Employees across Seattle are making a difference. It’s easy to get involved in small or large projects and to make an impact – every little bit helps. We love seeing innovation workers show up! Read about Seattle’s Inspirational Innovators, get excited, and find tips on how you can help.
This month we speak to Jamie Anderson. Jaime manages a group of researchers driving machine learning into the Zillow Offers purchase process. Jaime also coordinates volunteer events for Zillow.
How long have you worked for Zillow?
“Approaching 5 years. I spent my first several years working on the Economic Research team using Zillow’s expansive housing database to tell data-driven stories about the housing market and empower consumers and researchers with important housing data. More recently, I assist with building out the Analytics and Machine Learning org, supporting the Zillow Offers business.”
In your role as a Machine Learning Manager, can you give us a glimpse of what that entails?
“At a high-level, my work (machine learning) involves predicting data that’s unknown. A great example is predicting what a home will sell for based on the facts we know about the home (where it is located, how large it is, what it looks like, does it have views of Puget Sound, etc). Those are the types of problems my team works on. “
Did you grow up in the Seattle area or did you move here for work?
“I am very much a Seattleite. I grew up in Wallingford, attended Seattle University, and started interning at Zillow after college. We have a map on Zillow Analytics where everyone pins locations where they have lived–my pins are within a few miles of each other.”
How did you get interested in community service and volunteering?
“Somewhat selfishly, volunteering has always been something I have found great satisfaction and pride in doing. At Zillow specifically, early on in my career I started going to any volunteer events scheduled through our ZAll Gives Back program, a very grass-roots employee-driven volunteer program internal to Zillow. Specifically, the time and effort that Jackie Lasaracina, Zillow’s Assistant General Counsel, put into leading volunteer events in a very unsung way, was something I found very inspiring!”
What’s your approach to volunteering?
“The approach I’ve taken to the volunteering events I coordinate is to go for breadth and not depth, so we actually partner with several amazing organizations: Food Lifeline, Treehouse, FareStart, and YouthCare. I find that offering different volunteering opportunities (which require different skills or time commitments), is a great way to meet the variable demands of our incredibly giving employee base.”
What other ways do you support our local community?
“Education and creating opportunities involving education are incredibly important to me. After I finished school, I spent a decent amount of time learning the skills required to be an effective Data Scientist. I am the beneficiary of the wealth of online continuing education courses in the field often freely available. Being able to pay that forward is incredibly important to me.
Internal to Zillow I run a program (colloquially called AMP– Analytics Mentorship Program), where individuals not in traditionally analytics role have the opportunity to develop analytics skills. We pair participants with a mentor who is a Data or Machine Learning Scientist. The participants then find an analytics problem related to their day-to-day work to research under the guidance of their mentor. Seeing students grow their analytics skills through AMP brings me a tremendous amount of pride.”
It can be taxing trying to solve complex social problems. How do you stay motivated as a volunteer?
“Admittedly most of the volunteer work that I am doing is not solving complex problems but supporting and enabling organizations that are themselves solving complex social problems. In general though, I actually think the complexity of problems is exciting for most in the non-profits sector; it’s the lack of funding, resourcing, and support available to them that’s frustrating and discouraging. I try to do what I can as an individual with access to a large pool of volunteers (2000 Zillow employees in Seattle!) to offer non-profits the support that we can.”
What words of advice do you have for anyone interested in helping our community, but are unsure where to start?
“My advice would be ask yourself what type of volunteer work you want to be doing, what type of causes you want to be supporting, and what types of clients you want to aid. Once you have answered those, start looking for local organizations that map roughly to your interests. Fantastic organizations like Seattle Works are always excited to help individuals and groups find volunteer opportunities that align to their volunteering wishes.”