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Economic and Workforce Development Expert Returns to UB
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Ewan Simpson, MBA '10
Alumni Snapshot
Ewan Simpson: Helping government agencies through 'Big Data'

Ewan Simpson, MBA, '10, is a territory manager at Socrata, a global leader in software solutions designed exclusively for digital government. In this role he helps local governments address transparency and operational efficiencies through better access and contextualization of data. He works collaboratively to help agencies use data to address systemic issues on a daily basis.

Merrick Exchange: How did you end up at a "Big Data" software firm based in Seattle? 

Simpson: Like a lot of people, I got involved with my current job through a friend. In fact, that friend and I crossed paths in UB's entrepreneurship program and we still kept in touch. I developed a good network at UB and have realized that it's vital to your growth and success.

Merrick Exchange: Where did you get your start? What led you to your current position?

I actually got my start at UB. I worked full-time while earning my MBA. I helped create and manage what was then called the Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center. As a new program, I had to cover a lot of ground by overseeing program development, marketing, board relations, and events. I always gravitated towards the interactive parts of the job, so when I graduated, I jumped at a junior sales position with a local IT company, Social Solutions.

Merrick Exchange: Please describe your current position as a territory manager at Socrata.

Simpson: As territory manager for Socrata's northeastern territory, I oversee a team that focuses on supporting existing transparency and performance initiatives, like Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's Open Baltimore and OutcomeStat. I also educate and support prospective data initiatives. I work to improve collaboration and best practice sharing between peer municipalities and across geographic regions.

Merrick ExchangeWhat are some challenges that you, your department or company are currently facing in the industry?

Simpson: Our company was really one of the early movers in "open data," and we've continued to grow over time which makes us a target for an increasingly competitive space. When you're an industry leader, you're vulnerable to all kinds of attack and misrepresentation and price warfare. I continue to succeed by creating value for current and perspective partners regardless of resources or size by listening to problems and working collaboratively to find solutions.

Merrick Exchange: What were your expectations in pursuing a career in software sales?

Simpson: My expectations in working in software sales have always been about creating opportunities for the clients I serve. Working in nonprofit performance software and now in government transparency and performance, it's always been about helping these organizations do better. The fact that I can work with Baltimore City means a lot to me personally since I'm a resident of the city.

Merrick Exchange: What advice would you give to students who might want to pursue a career in sales or with a Big Data company?

Simpson: I think popular media sensationalizes careers in sales, as "easy and sexy," but it's not. For me, authentic sales is really about understanding and addressing needs over the long-term. You have to be committed to creating value without a sale in order to create the sale.

The things happening with big data and open data are really exciting and it doesn't require you to be a coder. A lot of cool and substantive analysis can be done in Excel. Play with data, see what insights you can derive from something like health inspection. Check out Ben Wellington's site, IQuant, and see if you can't use some local data to identify some trends.

I was never a techie, but I think it's important for people to have a better grasp on coding and should take some introductory courses around how to create with code.

Merrick Exchange: What's the one job-hunting secret you wish all students knew?

Simpson: I've been lucky with jobs because they came through my network. Create a network of peers and friends and keep in touch with them. It's much easier coming in as a referral than as email in an inbox. Invest in preparing for interviews and ask meaningful questions. Those are items I always look for when interviewing folks.

Merrick Exchange:  Why did you choose to attend UB?

Simpson: UB has always had a reputation as a school for people who are seeking real-world practical skills. I was always more interested in the practical versus academic application of knowledge, so I knew it was the right place for me.

Merrick Exchange: How has attending UB helped you in your career?

Simpson: UB opened my eyes to more than just the connections at the University. Through UB faculty and events, I was introduced to a larger business community which still supports me today both personally and professionally.

Merrick Exchange: What personal goal have you set for yourself this year?

Simpson:  Practice what I preach—become better at turning data into information and to improve (develop) some coding chops, even if it's small.

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