This northern west coast based duo did something amazing when they put out, “Invisible Monster” on their 2012 self titled summer release, “Dpbts!”. The song has been my morning laundry folding music on repeat, repeatedly. Acting as the second layer of comfort to my impulsive cereal eating. The stumbling saw-synthetic production cut the wings off of an angel as a sacrifice, allowing for the fallen to walk. Enchanted nothings, sympathetic habits, and “I can’t wait to hear see these guys live.” is what takes up time in my thoughts when Dpbts! do their doings.
We got in touch with one of the leading brains in data analysis who for years now, has been steadily working up the ladder and is now a V.P. at an industry leading company based out of Cupertino, California. To be successful in the world of data one has to be extremely smart, innovative, and boring… right? Well TA is far from boring. Living the life of a modern day Axel Rose with a computer in his hand rather than a microphone. He has taken the industry by storm and is having way too much fun doing it.
LLL: I’m personally really interested in your ability to maintain focus through what I would perceive as extremely harsh environments.
TA: Hahaa…Like, how harsh?
LLL: I mean, you are a body that is capable of taking in a fuck ton of information. I’ve seen you work, I’ve seen how much brain power that must take and then also in your social life. The amount of data coming into you from a social aspect is insane and I just think to myself, “How does a person survive like that?” what do you think it is that makes you capable of such focus?
TA: I think it’s because I fucking love it. It’s all super fun to me. Whenever I’m in [a moment that demands supreme focus from me] I feel like I’m in a key moment of my life, which always feels nice.
LLL: So you feel like you’re in a key moment of life all of the time, haha?
TA: Haha! Yeah pretty much, that’s how I feel right now. That’s why I’m so willing to do whatever, for whatever, because I enjoy doing it all.
LLL: So do you ever get urges to work on stuff related to your job? Like do you get that panic feeling to look at a massive data set and try to understand it?
TA: Yeah, totally.
LLL: What do they feel like for you?
TA: I guess it’s the deep down urge from back in Colorado of just like… I just want to fucking crush as hard as I possibly can. Just for the fun of it. And also, how far you can take it, and still crush, you know?
LLL: What do you mean?
TA: Like for example haha, I went out to Atlanta one time to work with [an extremely large cellphone company]. This other company was doing media analytics for them and we were doing all their data and everything underlying. The other company was a piece of crap company, I destroyed their company in the past and I just want to crush their company again. I was going up against one of their co-founders and this guy was supposed to be leading this whole day of brainstorming, strategy sessions, and technical conversations and everything. Like.. he was going to map out the whole fucking underlying data structure for these guys during the ingest, how we are going to shuttle data around the web for them and how they’re going to do all their offline data analysis and pull that into the online space.
TA: I went out with this one dude from their team who was local to Atlanta and we just rolled so deep man, it was ridiculous!
LLL: Haha, what’s “rolling deep” mean?
TA: Like, this dude was just mashing through the city in his BMW and he knew everyone in the town so we just went from spot to spot. This first guy we met was this super old mechanic dude, like grimy…gritty. We just chilled on this guy’s porch… the dude was a super odd character. He had shit in his house because he liked to rebuild engines.
TA: So we did that and then went and partied until 6am and I had this meeting at 9am so I get back and I’m like, “wow I gotta sleep!” I’m supposed to be leading this enormous meeting tomorrow and I’m going to try and go in and take the meeting over from this co-founder guy and not let him say a word because I want to be like, “we’re your strategy!”.
LLL: Hell yeah man!
TA: So I walk into this meeting and just crush the whole session, the whole day long with different groups rolling in like their offline people, onsite people, their analytics people…
LLL: I mean, is that hard for you to focus through? Like, isn’t it more of a challenge that way?
TA: No! not at all, I perform better when I run like that.
TA: Yeah, because I like to be like, “How far can I take this shit and STILL absolutely crush it?” These guys can’t tell what I did last night and who knows what they did. They probably got 12 hours of sleep and made dinner with their family.
TA: Which is a great thing because I’ll STILL be crushing it even when I have a family.
LLL: So you just make it like a game so you enjoy your time there?
TA: Yeah, it’s fun. Like last night, we partied pretty hard: I did some good work emails and then what’s his face showed up and was like, “Let’s party.” and I was like, “Alright, lets party!” hahaha
LLL: So let’s imagine, we get in the car and you take me down to Cupertino. Walk me through the last time you were in the office.
TA: When was I last in the office? Hmm… Thursday? Yeah, Thursday. I sort of do whatever is available to be done.
LLL: Like a roamer? a cruiser?
TA: Uhh, I roam on everyone’s projects and try to help with everything but then I also hold down all my core responsibilities like one-on-ones with the guys on my team.
LLL: And what team is that?
TA: Solutions Engineering and Consulting. Which I renamed because we were way more technical than a services team, which is what we use to be called, Strategic Services. But I renamed the team because we really are engineers. We build integrations between us and other companies purely based on data.
LLL: And what’s the point of renaming a team? Is it so that they identify with and feel more confident about what they are doing?
TA: Yeah, that’s important… it’s also important for recruiting so you attract the right people. Engineers definitely have a better profession right now, they get paid more, they’re more highly sought after in the market and I wanted something good for my teams resume going forward and when they leave. And it…Yo! What up!!
Tyrone is super popular apparently.
TA: But yeah, it was also a personal decision because I wanted engineering in my title because I felt I was way technical enough to be called an engineer so I wanted to be called it haha.
LLL: That’s insane, you got to the point in your career that you were able to define yourself, not many people have that.
TA: Yeah, and the best way to absolutely crush it is the more you are able to be yourself in all environments. Like now when I go into work, I don’t try to be professional because I am, professional. I don’t do anything that’s outside my character.
LLL: For sure. That’s the only way to go.
I take a second to relight a half burned jazz cigarette and at that exact moment the neighbor came walking up the steps, super cool and happy because he had just rented the 4th chapter of Twilight. I wonder how deep his heart sank when he saw the absolute piece of shit that “movie” was, and will forever be.
TA: But yeah, average day I typically get in at 10am or 11am, try and get some emails done, eat breakfast, see what’s going on in my social scene, go to some meetings, I always have meetings.
LLL: Are your meetings intense for you? Is a lot expected from you in them?
TA: No not always, I mean sometimes I have to put information together and that takes some work but it’s easy, I don’t ever feel like anything’s overwhelming. You could put me in a room anywhere in the world and have anyone come in and start talking about their data and their business and I would be able to hang no problem, I have no fear on that front.
LLL: So what would you say is your biggest success that you’ve had in your industry?
TA: Well, I know my shit very well but I also work hard on this stuff, I study everything. Any piece of information that comes into me I don’t ever need to learn again.
LLL: But what about a more typical goal?
TA: Well making VP at [my current company] was a huge goal of mine but that’s not like really doing something like building something.
LLL: Well what about something like that?
TA: It was before I even came out of school when I went to do my Masters and I was one of 6 people in this program.
LLL: Which program was that?
TA: Biomedical Informatics.
LLL: What the hell is that?
TA: It’s the study of enormous data sets, which is the informatics aspect and then biomedical informatics is that, applied to the biological and medical space… like electronic medical records and writing the correct prescriptions. So many people die every year from doctors having bad handwriting. They write out a prescription and send it over the thing, the pharmacy fills it and it’s the wrong one. So fixing problems like that would be a huge goal. But like one of my major accomplishments was when I was in this class…
LLL: What was your class?
TA: I think it was just our open project course or maybe it was biological programing…
LLL: Where did you go to school?
TA: Haha yeah but anyway, we had to write an algorithm and build a visualization to show how a protein folds. Trying to find a stable protein is super hard, it’s one of the hardest challenges in data, math, and science today.
LLL: So, how do you map protein with data?
TA: Well data describes proteins, you can break them down to what they are from a molecular stand point and see what molecules are going to bond or not and how stable they will be or when will they meet their breaking point. So you break all that down into numbers so you can throw it into an algorithm and have it predict all the combinations as quickly as possible. But there are so many combinations that you could build a fairly good algorithm and it wouldn’t resolve for a year, and that’s on a super computer just jamming through so many combinations. But if your algorithm isn’t built well it’s just going to keep going.
LLL: An unresolved algorithm…ahh!
TA: Yeah, and we had this French guy who had the best algorithm at protein folding in the world and he was teaching the class so I was like, “Shiiiiiit! I’ve gotten myself into something that’s way above my head!” and I was on a team who was relying on me to do the coding to figure out the folding of this certain protein.
LLL: Oh shit…sounds shitty.
TA: Yeah and there was a PhD in physics who was doing the physical modeling and structure so she knows her shit like, solid! There was this other dude who was a doctor who was just coming back to learn more so yeah.. uhh… it was a crazy team to be on.
LLL: Man that sucks, because if you mess up your part, you mess up the whole project for everyone else.
TA: Yeah, and I had to learn a new programing language to write this code and at the time I didn’t think I was a great programmer at all, so I was worried, for sure.
TA: But then I just CRUSHED this program in so little time, it was the quickest program I’ve ever written. When I tested it I found one bug, fixed that immediately, ran it again and it was like, AHH I JUST CRUSHED THAT SHIT!
LLL: How long does something like that take?
TA: I mean I definitely did an all nighter and a ton of time in the lab…maybe like 36 hours to build that.
LLL: That’s an insane amount of time to be sitting and staring at a screen. Do you see that in your industry, people with body issues, back issues, and I’m guessing everybody has glasses because they’re nerds haha.
TA: Yeah that’s definitely one thing in our space is that people don’t tend to take care of themselves super well.
LLL: It makes me wonder how things might run better if people like you had time to workout and clear their minds. Because, and don’t take this the wrong way, but people like you basically run the world, but the world runs so clunky so it’s almost like a reflection of the internal self of the people creating our world.
TA: Yeah for sure, I feel like I’m pretty good now. There have been points in my life where I have felt pretty unhealthy but now health is super important to me and I gotta work out at least 2-3 days a week if I’m not traveling, because when I travel I’m definitely not working out and am barely sleeping haha.
LLL: But you might be swimming and scuba diving when you travel so…. hahaha
TA: Hahaha yeah, when I’m on vacation for sure! Scuba diving is a really good workout, you burn a lot of calories just keeping your body temperature up and it’s super peaceful because you have to only focus on breathing and exploring, but the main thing that you can’t fuck up is breathing, so you don’t really think of work or anything and since it’s such a great workout you can come out and just party.
LLL: I thought it was dangerous to drink and dive.
TA: They say you’re not supposed to but in Bonaire, we partied our ass’ off and went diving so now, I believe that is a myth.
LLL: It probably isn’t the safest thing though huh?
TA: Yeah, it’s dangerous but…
LLL: Hahaha! It’s crazy, music has fallen to the wayside of technology so now, guys like you are modern day rock stars. Because what are you guys doing? Partying long nights, waking up early as fuck, destroying shit, and swimming in infinity pools. It’s really crazy.
TA: Yeah, I love it!
LLL: So with all this data online how do you guys keep it safe?
TA: Well we use MD5 Hash with a salt. Which is funny that they call it a “salt” because you do have to make your own recipe to make it your own and to keep it safe. But now there are hackers that know how to to hack MD5 Hash by laying out huge mapping tables and they run through these mapping tables and try all these fucking combinations until they are like, “Oh! that’s it!”
LLL: So they just build an algorithm to run through all that?
TA: They just apply MD5 Hash to every key in the world and produce every value and that’s what they store in the table and then they go through and try and find your encrypted version and it tells you the key.
LLL: So when you talk about hacking and what you do…
TA: Which is not hacking haha.
LLL: Haha yeah, it’s like good vs. evil.
TA: Yeah it’s protection. We’re hardcore on security, for sure. We constantly have to study how people are trying to hack our data and we test ourselves on how to hack our own shit.
LLL: Who does that for a company? Do you guys hire hackers to make attempts at your data?
TA: No, we don’t hire hackers. We have an info security team which definitely helps us with our contracts because you’re not going to have your data jacked like you might with these other scrub companies that don’t even have enough money or resources to invest into an info security team. That should be a companies first question when looking for a data management platform like us… “Hey do you have a info security team?” “Do you focus on user privacy?”
LLL: Yeah, that’s super important.
TA: Yeah and we have a head start on other companies because we’ve been in data forever and we’ve only been in data so we only think about data and how to utilize it, how to protect it, how to organize it, and how to shuttle it around the internet without dropping crumbs of data along the way. And right now, that’s something we do extremely well, we transfer about 95% of your data, other companies out there, our competitors, transfer like 40-50%
LLL: Oh damn!
TA: It’s a joke, you call yourself a data management company? Yeah, you sure know how to keep all that data in there, but you sure don’t know how to do anything with it, you’re a piece of crap solution. That’s another thing… I want to destroy competitors like that.
LLL: Who’s your competition?
TA: It would probably be bad for me to say I want to take this and that company out of business buuuuuut… let’s say, lets take Aggregate Knowledge out of business, just from a competitive stance.
LLL: Ok, I mean that isn’t you being malicious or mean, you love competition.
TA: Yeah it’s just me wanting to be a better company than them.
LLL: Yeah that’s fair, without a strong sense of competition there wouldn’t be any meaningful advances in the world.
TA: Yeah, even though they’re barely competition.
LLL: But still, it’s fun to compete.
TA: Yeah, it’s fun, and if you’re not competing you’re losing and I don’t want to lose so I want to crush AK because I already crushed them back when I was at [my last company] doing online optimization. AK has had like 6 business models and they’re still taking funding and still trying to make it. No one at that company is going to make any money whatsoever because they are probably so far in debt.
LLL: What did you do at your last company?
TA: I was the client services manager. I put together optimization programs for companies, I told them what to test on their site.
LLL: So what’s on your mind now? Something that you want to make?
TA: Well when I came out of college, I worked as a consultant for 10 months, which was really cool. The company had a really hard time auditing outpatient visits and they would audit them to make sure the insurance company paid what they should pay. There were so many different codes to what you had done when you’re an out patient so they couldn’t account for all those codes because they were going through and auditing manually. They would just have kids out of college flip through pages of out patients which was crazy so I was like, “Uhh, couldn’t we have a computer do this?”
TA: Like do you guys really want to employee everyone at your company to flip through all of these records when you could have a computer do it and do it way better? So I created an Excel macro that did the work of like 5 people working 24 hours. I took the CSV that came from the hospital and threw it into Excel and it Excel had enough rows to handle it. If there were more rows you would have needed something more robust to handle it.
LLL: Pun intended.
TA: Hahaha Yeahhh! So I built this macro to mimic the same steps I was taking when I would audit manually. So you could put in a whole out patient file and click a button and in less then five seconds that whole file was done. I even had it set up so that it was writing my audit letters as it finished auditing.
LLL: Man, so you were saving a ton of time at work! That’s amazing.
TA: Yeah, the medical world is so inefficient and because of that, there is so much money lost. If there was just a software that plugs you into the insurance company and with the latest version of the insurance contract for that patient with all the details mapped out in a database and you’d just build API’s (ways for information to be sent from one application to another) to allow for all the communication to occur, so all the billing occurs naturally, there’s never any errors because insurance companies screw the world over. Insurance companies are the worst. They by default deny 17% of all claims just randomly because they know no one’s going to follow up. I don’t know how it’s not illegal, probably because no one has spent the time to investigate it and prove it, but it’s true, for damn sure.
TA: It’s like me walking into a store and wanting some Johnny Walker Black and asking, “how much is this? Oh, $65? Ok well I’m just going to take it and if you want money for it just call my room mate.” Then I’m going to have 5 people talk to you first, here’s a number you can call, call my brother, ask him for the $65 and he’ll tell you… ummm… I can’t do that. Then you can escalate it and call my parents and have them try to get me to pay and I’m still not going to pay.
LLL: Hahaha! Then they’ll have to call God and ask for the money.
TA: Yeah, hey God, you think you could help us out down here, the insurance companies are really screwing us, you think we could build a software that would stop all this manual intervention and actually do things properly? We’d save so much money for hospitals. That would be something I’d like to build and it’d be super easy to build.
LLL: That world is so fucked. I don’t know how anyone who works for that type of a company gets any sleep at night.
LLL: So what’s up next for you and your current company?
TA: I just want [my current company] to be one of the premier data companies in the world and I want it to go down in history as one of the best data companies in the tech space ever, and I think we already are that. People are learning more about us but I know what we are and we are gangster! There are tons of people to support me, lots of other great opinions to tweak my ideas, people with their own ideas for me to learn. It’s like being in a graduate program, we’re getting our PhD in data right now, marketing and analytics data.
1865 – Earth
Emily McLean’s new video for the stripped down and dream like single, “Last Act” comes from a place I think we all can put our finger on. Whether she meant it this way or not, who knows, but the cool thing about art is, you get to take it how you want it. With so much shit competing for our attention today it’s obviously dulled us as a society. We no longer function as unit of rich culture because we’ve put too much artistic attention into technology. The modern day rock star is an engineer at Facebook or Dropbox, point being, artists are being drawn to new fields of societal importance. I though of this the moment Emily pushed from her lungs…
“No one calls, anymore/
The last great act, was performed long ago/
Bears walk tight ropes scarecrows croon/
no one laughs, anymore
With all the advances in technology it has gotten easier and faster for us to become bland and impatient. It’s strange to talk on the phone with close friends and Jimi Hendrix died September 18th, 1970 in England. How do we find ourselves again so that the art can find us? Emily’s song is a ghost, her talent is alive and shit is getting real.