“Anything that has exact measurements, I love. The fact that you can use Math and Statistics (especially Econometrics) to formulate solutions to economic problems amazes me.”
For Edward See, a Sr. Economic Analyst on the Infotech Consulting team, there is great beauty in precision.
“I love to test things in the kitchen – baking and cooking. You know, cooking requires exact measures; if you screw up the measurement you don’t know what the outcome will taste like or look like.”
Finding the accuracy in carefully cultivating his yard, in framing the right shot for his photography, or, yes, while creating in the kitchen, there are few places where Ed cannot apply his love of precision. This attention to detail brought him to Gainesville almost six years ago when he was recruited by Infotech Consulting and asked to move back to the hometown of his alma mater.
“I didn’t find Infotech, they found me, actually,” he said. “I was [working as a Labor Economist and Consultant] in Tallahassee and when I heard about the job I was like, ‘It’s in Gainesville? Sign me up.’ I mean, I’m a Gator. It was like a homecoming for me.”
It wasn’t quite that simple of a decision, but it almost was. While evaluating if Infotech Consulting was the right fit, Ed did what he did best and looked at the data around service years. Everyone had around 10 years of experience, at the minimum.
“The fact that everyone stays that long means there’s something really good going on. It means people only leave because they retire,” he said.
Firsthand experience has shown him the thing he loves most about the team of consultants: they take care of each other, always checking in, especially when the hours are long and the reports are due. And the hard work is something Ed doesn’t mind. In fact, he rather enjoys the more challenging parts.
“I’m always the one saying it’s nice that our work is hard, because if it were easy then our clients wouldn’t need us. So the more complicated it is, we should love it,” he said. “That should be the thinking for everyone; the reason why you’re hired into a job is because you’re suited for the job. So always hope that your work is hard, because anyone can do it if it is easy.”
Hard work requires a way to unwind, however, and over the last year, if you were to find yourself on a Zoom with Ed in his home office, you might see one of his favorite pastimes hanging on the walls – rows of guitars.
“It’s my oldest hobby from way back when I was in high school. Music is in my veins,” he said, leaning back to show off the instruments. “It’s easier nowadays because there’s YouTube, you can find a tutorial to replicate whatever people or bands are doing. But way back when I was learning, I didn’t have that. We saved the music from FM radio to a cassette tape and then we played it back and listened to the guitar and figured it out.”
Most of the time, Ed plays metal or classic rock songs from Bon Jovi, Metallica, ACDC. But sometimes he ventures into a very different genre.
“Every now and then, here comes my daughter and she will ask me ‘Daddy, can you play Frozen 2?’” he said. “And sometimes I learn, because she loves to sing along.”
There’s not a lot of down time, being a parent, a consultant, a chef, a gardener, a photographer and a musician, among other things, but that’s not stopping Ed from always looking for more challenges to solve with beautiful precision.
“I’m like a jack of all trades, I would say. I can learn quickly and adapt to many situations. The more confusing or harder the situation is, the more I love it because I’m learning.”
“Economics was an elective at my high school but it sounded boring, so I elected not to take it.”
Now a professional economist with decades of experience, published research, federal court testimony, and an econometric technique named after him in STATA, Infotech Consulting’s newest Economic Expert, Dr. Kevin Caves, didn’t start college with a plan to major in economics.
In the mid-1990s, Kevin was studying abroad in Mexico City, just when the Mexican economy was reeling from the devaluation of the peso. He witnessed the devastating consequences to the real economy–and to real people he knew personally. It was only natural to try to understand the processes giving rise to these economic disasters. This culminated in his senior thesis after returning to Haverford College: An economic model of the so-called Tequila Crisis. But how could he test it empirically?
“I was able to contact some Mexican financial regulators and, after a lot of coaxing, I got them to send me some data…This was the ‘90s, so I had to convince some Mexican bureaucrats to copy a bunch of data onto a floppy disk and mail it to some kid at a college they’d never heard of in Pennsylvania.”
The Haverford economics department agreed that the data supported Kevin’s theoretical model, allowing him to graduate with honors. After college, Kevin worked in the International Research division of the New York Federal Reserve Bank – yes, the one from Die Hard With a Vengeance, in which international criminals hatch a (truly preposterous) plot to empty the Fed’s gold vault and truck out the loot through an underground aqueduct.
“It’s the one place where you can work on Wall Street without being an investment banker or corporate attorney, which lets you actually experience New York City instead of working 90 hour weeks,” he said. “If you take the tour of the Fed’s gold vault, it’s not a particularly glamorous place; it’s a basement with a bunch of semi-rusty cell blocks and each one has a country’s label at the top of it. When there’s a transaction between two countries, they’ll get out a forklift and move the gold from one to the other. I think the Die Hard franchise wisely decided it was not sleek enough for Hollywood, so they shot most of the heist in some immaculately shiny bank set.”
As a graduate student at UCLA, Kevin’s research interests branched out beyond international economics. His thesis focused on modeling how consumer demand for cigarettes is influenced by advertising, taking into account the dynamics inherent in an addictive product; he also did research on firm-level productivity estimation. In his professional career, he’s worked on everything from pharmaceuticals to high-tech platforms to international finance to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (to name a few). And he’s continued to publish on a regular basis, finding that consulting often leads to some of the most interesting research questions.
“That’s the great thing about econometrics,” he said. “You have the tools to study almost anything–to make sense of it in surprising ways–as long as you can get your hands on some data.”
One month into his new role at Infotech Consulting, he’s already finding opportunities to do just that, and more. And the future view is expansive.
“I’m excited about applying my skills to new projects here, meeting new clients, doing new research, and just seeing what’s coming next in this industry–because there’s always something around the corner. Infotech is in a great position to capitalize on the next opportunity, whatever it is.”
As the Director of Data Management and longtime analyst, Paul Manning is always looking at data, something that makes a decent amount of people go cross-eyed even hearing the term. But to him, it’s not just points on a graph.
It’s the details of all the different ways to describe carpet.
It’s the recipe for making paint.
It’s the list of random things that get shipped via airplane cargo.
Where some see spreadsheets and scatter plots, Paul has an innate curiosity that has kept him exploring case after case at Infotech Consulting for 30 years.
“People might think that just sitting around crunching numbers all day, looking at the data is boring, but we get to work on so many different projects.”
Every case brings with it a new subject to dive deep into, analyzing the facts and figures that help the team discover insights from the data. It’s not for everyone. To meet the needs of clients, Paul and the Consulting team often have to develop a thorough knowledge on areas outside their typical scope – even on things like titanium dioxide.
“Titanium dioxide is a chemical used to make white paint. It can’t get any more boring than that, right?” Paul said. “But it’s not boring to me. I mean, if I ever need to buy paint for my house now, I have all this information and can go talk intelligently with the salesman. Learning about an industry aids in deciphering the data and can be personally beneficial if I need to buy paint or carpet.”
He remembers fondly a case about airplane cargo, where the data points were more unusual than most.
“Air cargo was one of my favorites, because it was totally different. It’s not a product per se,” he explained. “Instead of people selling something like a chemical or consumer product, this project involved selling cargo space on an airplane. And there weren’t many characteristics of it that we could use in our modeling. It’s just stuff, put into an airplane and measured by weight.”
The case was about a surcharge being added for fuel, so to understand their transaction data Paul and his team had to research what was actually being shipped. It led to some peculiar discoveries.
“We do get excited about things in the data. In air cargo, we were looking at the data and someone would say, ‘Wow they shipped a horse,’” Paul said. “It’s all these weird things that we obviously know – of course horses are being shipped, because they get from one place to another – but actually seeing that they put horses on airplanes and ship them and how much they pay for it is exciting.”
There’s more to 30 years of experience than a lifelong curiosity, however. Few people would remain in a workplace that long simply because they enjoy one part of their job in particular, and Paul is no different, he said.
“It’s the whole gamut of things. I obviously love the people, and the work is always challenging and different. Sure, from today to tomorrow it might be the same stuff, but over time there were many new problems to solve.”
It’s more than cases and data, too, as far as new challenges go. As Infotech Consulting grows, interns are a common sight in their team meetings, and Paul has become a part of mentoring the future analysts. Sometimes they even graduate and come back to join his team.
“Paul has been crucial in my development at Infotech,” the most recent member of the Data Analysis team, Michael Smith said. “As I’ve been learning, I’ve probably asked him many foolish questions, but he never makes me feel as though they were unreasonable. I’d feel comfortable asking him any question at any time, and I really appreciate that about him.”
It’s no surprise that Paul understands potentially overwhelming transitions. His education includes a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and a master’s in mechanical and aerospace engineering, which helped land him work for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company as a Senior Engineer. That’s right, Paul was a rocket scientist before he started with Infotech Consulting. Jumping from one industry to another, collaboration is one of his strengths that carried him through. He started before the Consulting team was even half the size it is now, each person sharing all the responsibility.
“It was totally different when I started out, just Jim, Cindy, Joe, Barbara and a few other people that have since left, but I think that’s it. It was a very small group so we all did everything,” he said. “There was a lot to do, it seemed like we were always busy. But it was something to look forward to, coming to work; everyone was like me, geeky data people who like analyzing stuff.”
With 20 employees now, 4 teams, three expert witnesses, and interns in flux over the course of a year, a lot has changed. Not in a bad way, Paul said, as the culture is the same. Now there’s just more of us.
“After spending 30 years here I don’t have anything to compare Infotech to, but just knowing people outside of work tells me that this team is totally different from any other group of people I’ve ever met,” Paul said. “I don’t know anyone like them. We’re a unique bunch that have melded together to do this thing, all because Dr. Jim McClave had this great idea and he found people that liked helping him with it.”
In response, Dr. McClave said, “Well, I might have had at least a decent idea, but without folks like Paul joining the team, the idea would have died on the vine. Paul came to Infotech with his “rocket science” intelligence and his willingness to take on the toughest tasks. In the 30 years Paul has been with us, I have never heard him say anything like “it can’t be done.” Quite the contrary — Paul loves the challenge of complex and difficult projects, and he has consistently overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. In short, Consulting’s success over the past 30 years is due in no small part to Paul’s role as a player and leader on our team.”
It’s quite an anniversary to celebrate with one company. Decades of experience and a wealth of knowledge about enough different subjects to make Paul anyone’s favorite trivia partner. And, as a lifelong student of whatever he gets to study next, he’s not going anywhere just yet.
“I think what I’ve learned over the last 30 years about everything in this business – from stats to data to law, and more – that’s the accomplishment I’m most proud of; learning everything there is to know about what we do.”