Staff Spotlight: James Cousins, Analyst ManagerReading time: 4 minutes
In the Staff Spotlight series, we highlight the experience, expertise, and interests of a member of the Rapid Insight team. In this first entry, we highlight James Cousins, who began his work with Rapid Insight six years ago as an analyst. As he gained experience and knowledge, he progressed to his current position as Rapid Insight’s Analyst Manager.
Background and Education
James was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. During his high school years, he worked as a construction laborer. He attended Dickinson College, where he earned his B.S. in Mathematics, and went on to earn an M.S. in Data Analytics from Johnson and Wales.
However, math wasn’t always James’s chosen field of study. Initially, he intended to pursue a career as a ballet dancer, which is a highly competitive field. When it became clear that dancing would not be a viable option, James shifted his focus to mathematics, which he found interesting due to its broad applications across many professional fields.
After graduating, James was offered an internship by a friend who shared his mountain biking hobby: Mike Johnson, the Director of Institutional Research at Dickinson College. Through his work in IR, James discovered how valuable analysts are to universities, and quickly developed a passion for the field. When his internship concluded, James was offered a staff position, which he accepted.
A New Career
James frequently used Rapid Insight’s Predict in his analyses at Dickinson College. When James’s employment contract came to its end, his supervisor suggested that James inquire with Rapid Insight about open positions, and as luck would have it, an analyst position was available.
Accepting the job meant moving from Baltimore to Conway, New Hampshire. This was a significant shift for James, and allowed him to work in a compelling job located in an outdoor recreation paradise. Copious hiking and mountain biking trails run through the White Mountain National Forest, right in Rapid Insight’s backyard.
James loved that the new position offered him the ability to “pinch hit” on a variety of institutional research projects for universities across the country. As James puts it: “Being able to fully invest in the projects our customers need second sets of eyes for is the definitive perk of working for Rapid Insight, in my opinion.” James is able to keep a foot in the world of IR and constantly learn from users’ work.
Data Specialties and Expertise
The experience and training in predictive modeling James gained at Dickinson College makes him particularly adept at assisting customers with modeling quandaries. “There are a lot of techniques and algorithms in the larger discussion that comprise the concept of predictive modeling, and I enjoy digging into the finer points of different algorithms,” he says.
James sees his work with users as a partnership rather than a one-sided support process. Rapid Insight’s users are an excellent resource for gaining new knowledge and a broader understanding of how to assist other customers with data projects. Forming connections and points of reference between the wide varieties of applications that Rapid Insight’s users put the software to allows James to assist customers in finding unorthodox and unexpected solutions to their own problems.
Over the six years he has been with Rapid Insight, James has continually focused on expanding and broadening his knowledge base and skillset. This means he can offer advice for users that applies both inside and outside of Rapid Insight’s software applications. “I’m learning a lot about supporting solutions like R and Python, and also information systems. I really enjoy being able to offer knowledge and experience when users mention systems they are on-boarding or considering.” If you’re looking into new systems, it’s likely James can offer some helpful input.
Favorite Data Projects
Two particular projects stand out to James among the many he assists customers with on a daily basis:
“In one case, a model designed to predict fall-to-fall retention was not producing as nuanced an end-result as desired. In particular, it only captured risk. The customer came up with the idea of predicting a first semester GPA instead, which allowed the school to identify patterns of both underperformance (risk) as well as patterns of over-performance. This paved the way for an innovative strategy that allowed counselors to mitigate risk as well as to praise (and learn from) success.
The second case involved the need to have actionable information as soon as a student arrived. To that end, another customer of ours asked us for some help looking into a model that predicted a likelihood of ending up on academic probation in the first semester. The thrill of the process was that academic probation kept showing up as a predictor of retention risk. This user had the thought to cut straight to the source of the challenge and predict academic probation directly. Reimagining the timeline and the outcome is the beauty of mixing analytical methods with contextual expertise.”
Outside of Work
In his spare time, James enjoys the unique hobby of pen collecting. “Sometimes I’m more poetic about pens & ink and sometimes it’s more practical,” he says. “In either mood, delving into the world of pens, then later, fountain pens, has made writing an exciting process for me, for work or for personal reasons alike.”
He puts his collection to good use by keeping in written correspondence with friends.
James is also environmentally conscious and views sustainability as an important issue. He enjoys woodworking, cycling (both on a road bike and on trails), videogames, reading, and cooking.
To connect with James and the rest of the Rapid Insight support team, email email@example.com or call 888-585-6511.