Alumnus Conquers Wild Frontier of Data Science

Businesses have been trying to get into the minds of their customers for centuries. Now they’re closer than ever.

While there’s still no mind-reading device on the market, there is data — about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created per day. And that data can reveal customers’ preferences, from time of day they’re likely to go shopping to the deals that will grab their attention. The key is knowing how to interpret that data and use it correctly. And that’s Daniel Stiefel’s specialty.

“We’re taking the guesswork out of business,” Stiefel explains.

Stiefel sees his education as a never-ending process, and his experiences at UCF reflect that. A communications major, Stiefel also dabbled in political science and history. He soaked up experiences in Greek life and clubs as well.

“UCF was an extremely positive experience. I intended to go into a technical field, but I wanted those non-technical experiences as well,” Stiefel says.

That well-rounded approach continued into his career. After picking up an MBA at Emory University, Stiefel discovered the value of data as head of East Coast operations for Office Max. The data set was massive, with thousands of products for purchase across thousands of locations. Point-of-sale data helped Stiefel and his team build promotions, sift out the dud products and pinpoint the big sellers. Slight tweaks added up.

“One percentage point change still impacts the bottom line,” Stiefel says.

Stiefel also brought his insights to Church’s Chicken, where he continued studying customer patterns through data. Data guided decisions on menu combinations and marketing campaigns tailored to local, regional and national levels. The technology he depended on for these decisions continues to develop at an accelerated pace, making it possible to dig deeper and generate more granular results. 

In 2010, Stiefel set out on his own and started his own consulting business called Steeful. His employees deploy intricate algorithms to help businesses interpret existing data and capture future data in comprehensive but easy-to-understand reports. Just as the technology has changed, Stieful says his hires are also bringing more diverse backgrounds.  A competitive resume not only includes data analytics, but experience in computer science and programming as well.

“The old days of being a business manager and not knowing computer science are over,” Stieful says.

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