Meet Juan Vasquez, a data programs manager at the City of Los Angeles’ Office of Finance. He leads in modernizing and optimizing how the 400-person department collects, reports, manages, and uses data, and more importantly the actionable insights derived from it. Juan also teaches three data classes at General Assembly in their DTLA and Santa Monica campuses on nights and weekends, while running a small business offering freelance professional data and digital services.
How’d you get into data?
It was a gradual and sometimes aggressive transition from non-technical roles oriented around marketing and sales to more and more data-centric roles. The keys for me include growing a complementary skill set that has a foundation in digital strategic communication and scales out with hands-on experience in working with geographic information systems, open data portals, business intelligence tools, database querying tools, and a growing command of Python and SQL. Networking has been key since all my job opportunities somehow connect back to prior experiences.
In your opinion, what gives a dataset value?
For me, a dataset gets value from the right balance and combination of timeliness, relevance, accessibility, thoughtfulness in design and structure, availability of interesting and granular features, an intriguing and insight-packed combination of features, spatial + numeric + categorical values
What issue in Los Angeles do you think has the most potential for a data-driven solution?
I’m listing these in order of how “within reach” a data-driven solution is, in my opinion: traffic congestion, parking limitations, homelessness, food insecurity, pollution, affordable housing, and sexual assault prevention.
Share and walk through an example of your work related to data.
My days can vary wildly, so better to follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @JuanSVas for tutorials based on my real-life projects. All my projects start with a business problem or the symptom of one voiced by one of many stakeholders. My small team and I explore the problem and get familiar with the intricacies around it, and then we craft data, product, and engagement strategies to help solve it. Some examples include improving our lead conversion rates by enriching our internal data with zoning data using GIS and spatial joins, redesigning information flows and modernizing reporting infrastructure to support revenue collection efforts, and leading the transition away from an ad hoc, clunky customer email support system using Gmail to the best-value formal email triaging tool based on desired data standards and ability for insights.
What’s your favorite “data-story”? Why?
My favorite data story is a particular family lunch with my wife and her family where in our own side conversation I explained to our 6-year old nephew how to read a candlestick chart of the stock of a company he likes. The red and green chart, along with the right mix of simple metaphors, helped me introduce valuable financial concepts at a young age, which is game-changing for immigrant communities like mine.
What advice do you have for someone looking to start using LA Counts datasets to tell their own stories?
Every decision should be based around value for your audience. Every letter, every word, every dot, every polygon, every color - they should all be about value for your audience. Also, start simple and build towards relevant and interesting. Avoid starting with complicated and trimming down
If you’d like to learn more, Juan has provided a list of online resources: