Each quarter, InsightHub highlights a different Alliant team that executes important behind-the-scenes functions for DataHub Members. This edition introduces Lou Ferreira, Ping Ye, Kierstin Kohn-Sandoval, and David Larsen, the developers who build and maintain Alliant’s Extract – Transform – Load (ETL) processes. These are the complex routines that manage all data flows into the DataHub.
The ETL team specializes in analyzing complex CRM files from multiple sources and designing the code that will apply customized business rules that transform the data into Alliant-compatible formats. The resulting normalized data sets ensure that all transactional data is uniform, detailed and ensures the security of Member business information.
Lou, Director of Data Integration, has been with Alliant for 13 years. He manages the team, creating accurate and consistent business rules for ingesting incoming data. He is an avid pasta eater and an expert speller (he even won his 8th grade spelling bee!)
Ping joined Alliant in 2016 as a Senior ETL Developer. Ping is committed to fitness, often seen around the office doing jumping jacks and taking frequent walks.
Kierstin joined Alliant in 2014 as a Production Specialist. After several years assembling and shipping custom Audiences for Alliant Members, she moved over to the ETL team. Kierstin enjoys hiking with her dog, bike rides and gardening. She is looking forward to going to concerts again!
Dave has been an ETL Developer at Alliant for two years, with a special focus on creating and maintaining variables. When not in the office, you can find him eating Hawaiian pizza with his wife (and college sweetheart!)
What does a day on the ETL team look like?
Lou: We work across many teams to make ETL happen — Alliant has many new Members coming onboard and each new dataset requires a lot of preparation. Collaborating with Data Governance and Analytics, we do a rigorous audit of the Member’s data, conduct an internal data review, build a custom data mart, map source to target data, and then we write the ETL scripts. It really is an art!
How would you describe the value of ETL to the Alliant DataHub?
Dave: Critical. It is essential to have accurate data which both maximizes and optimizes the DataHub for our Members.
Ping: Plus, when data is in a standard format and decoded, that’s when it works best for developing analytic variables and models — and allowing accurate scoring.
Does data security play a role in your day to day work at Alliant?
Lou: Data security has always been a core value at Alliant. We separate consumer PII (personally identifiable information) data from transactional data as the first step when receiving the information. When we ship an audience, we use a “link-key’” to join the consumer to their data — prioritizing privacy at all times.
What has helped your team become more efficient reaching your goals in the past year?
Lou: Collaboration. The team works together closely on every data integration assignment. Each team member attends the data audit reviews — so we learn together how to handle ingesting and arranging different data.
Kierstin: Collaboration is foundational. We also added a member of the analytics team to our data auditing meetings which has helped us become more efficient in our ETL creation process.
Dave: I would attribute our efficiency to weekly status meetings and good communications with colleagues.
Can you share a challenge you faced on a recent project that resulted in a surprising outcome?
Lou: A client had asked Alliant to append specific attributes to enrich to their customer file. The problem was they had multiple IDs for many customers, which created challenges in customer account tracking, maintenance and order processing. Thanks to some creative thinking and hard work, Alliant was able to link all of the client’s customers and orders to a single, unique ID.
What is your favorite thing about working at Alliant?
Dave: Although the work is challenging, I really enjoy the people that I work with — it’s a great team to be a part of!
Kierstin: I’ve been at Alliant for six years now and my favorite things about working here are the company culture and my awesome coworkers.
Lou: I really do love my job. It’s a constant challenge to work with millions of consumer records and billions of transactions to make sure that all of the data is reliable and accurate.
What is the best and most challenging part about working from home?
Dave: I like that I can put in extra hours to catch up on projects, but my dog barking and family can be a distraction.
Kierstin: The best part is that I gain almost seven hours a week back in commuting time, but it is challenging having to provide my own snacks.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what is the one food you couldn’t live without?
Ping: Honestly, I couldn’t live without vegetables! As someone who loves to cook, fresh food is essential to me.