Data obsessed

5 Mins read
Satellite view of a remote part of the Western Desert in central Egypt where highly eroded plateaus rise from the desert floor.

Learn why our alumni love working at Washington D.C. based Fraym – a company dedicated to revolutionizing data-driven decision making in Africa – and why they hire our graduates

By Rachel Hommel | GPS News

At the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS), our students are data masters. Trained with a strong quantitative background, many of our alumni look for opportunities to use their learned data skills in real life and in the workforce. For these alumni, Washington-based Fraym is a leader in localized analysis and the perfect work fit.

“Fraym is a human geography company,” said Rob Morrello, co-founder and director of data analytics. “We look for the intersection of data and spatial skills and translate that into insights for customers.”

Advancing geospatial data, Fraym was built to help fast-growing companies, development organizations and government agencies succeed in Africa. Building one of the largest and most accurate databases on African populations, GPS alumni are able to work on large, strategic accounts – from government agencies to multinationals – from day one.

“Our GPS hires exhibit a great intersection of data analysis skills as well as the ability to interact with geospatial data and arc map courses,” said Morello. “They have a broad understanding of the world itself, which is a fantastic skill when analyzing data and then making key decisions.”

Below we highlight three GPS data experts at Fraym and how they are informing decision making all over the world.

Melia Ungson, MIA ’17 – Analytics Team Lead

Melia UngsonGeneva, Nairobi and Lilongwe are just some of the cities Melia Ungson has traveled in her current role. Responsible for Fraym’s client engagements, she manages a team of data analysts and oversees projects in the commercial, development and intelligence sectors, while coordinating with company leadership.

“Projects change quickly, so every week (or day) is quite different!” explains Ungson. “I might start the day thinking through an analysis of the off-grid energy market, move on to a client call focused on agriculture, provide input on a proposal to support a retailer’s expansion strategy and then finish the day talking with a team member about professional growth.”

Regularly using the skills she developed through the quantitative methods sequence and her GIS courses at GPS, Ungson encourages a broad base of foundational knowledge, include building contextual knowledge focused on Africa, refreshing French language skills and practicing how to explain quantitative analysis in detail.

“While I have used skills or knowledge gained through many GPS courses, one cross-cutting theme is the ability to think critically about how to use and interpret data,” said Ungson. “I am forever grateful to the courses taught by Professors Jennifer BurneyGordon McCord and Craig McIntosh.”

Ungson also highlights the workplace ethos at Fraym, from flexible hours to a strong dedication to justice in the workplace, and how she is helping to start their diversity, equity and inclusion working group.

“I have appreciated the opportunity to engage in meaningful and important conversations and establish practices that foster an inclusive work environment,” said Ungson. “We are currently revamping the company’s recruitment and hiring processes to build a more diverse team.”

Eddy Chebelyon, MIA ’18 – Associate Data Scientist

Eddy ChebelyonPassionate about solving policy challenges with data, Eddy Chebelyon loves hunting for new data sources online and working in the data integration team. As a data expert, the majority of his time is spent developing new algorithms that reduce the amount of time required to process raw data so that it can be available for use by other teams.

“My favorite part of the job is being able to develop and use my coding skills,” said Chebelyon. “The myriad of forms in which we receive data makes this process very interesting and enjoyable.”

Having specialized in the International Development career track with a focus on technology at GPS, he believes courses like GIS, Advanced GIS and Field Experiments gave him the technical skills required for his current role. Additionally, the mentorship from Professor Craig McIntosh has proven immensely valuable.

“McIntosh is a wonderful teacher who helped develop my understanding of the importance of evidence and hard data for development, and opened my eyes to new career opportunities,” said Chebelyon. “I will forever be indebted to both him and GPS for the innumerable ways they have helped me in my career.”

Offering a fantastic work-life balance, Chebelyon feels motivated by his colleagues, including working alongside his best friend Quinn Lewis ’18 and his former teaching assistants Melia Ungson ’17 and Seulki Kang ’17. From talking about how to advance Fraym’s mission to the latest in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Chebelyon feels inspired daily.

“At Fraym, everyone is passionate about playing a role in real world policy and market development challenges, especially those facing developing countries with limited availability of data,” said Chebelyon. “The goal at Fraym is always to find ingenious ways of acquiring and using data to inform these issues.”

Yingtao Xie, BA/MIA ’18 – Data Analyst

Yingtao XieFor Yingtao Xie, GPS instilled in her a wide range of analytical skills vital to connect data to a client’s questions. Working as an analyst, she helps provide data solutions to these questions, which often evolve as projects proceed. Although she devotes about 80 percent of the time to the actual analysis, it is the client partnerships that matter most at Fraym.

“I believe brainstorming and client engagement are the key to a project’s success,” said Xie. “A project is not satisfactory if its deliverable is only filled with numbers and fancy models without answering the client’s questions.”

Starting with a very limited knowledge about Africa, her colleagues helped her gradually build up her contextual knowledge about the area. Thanks to her training at GPS, she feels confident in all aspects of data analysis, from brainstorming to deliverable preparation to client engagement.

“Qualitative knowledge is highly valued at Fraym, and this is ideal for me because I enjoy a mix of stories and numbers in my work,” said Xie.

Currently, about half of the analytics team at Fraym are GPS alumni, which is proof of the great match between Fraym and a GPS degree. With flexible schedules, professional development funds and a generous vacation policy, Fraym offers a friendly and collaborative office for Xie to call home.

“Since Fraym has a horizontal structure, there are few barriers between new employees and senior people,” said Xie. “Opportunities to connect with advisors and colleagues in the Kupanda Capital system, Fraym’s parent company, are extremely valuable for personal development.”

Want to work at Fraym? GPS alumni advise to…

“…build critical skills through quantitative methods and GIS courses. In particular, focus on analytical skills that help you understand a client’s use case and develop action-oriented insights from quantitative data. At the same time, take every opportunity to refine your communication and interpersonal skills.” – Melia Ungson ’17

“…know your way around data and how to glean and demonstrate important insights with it. Most importantly have an insatiable appetite to learn, both from your colleagues and from experimenting on your own.” – Eddy Chebelyon ‘18

“…have solid quantitative skills (Stata, R and GIS), strong communication skills – the ability to handle client’s questions without being defensive – and analytic skills such as the ability to develop a clear logic flow and answer the question.” – Yingtao Xie ‘18

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