Quora is a website dedicated to “sharing and growing the world’s knowledge.” Ask a question, and the good folks at Quora will find someone with first-hand knowledge to answer it.
Today’s contribution to sharing and growing is “Why do technology companies hire economists?”
My response, of course, is Who wouldn’t want to hire an economist?. This response was unsatisfying enough that Quora asked Susan Athey, Professor in the Economics of Technology at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, to address the question. Here is my condensed version of her response.
This is a great time for economists in tech companies—the most interesting firms in Silicon Valley are hiring chief economists as well as economic teams at a very rapid clip….
Each tech company, and each chief economist, is different, but there are several main categories. First are microeconomic issues involved in pricing and product design… Second is corporate strategy… Third is public policy… Fourth, and closely related, are direct legal and regulatory challenges — antitrust/competition policy issues and regulatory investigations.
More junior economists have a wide variety of roles in tech firms. They can take traditional data science roles, be product managers, work in corporate strategy, or on policy teams. They would typically do a lot of empirical work.
My emphasis (see also, here).
I was particularly interested in this nugget about why economists might be particularly valuable in a room full of data:
I have found that economists bring some unique skills to the table. First of all, machine learning or traditional data scientists often don’t have a lot of expertise in using observational data or designing experiments to answer business questions. Did an advertising campaign work? What would have happened if we hadn’t released the low end version of a product? Should we change the auction design? Machine learning is better at prediction, but less at analyzing “counter-factuals,” or what-if questions. (I’m currently doing a lot of research on modifying machine learning methods to make them more suitable for causal inference).
Click through for her complete answer to the original question, along with her insights on Bitcoin, the impacts of machine learning on economic science, the potential benefits of collusion, and some elaboration on her contention that “there has never been a more interesting time to be an economist.”
Why not take him/her out to lunch with you?
No, no, no. Of course, I’m talking about what sort of Life After Lawrence is out there for our economics majors? Well, the American Economic Association is encouraging its members to share this video. Here’s the link:
Much more than finance, banking, business and government, a degree in economics is useful to all individuals and can lead to many interesting career choices. These four diverse individuals offer their insights on how a background in economics can be a tool for solving very human problems.
- Marcella Alsan, a physician of infectious disease, discusses why she needed to pursue a degree in economics to improve the lives of her patients.
- Randall Lewis, a research scientist at Google, uses economics and “big data” as tools to improve the functioning of markets.
- Britni Wilcher, a PhD student of economics, offers insight on some misconceptions about economists and factors influencing her career path decision.
- Peter Henry, dean at the NYU Stern School of Business, points to the true nature of economics and the importance of diverse voices informing the field.
Here is the American Economic Association’s link of information for students considering an economics major, covering topics from what economists do to what type of skills you will develop as an economics major.
If you are considering a major, please click on the Advice for Potential Majors link that you should see in your left frame.
Following what will undoubtedly be a busy Trivia Weekend, we turn our attention to Career Services and some of the upcoming opportunities for you to consider Life After Lawrence Now. Starting Wednesday, January 28, and running through the weekend, a number of alumni and friends will be on campus to help you think about your career. You can see who is going to be here and when by looking at the upcoming events calendar. Send an email to Career Services if you’d like to reserve a time to meet for a general career chat (email@example.com ).
Go to the Career Services website or go drop in for more information. Check out some of the events after the break:
Jordan Weissmann at Slate has a fabulous opening in his most recent post:
Want to guarantee yourself a steady, well-paid career? Major in engineering. Want to take a shot at striking it rich? Then major in economics.
Now, I realize that money isn’t everything, it can’t buy you love, etc, etc… but the idea that economics majors are disproportionately represented at the top of the income distribution is too tempting to pass by. Weissmann draws this conclusion after looking at a Hamilton Project report and an accompanying interactive tool that probes the distribution rather than the average earnings of various college majors (as well as comparing a college degree to various other levels of education). As one might expect, the college degree is still a premium, and you can bank on quantitative skills:
Majors that emphasize quantitative skills tend to have graduates with the highest lifetime earnings. The highest-earning majors are those in engineering fields, computer science, operations and logistics, physics, economics, and finance.
That takes care of average earnings. But the Hamilton Project does something clever and plots the distribution of lifetime earnings by major. Here, Weissmann shows the lifetime present discounted value of earnings for a selection of popular majors — engineering, English, business administration. Note that the median (50th percentile) engineering major earns more than the other majors, but as you move to the upper-end of the distribution, economics majors make considerably more money:
Economists surpass engineers at about the 60th percentile and the highest-paid econ grads can expect to make $3 million more (in NPV terms) than the highest-paid engineering grads. Notice that economics and business management are not close substitutes at all in the figure, as the management grads don’t fare nearly as well at any point in the distribution, and certainly not at the top. That observation is possibly consistent with some evidence on who becomes a CEO.
The lifetime earnings calculation is not a straight number, but a present value calculation at a 3% discount rate. To provide a wee bit of perspective, an individual that graduated college into a $50,000 per year job and got a 3% raise every year would retire at age 65 with an income of approximately $175,000. The NPV of that individual’s lifetime earnings would be just north of $2 million, which is right about the median lifetime earnings of a typical engineering and econ graduate. Not bad, but not exactly the 1%, either.
The interactive tool is pretty cool. I changed the majors to include computer science, mathematics, and art history. Predictably, the art history majors lag behind the other disciplines, but it is interesting to note that the top-earning, say, 10% of art history graduates have lifetime earnings higher than about 70% of the economics graduates.
The thread title, of course, is a quote from Ben Loman.
John Cawley has updated his indispensable paper for young Ph.D. economists searching for new positions, “A Guide and Advice for Economists on the U.S. Junior Academic Job Market: 2014-2015 Edition.” Though I realize most of the paper is irrelevant for this (or any) audience, these facts are remarkable:
[A]lmost everyone lands a job that they like…. In fact, National Science Foundation data indicate that Ph.D. economists have the lowest unemployment rate (0.9%) of any doctoral field, as well as one of the highest median salaries of any doctoral field. Finally, the vast majority of people are happy with the outcome of their search. Of the new Ph.D. economists in 2001-02, 94% reported that they liked their jobs very much or fairly well.
My emphasis because, Wow! Those of you interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in economics, applied economics, agricultural economics, law & economics, or public policy, should consider having a chat with several members of our faculty.
For our previous coverage, see here.
We hope you will take advantage of the opportunities to explore your options for life after Lawrence by attending the Career Conference on Saturday, April 5.
- Lawrence Scholars in Business panel, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Briggs 223
- Networking Reception, 4:30 – 6 p.m.
- 1:1 chats, mock interviews and resume reviews – available throughout the day
Alumni representing the classes of ‘07, ‘02, ‘84, ‘82 and ’76 will discuss how YOUR liberal arts education can differentiate you in today’s competitive marketplace. Hear tips for success from: Director of Consumer Research and Insights, an Owner, an Entrepreneur and Early-stage Investor/CEO and CTO, Consulting Analyst and a Senior VP of Technology & Innovation. Plan to attend the events to build your network of people willing and able to help you navigate the business world!
Need internship funding? Stop by the Fellowships, Major Scholarships and Grants Resources Fair, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. in WCC.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information/registration.
Over the next few weeks, we will be compiling some resources for those of you who are interested in doing graduate work in economics. Certainly, your first stop should be to talk with one or more of your professors (especially the economics professors, I suppose). The American Economic Association is probably your next stop.
You might also check out the Miles Kimball / Noah Smith essay on the economics Ph.D.
I have this on my mind because I just received Stuart Hillmon’s Getting a Ph.D. in Economics in the mail. If you care to take a look at the book, you can come by and I’ll loan it to you.
Tyler Cowen comments.
One of my favorite Lawrence alums, Eric Schacht (’89), is featured on the LU website for winning the Stanley Malles Award for distinguished community service.
From the press release:
Schacht led the launch to form the Mahomet Community Tennis Association in 2009 to introduce tennis to this area with few tennis courts and no high school team. During the past five years more than 30 junior high and high school girls have participated in a program designed with the team concept. Schacht’s dedication to working with the girls in the program has led to them recently playing competitive matches against area clubs, tournaments, and invitational events.
Two years ago, the Mahomet CTA started offering a Midwest Youth Team Tennis program targeting for youth 10 years of age and younger. Approximately 60 children participated in the summer program in 2012, and the successful program will again be offered in 2013.
Schacht has been coaching girls’ tennis teams for several years, and was previously the coach at two area high school teams. He also served as a volunteer coach for the University of Illinois women’s collegiate team.
You can catch the charismatic Schact in his acceptance speech here.
Schacht was a standout tennis player at LU from 1986-1989 and has been an avid sportsman his whole life. Going back to 1980, for example, his YMCA ‘Spartan’ basketball team came up short in its quest for the title to the more talented (and better looking) ‘Badger’ team. See Professor Gerard for details.
In his day job, Schacht works as general counsel for Wolfram Research, developers of the fabulous Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha projects.
Congratulations to Eric.
Thirty of us returned last night from another very successful Lawrence Scholars in Business trip to Chicago. Most of yesterday was “entrepreneurship day.” Before lunch, we went to ICNC, an incubator hosting over a hundred start-ups. We got to visit two of them, Souldier and Element Bars. The latter was a winner on Shark Tank! Our gracious hosts at ICNC were Steve DeBretto and Tom Cassell. Tom teaches the Entrepreneurship Practicum at the ACM Chicago Entrepreneurship program. The deadline for Fall 2012 has been extended, so it’s not too late to think about making this part of your next year. If you liked the two-day immersion experience we got in Chicago, you’ll love the term-long immersion experience you’ll get in the ACM program. Consider taking advantage of this great opportunity. The ICNC is not just a space to practice whatever your craft is, but it is also a community of entrepreneurs, with a strong support network.
After lunch at the Berghoff, we went to the Merchandise Mart to visit the just-launched hot new tech-incubator 1871. If your start-up might need a truck to pull up to your space, ICNC is where you’d want to be. But if you are a software start-up, you’d want to be at 1871, the intersection where the explosion of ideas takes place. Dozens of start-ups, six venture capital firms, four universities, many prestigious sponsors, and a number of mentors come together in a space designed beautifully for creativity.
This Wednesday, Basil Vasiliou (1972 alum) will be on campus to talk about the potential benefits of a masters in business administration (MBA) and a law degree. The Lawrence Scholars in Law and Lawrence Scholars in Business programs are co-hosting the event. Mr. Vasiliou’s talk will be at 5:30 p.m. in the Campus Center Cinema, and is followed by an informal dinner with students in Andrew Commons, Parish/Perille rooms.
After graduating from Lawrence, Mr. Vasiliou picked up an MBA from the University of Chicago and a law degree from Fordham, and he has worked in the financial sector, including serving as chairman and CEO of Vasiliou & Co. since 1986.
You might consider bookmarking this page to keep abreast of the Lawrence Scholars events.
This Saturday, October 29 is a maelstrom of opportunities for those of you looking to eventually enter the working world as Lawrence launches its 2011 More Light! Career Conference. There are many, many alumni coming back to give some pep talks on leadership, taking initiative, career paths into various vocations, and what you students can do to prepare for Life After Lawrence NOW.
The particulars are quite remarkable:
Leadership in Life After Lawrence – Stansbury Theater 9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. with the following distinguished alumni:
- ABC News “Nightline,” Co-Anchor, Terry Moran ‘82
- Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Division President, Joanne Bauer ’77
- Emmy Award-Winning Filmmaker, Catherine Tatge ‘72
- Former U.S. Ambassador to India, David Mulford ‘59
- Business Executive, Author and Professor, Harry Jansen Kraemer ‘77
Lawrence Scholars Secrets to Success panel discussions in:
- Business…..10:30 – 11:45 a.m. Steitz Hall, Room 102
- International Careers…..10:30 – 11:45 a.m. Steitz Hall, Room 202
- Law…..1:00 – 2:15 p.m. Steitz Hall, Room 102
- Athletics…..1:00 – 2:15 p.m. Steitz Hall, Room 202
- Arts & Entertainment…..2:30 – 3:45 p.m. Steitz Hall, Room 102
- Medicine…..2:30 – 3:45 p.m. Steitz Hall, Room 202
You can also attend a Networking Lunch at Andrew Commons at 12:00 noon, giving you an opportunity to lunch with alumni.
Finally, there is the Japan’s Ministry of Education’s Japan English Teaching (J.E.T.) Info Session – Career Center 4:15 – 5:00 p.m., where Michael Van Krey ’94, Japanese teacher with Evanston Township High School and former JET teacher will discuss the application process as well as his experiences with the J.E.T. program. Michael will be joined by Joette Bump, President – JET Alumni Association, Wisconsin Subchapter.
I’ve just been alerted to the LUCareer Talk website — a podcast with a wealth of information about getting you from being a student to being an employed member of society, productive or otherwise. This week our own Cuong Ngyuen talks about how to network effectively and provides some guidance for those of you looking for full-time employment or internships.
Which should be pretty much all of you, no?
Looks like a pretty solid website, with interviews with students and alums, as well as some employer profiles.
But this week tune in for Cuong.
It’s never too early to think about what you are going to do after you leave Lawrence. In fact, thinking about what you might do after graduation could well open up some exciting opportunities whilst you are still here in the friendly confines of Appleton.
This Sunday (February 27) alumni will be on campus for the Shine Light, More Light on Your Future conference. I recommend that you seize the opportunity to meet our alumni and discuss their career paths and experiences. They are here because they love Lawrence and want to help folks just like you.
Date: Sunday, February 27, 2011
Time: 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Location: Warch Campus Center
Whether or not you know what direction you are headed, take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn from those who have gone before you.
Registration is required.
Cost: One meal swipe.
Contact Sherri at 832-6854 or email@example.com to register by February 23, 2011.
A message from our resident fluvial geomorphologist, Jeff Clark:
I know a number of you are interested in renewable energy and solar power in particular. Heck we even have our own array. Why not come and learn more about large scale solar power from an industry insider?
Why not, indeed?
Mark Culpepper, Chief Technology Officer, SunEdison will be on campus Thursday to give us “An Insider’s View of the Solar Power Industry.” You can find us at 4:30 over in Thomas Steitz Science Hall 202.
Mr. Culpepper has a background is telecommunications and IT security, and is working on distributed generation issues for SunEdison.
This is certainly a hot topic.
The Lawrence Scholars in Law kicked off in style with a capacity crowd (35-40 students) and a festival-type atmosphere, with about 15 students joining us for dinner. As I said in my introductory remarks, the alumni talent on hand for our panel was extraordinary. Each is a lawyer and a member of the Lawrence board of trustees, and each is very enthusiastic about he prospects for the LSL program.
A couple of points emerged from the discussion. The first is that there is no right major that you need to choose to apply. Our four panelists came from four different majors — history, government, economics, and piano performance. The second theme seemed to be that a law degree opens up many doors, not just the door to the big law firm.
Panelist Jeff Riester also pointed prospective law students to Law School: Getting In, Getting Out, Getting On, by Michael Ariens. This seems like a good resource, and pre-law advisor Steve Wulf and myself will hold onto it if you care to take a look at it.
We are planning one LSL per term this year, and we would like to encourage you to provide us with feedback, as well as input into content for future programs.
More from The Lawrentian.
The LSB season opens this year with the Alternative Investments and hedge funds event, this coming Sunday. Bob Perille himself is leading this one, and it’s promising to live up to the high standards we have come to expect from him and his colleagues. This year’s event will be different from last year’s, however, so come even if you attended last year. Jason Spaeth is skype-ing in, participating as an LSB panelist for the first time, and he is going to be introducing the industry. Another good reason to come is the actual, real-life, taken-from-the-trenches (or tranches?) offering memoranda that Mr. Perille always brings. You get to work on those in teams, and, in the past, Mr. Perille has offered a prize of $100 for the team with the best presentation on their “mini case study.” So don’t miss your chance to learn something interesting about the world you live in–whether you want to become a private equity whiz or not.
Firmly on the coattails of the extraordinary success of the Lawrence Scholars in Business program, the inaugural Lawrence Scholars in Law event kicks off at 5:30 on Wednesday, October 27 in the Hurvis Room of the Warch Campus Center.
Who should attend this session? I would suggest anyone who is thinking about a law career should clear their schedule for this one. Also, anyone who isn’t sure about their own career ambitions might consider poking her head in. Many students these days work for a few years before returning to pursue a law degree. And liberal arts majors generally, and economics majors in particular, have potential to succeed.
The talent on hand for this program is exceptional. We have five successful attorneys, each a partner or a shareholder (what’s the difference? Good question to ask) with a major law firm. And each with a member of the Lawrence University Board of Trustees. They are:
- William J. Baer ’72 Attorney and Partner: Arnold & Porter
- Thomas C. Kayser ’58 Attorney and Partner: Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP
- Jeffrey D. Riester ’70 Attorney and Shareholder: Godfrey & Kahn
- Priscilla Peterson Weaver ’69 Attorney and Partner, retired: Mayer Brown
- William O. Hochkammer ’66 Attorney and Partner: Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP
Professor Gerard will also be on hand to moderate.
Please sign up in the Career Center or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to make your intentions known.
You are welcome to bring your dinner to the program. Or, better yet, plan to dine with the five panelists afterwords.
Speaking of careers in business, Dean of the Conservatory, Brian Pertl, poses the question, “What on earth could playing a Mozart symphony have to do with leading a budget proposal meeting?”
Coming on the heels of the successful Entrepreneurship in the Arts and Society class this past term, this is a very encouraging message indeed. And especially so for those of us who believe in the mission and the viability of the liberal arts.
Don’t forget, former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan was a clarinet student at Julliard before dropping out to tour with Stan Getz. Is that why they called him Maestro?