Chris Byington '12 

Major: French and Economics
Profession: Director of Analytics, Updater, San Francisco, Calif.
Hometown: Los Altos, Calif.

What are you doing now?

I am director of analytics at Updater, a NYC-based tech company that uses technology to make the moving process easier (think automatically forwarding your mail, connecting utilities, booking a moving company, etc). I am also COO of SagePost47, Pomona’s volunteer alumni-student mentoring program. Our goal is to foster meaningful career and life mentoring relationships between alumni and current students -- check us out at!

In my role at Updater, my team’s mandate is to use data to improve business outcomes. We do this by building infrastructure and providing education so people across the company can answer simple data questions themselves, undertaking deeper-level analyses ourselves to drive business impact and building intelligence into the product like recommendation engines or machine learning models to improve the moving experience for our users. I get to work with teams across the organization on projects that run the gamut, from working with our success team to define a client satisfaction metric to partnering with engineering to build an automated system to detect data errors. I love being able to touch so many different parts of Updater’s business and it’s fun to work on something new almost every day.

On the SagePost47 side I lead the group overall, and so am responsible for setting priorities for the program at a high level, organizing our members into teams and giving them direction, and interfacing with the administration. We’ve been growing a lot recently, and are now up to 13 student and alumni team members and over 100 alumni mentors. But my favorite part by far is the actual mentoring. I think many students are intimidated to reach out to alumni for mentorship, but the biggest complaint we hear from our mentors is actually that they aren’t reached out to enough! Alumni -- including myself -- tend to love talking with students about their careers and life in general, and I find it incredibly gratifying when I can work with a student to help them understand what career path they might enjoy, what major they should choose, or even how to ace their upcoming job interview. A few alumni mentors gave me great guidance when I was a student and I enjoy paying that forward today.

How did you get to there?

When I left Pomona I wanted to balance the academic rigor I enjoyed while in school with business impact.

I worked for three years as an analyst at Analysis Group (AG), a litigation consulting firm where I did the keyboard grease supporting expert witnesses in court cases. I loved the statistical rigor of my job, which was to conduct quantitative analyses like regressions that fed into expert reports which were presented at trial. Much of this work consisted of applying econometrics to answer questions of causality (“did the claims in a case cause financial damages, or were they just correlated?”). As is probably true for most first jobs, I learned so much there -- strict attention to detail, how to synthesize analysis results for non-technical audiences, and concise, clear communication.

After AG I moved further toward the business side of the spectrum and took a job at a tech company called Heroku, where I had a similar role to my current position, though much less senior and with less of a clear mandate to drive impact across the organization. I learned a ton at Heroku about working at a small, startup-style company, prioritizing business impact over work that was interesting only in theory, and time management -- there were probably four to five times as many projects as I had time for, and learning how to choose which ones to work on to maximize my ROI was crucial to being successful. When I learned about my current role, I sprung at the opportunity to work in a similar function but with a stronger directive to partner with teams across an organization.

How did Pomona prepare you?

Pomona taught me how to learn. I came to Pomona without a clear idea of what I wanted to do after graduation, but I was curious as hell and tried to take as many different types of classes I could while still satisfying the requirements for my majors. I remember that receiving a fresh course catalog and highlighting all the classes I wanted to take was one of my favorite times of the school year, and I lived for the day we were allowed to enroll in classes for the upcoming semester. In addition to the classes I took for my majors, I was lucky to take courses in plenty of other areas -- two years of German language, a good amount of math, an upper-division physics class and philosophy. I think taking courses across many different disciplines taught me how to absorb new material and ways of thinking and this skill has helped me quickly adapt to working in different industries and environments.

Working closely with professors who truly cared about my learning and academic development made a similarly huge impact in preparing me for life beyond the gates. The French department in particular was a cornerstone of my time at Pomona: Professors Virginie Pouzet-Duzer and Jack Abecassis both went above and beyond in helping me deeply engage with French literature, and I can’t thank them enough. VPD and I met one-on-one to discuss Proust once a week for a semester as part of an independent study she’s since turned into a full course offering, and Jack worked with me my whole senior year as I wrote my thesis, also on Proust. I owe them both a debt of gratitude for helping me in so many ways at Pomona, and I’m especially happy that we’re still in touch!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is a tough one! I’ve just started a new job, so I’m more focused on the present than on what will come next. However, it’s safe to say that I’d like to continue increasing the scope of my impact on organizations I’m a part of, using data to solve bigger and bigger business problems.

Any advice for students?

Yes, all the things!

  • Disregard others’ expectations, and instead focus on what makes you happy. If getting a consulting job won’t make you happy… don’t waste time pursuing one. And if you don’t know what will make you happy (surprisingly few people do!), get guidance from friends and mentors who seem to have cracked that nut.
  • Love your friends. They’ll still be around after graduation, but it’ll be so much harder to stay in touch.
  • Study abroad. Living in Paris was one of the most amazing experiences of my life -- a new culture, a different language, new friends, and lots of experiences you’d never have back home. 10/10, would croissant again.
  • Take classes way outside your comfort zone. If you’re a humanities person, take a tough math class, and if you’re a STEM person, take a literature class. You’ll be forced to find new ways to absorb information. When I do this, I swear I can feel my neurons rearranging themselves. And after all, being well-rounded was never a bad thing!