Leaving the UW

10 May 2018

It has been six months since I left my job as a data scientist at the University of Washington. I joined the UW in 2012 with the personal goal of helping students graduate with less debt. I (naively) thought this would be possible by making a university more efficient. If students can graduate faster, if the right courses have more space, if UW funds are spent more intelligently, then everyone would benefit.

I spent 5.5 years doing this, over 3 of them as the UW data scientist studying student behavior. During that I built dozens of tools to help the UW run more efficiently, such as:

Tools to Help Students

Tools to Help Faculty/Staff

None of these ever saw the light of day. To my chagrin and horror, I realized there were no incentives for most staff/faculty to help students graduate with less debt, to help their department run efficiently, or to make bold/risky decisions.

Looking back, my work was doomed to fail, and I was blinded by hope, and didn’t see the clues:

Eventually I realized that my efforts were not helping students, and they never would. If I wanted to change the UW to help its students, its faculty, and its research, I would need to make organizational & political changes, not technical ones. That’s a job for a different person.

So, I left for a different job, with the same motivation as in 2012: to make the world more equitable and just.