An extremely brief, hopelessly incomplete and insufficiently witty autobiography
I was born in NYC to Russian immigrant parents–my father screamed “I have an American!” in the hospital immediately thereafter. During an idyllic Lego-filled childhood I discovered philosophy by bugging my religion teacher about God’s corporeality. When I was 9 my parents and I moved to Wisconsin, and when I was 10 I started programming my sister’s old 286 in BASIC. My interest in computers led to the ruination of several household machines but eventually I sort of figured it out.
After high school in Wisconsin I went to the University of Michigan, where I studied philosophy and computer science. In my senior year I first became interested in normative theories of decision making. It was a very short jump from normative theories to descriptive theories (inspired by Quine’s naturalized epistemology, I reasoned that you needed the descriptive to get to the normative), and I was drawn to behavioral economics and began doing research for a professor in the psychology department, Stephen Kaplan. After a few years working as a programmer I applied to graduate school to study this field, and ended up going to Carnegie Mellon University to study Behavioral Decision Making. This proved to be a great decision, as lots of organizations have become increasingly interested in using behavioral insights to improve their outcomes. I also happened to meet my lovely and talented wife in Pittsburgh.
Six years and many failed (and a few successful) studies later, I decided to abandon the slow pace of academia to work on technology again. I had actually kept a foot in the business world; in my fourth year, I cofounded a data analytics consulting firm, Farsite, with a friend from college. This experience helped me apply for jobs and after one unsuccessful interview, I interviewed again and received an offer to join Facebook as a quant analyst in risk management. I joined in November of 2010, and fluid as startups are, I eventually joined Finance and got to work on many interesting data problems across much of operations: risk management, ads, customer service, small business support. After about 14 months (and enough free evenings to finish my PhD thesis) there I really craved to work on something more directly behavioral again, so I interviewed for a job at Google as Quantitative User Experience Researcher and was accepted. I moved to Boston. I worked on social research within Google+ for a while, and then doing data analysis for several of Google’s K-12 education projects. Following an exciting opportunity, I now find myself a product manager at AirBnB in San Francisco.