Europe. I also followed news organizations from dozens of countries on Twitter in college because I liked having first-hand accounts and diverse perspectives on current events. Having the opportunity to now work with the same companies’ senior leadership and strengthen the business models of the very organizations whose writing I have enjoyed for years is truly a privilege.

The consulting roles at Mather are probably a bit more technical than traditional consulting positions, and they’re also unique in the sense that we typically provide analytics to our clients on a full-time basis, not on one-off projects. My current role involves processing, querying, and reporting data to develop digital subscription strategies for various clients. The tools I utilize most to accomplish this include SQL, Stata (a statistical programming language), and Excel/VBA. Previously, I managed subscription pricing for numerous print publications, which involved generating renewal prices and performance reports for clients on a weekly basis in addition to holding frequent calls (often weekly) with clients to discuss these reports and overall strategy.

As for me personally, I have a unique role at this company because I speak foreign languages (Spanish, Portuguese and German) that are relevant to our international expansion. I help to prepare presentations and participate on calls in these languages that have translated to opportunities to meet with major clients in Colombia, Argentina, and Brazil this past year. Getting the chance to leverage my passion for foreign languages at work, particularly as part of one of Mather’s main strategic initiatives, has been a pleasant surprise and one of the most rewarding experiences of my career thus far. As the world becomes increasingly connected through technology and the relative ease of international travel, consultants who can effectively communicate cross-culturally will likely have a unique advantage in terms of scalability.

 

How did your education at UW prepare you for your career? What was your undergraduate major?

I majored in Economics at the UW, and I certainly feel that I wouldn’t be where I am now without the experiences I had there and the foundation they provided me with. In the classroom, my coursework taught me to think critically and helped me to discover my passions, learning from and with exceptionally bright and knowledgeable people who shared and often transmitted those interests to me. Constantly reading perspectives from varied viewpoints assisted me in building strong analytical and communication skills, and diving into the bases of disciplines like economics, math, statistics, and computer science provided me with the strong technical background necessary to tackle the data-related business challenges I face every day.

A lot of my personal growth at the UW also had to do with developing a “soft skill”: perseverance. Once I figured out that I wanted to study economics, I realized that I needed to take math courses to apply for the major. To the university’s credit (though to my dismay at the time), these courses were graded on a strict curve. I struggled tremendously in that series at first, but I had already made my mind up with total clarity that I wanted to study economics, so I started spending hour after hour (including- indeed, especially- on weekends) for weeks on end taking practice exams. Little by little I improved, and I ended up passing the series with flying colors and enjoying math so much I minored in it. The experience taught me to pursue what truly matters to me, gave me some needed self-confidence, and opened a ton of doors for me both academically and professionally.

 

What are the biggest challenges of working as a consultant? What are the biggest highlights?

One challenge of working in this role can be the initial stages of developing relationships with clients and persuading clients to accept our recommendations. We usually provide our recommendations based on a combination of our data analysis and our experience with firms from across the industry, but sometimes clients remain somewhat hesitant to follow all of our recommendations. A relationship with a client, just like a relationship with anyone, has to be established by building up a strong rapport over time and consists of listening carefully to the client’s needs in order to properly address them, doing what you say you’re going to do, and consistently exceeding expectations.

Working on corporate-level strategy with senior leadership from across the globe is certainly a highlight of consulting. On a daily basis you address company-wide initiatives, and for most client engagements you feel that your work has a real impact. The problems you’re solving are very diverse and let you acquire vast knowledge and learn many skills at once. You are often regarded as an expert in your field, and you’re essentially in the business of solving problems. The challenge of daily problem-solving in different areas for diverse types of clients can be quite fulfilling on a personal level, and clients genuinely appreciate when your hard work helps their company.

 

What can current college students work on in the present if they want to ultimately be in a role like yours? What are some examples of similar roles?

I would recommend that students hone their communication and technical skills because without both a consultant will not be able to generate the kinds of relationships necessary in this line of work. Clients will expect you (rightfully so) to be on your game in terms of the figures you’re presenting them with as the basis for their business decisions, and you will need to be able to explain those figures and convey the results of your analyses in a clear and compelling fashion. An exceptional analysis will be wasted if clients and team members don’t understand it, and an expert communicator will lose clients’ confidence without fine-tuned analytical skills to implement requests efficiently and correctly. In terms of landing a role in consulting, relevant internships and campus leadership experience will likely help your cause. For example, I joined the Economics Undergraduate Board as an undergrad to hone my communication and leadership skills, serving in various roles at different points in time like President, Head Tutor, and liaison to other on-campus organizations.

Similar roles to mine on the more quantitative side (thus with presumably less client-facing work) would include data analysts and data scientists. From my understanding, similar entry-level positions at most management consulting firms require more frequent domestic travel than my role and, as I mentioned earlier, involve more one-time projects, but they also provide plenty of client-facing interactions.

 

Any final words of advice for students interested in careers in consulting?

The more preparation you can do, the better! Choose a relevant major that interests and challenges you, take your coursework seriously and try to learn in-demand skills (e.g. querying and programming languages), and stay well-rounded by pursuing extracurricular activities that allow you to develop and demonstrate the abilities that employers value such as leadership and communication. Best of luck!

By Eli Heller
Eli Heller Career Coach Eli Heller