Charles GivreCEO and Co-Founder, DataDistillr

Can you describe your career path and how it has led to your current work?

I started as a music major and later on added computer science. Nobody told me until it was too late that computer science is really a math degree in disguise. During my final year of undergrad, I decided to venture into areas more aligned with my interests. One of which was middle eastern history, which led me to NEJS here at Brandeis. Initially, I thought I would become a professor, which was one of my career aspirations. However, by the end of my master's, I was getting a bit burnt out on school, and I attended a CIA job recruiting event which led to a job offer! I ended up working for the CIA for five years as a counterterrorism analyst. My next position was at Booz Allen Hamilton, where I served at the National Security Agency (NSA) for about seven years. I had many roles at Booz Allen including teaching data science and managing data teams. I was still interested in exploring different career options, and my next move was to join Deutsche Bank where I lead cyber data analytic efforts. About two years later, I decided to launch my own data analytics startup called DataDistillr which uses AI to help our customers rapidly explore and analyze data. With all that said, I really do love teaching and am currently an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where I teach graduate level data courses.

What services and/or resources did you use while at Brandeis for your career search?

I worked at the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry, where I ran the web presence, organized summer conferences and assisted with research. Ultimately, this helped me prepare for my first position with the CIA. I didn't really use resources at Brandeis for my career search, but I saw the ad for the CIA's recruiting session in the Brandeis newspaper.

What skills from your Brandeis degree have you found most valuable in your current work?

The experiences that helped me improve my writing skills have proven very useful so that I can write well. When it comes to writing, it is not just about organizing ideas but also about being concise—for example, being able to tell an effective story with data. One such technique is using data visualization effectively. Many people do this, but from my experience, few actually take the time to learn how to do it well.

I did not do much of that during my undergraduate program. Research skills as a graduate student are fundamental, and being able to present clearly and eloquently also matters. These skills have been valuable in my career journey and serve me well in my current work. To sum up, the ability to express yourself clearly and succinctly in writing is an invaluable skill that will serve you well, regardless of your career choice.

What advice do you have for current students as they embark on their job search?

Learning coding and analytic coding have been a concrete skill set for me. I advise students to venture into experiences that develop their analytical thinking and step outside their comfort zone to learn new things and venture into new experiences. Learn about the public sector and think tanks to stay updated on the career market. As someone in the position of hiring, I want to see evidence that someone knows how to do analytical projects before I hire them, that they know the methodology and how to implement it. Start putting yourself and your work out there.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently during your time as a graduate student that may have made the transition to your career easier? Or is there anything you did as a graduate student that you believe other grad students should do to better position themselves for a career?

Rely on your strengths to get opportunities that will positively impact your career path. Creating connections during my studies served me well. Those connections will help to put you in your areas of interest. Also, be open-minded about career paths, and don’t be afraid to explore and be creative with the opportunities that come your way.