Hao Tong, Class of 2011
Major: Statistics, Minor: Mathematics
Why did you choose Statistics as your major?
I was always good at math and at the time I wasn’t exactly sure what I was interested in. So I decided to study a quantitative major and start from there. I read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and found the concept of psychohistory quite fascinating, so I decided to study Statistics since that was what psychohistory was based on. I guess I got lucky and realized that I was really interested in Statistics, and I didn’t look at anything from there.
What did you like most about it?
To me, Statistics describes one of the fundamental law of universe; it is deeply philosophical to discover that a aggregation of unpredictive individuals somehow becomes predictable when the population gets large enough. I remember how much I was in awe when learning probability theory and how that fundamentally changed the way I view the world. The ability to understand that law will brings insights to so many things. Plus, you get to build models that literally predict the future!
What is your current position, what do you, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I’m a Senior Data Scientist at a mobile game company called Tilting Point at NYC. We look at our player’s data in order to gain insights of their behaviors, and also make predictions on various aspects of business metrics and user behaviors. I was the only data scientist in the company for two years, but now my team has grown to six people strong. I love that I was able to use various modeling techniques to do really cool things, and sometimes literally predict the future—which was why I got into it in the first place.
What was your first job after Rutgers and how did you get it?
When I was graduating, the market was still severely affected by the 2008 financial crisis and unemployment was around 8%. I interviewed constantly for 4 months, but got nothing. It was a very stressful period of time, but also a time of great growth. In the end, I was able to get three offers at the same time, and I accepted an offer as a Data Analyst at a pharmaceutical company,
How did you move from that first job to your current position?
It’s been a long journey. The company I worked for got acquired and I didn’t want to work for the acquirer. So I switched to consulting company, where I worked on a lot of different projects in pharmaceutical and finance industry. The experience taught me that I loved programming and data science, and I didn’t really like big corporations. So I joined a small mobile game startup afterwards and couldn’t have been happier ever since.
Looking back, what classes or experiences at Rutgers would you point to as contributing to your successes?
Domain knowledge aside, the most important lesson I learned was what it means to take responsibility. In the end of the day, you reap what you sow. You are the only one who takes responsibility for your actions. It’s not easy, it’s not comfortable, but if you pull through, you will reap the benefit.
What advice do you have for our current Arts and Sciences students?
This is probably the best time to explore, so go out there and experiment, both academia wise and life wise. Get out of your comfort zone, don’t say no to new experience, and don’t worry about what others say. Experience new things, learn about yourself, what you like, what you don’t, find your passion.
Knowing what you want in life takes a lot of effort, but if you invest time in it, you will be richly rewarded in life.