Rob Pascale, the President of MAi Research and the Chief Analytics Officer of sister company Pathfinder Analytics, is not only our fearless leader but one of the most interesting people you will ever meet. The definition of a problem solver, he is inventive, enjoys a variety of the most unique hobbies, and is a busy family man.
We found some time to talk to Rob about his vision for the company and here are some of the questions we asked.
What is your history with MAi?
“Well, my dad created the company 1982 and I used to work in the copy room in the summers. Back when they had to physically transcribe survey questions and answers, I would help create the copies of the paper surveys then physically stamp them with an auto-incrementing counter for the respondent IDs.
“My dad retired in 2005, the same year I graduated with a master’s in economics and moved to Charlotte. In 2006, I was running my own IT company and MAi reached out to me to revamp their norms database. No one in the company knew how to code, and most people in our space aren’t programmers, so I saw an opportunity to build some cool and useful tools to help us automate internal processes and make people’s jobs easier here. After that, I joined the MAi team full-time, analyzing data and eventually starting our advanced analytics group.”
What are some of your hobbies?
“Writing, flying, inventing, lockpicking, and gaming.”
“What I do is technically locksport, not picking locks in use or professionally. Though it has come in handy on a few occasions on my own property and for friends. I’m a blue belt right now but close to purple belt.”
How’d you get into that?
“When my wife had our daughter, I was on night feeding duty. I used to watch puzzle videos on YouTube to stay awake. Somehow the algorithm led me to lockpicking videos. After a few, I realized I could probably do that, so I picked out some tools and joined a lockpicking group. One of the steps I took to get my blue belt was creating my own modifications to a lock for someone else to pick. I only have one more lock to pick before I’m a purple belt, and hopefully I’ll solve that one in the next couple of weeks.”
That is a hobby I don’t think I’ve heard of outside of Ocean’s Eleven. The way that you think about problems, strikes me as a unique formula that you have in your head. Does that feel like something that is natural to you?
“Not exactly a formula, but when I look at a problem, I break it down into its smallest components that are solvable, and then put the solved pieces back together.”
What makes MAi Unique?
“It is absolutely the people we have working here. The amount of care that people put into their work, the way that people want to exceed clients’ expectations.
“Another big part is that I’m not focused on how every single decision impacts the bottom line as long as we are getting to better decisions from using analytics properly while also creatively pushing the boundaries of our techniques.
“Another aspect that distinguishes us in the space is the set of Pathfinder Analytics capabilities. Not only the way we approach our clients’ objectives, but also our team of people implementing all of it.
“The Pathfinder side is all about blending the best of what artificial intelligence has to offer with human experience, from our people as well as our clients. A lot of people will try to automate as much as possible using AI-driven techniques, but we know the limitations of AI. You can’t just automate your way to business solutions. That’s why the human experience side of things is still so critical in the decision-making process generally and in our analytics process specifically.”
What does the future hold for MAi
“I want MAi and Pathfinder to continue working together to push the boundaries in what is possible in understanding raw language quantitatively alongside closed-ends and other traditionally quantitative analytics. I want to keep everything we build as modular as possible because then we can incorporate it into time-tested research techniques that we use all the time, making them more readily available.
“For instance, in-home usage tests are very straightforward. We test multiple versions of a particular product to determine the best one to move forward with. But because of the ways we’ve innovated on our modeling techniques, we now create simulators from the data collected in a typical product test to not only select the best of the options tested, but also provide insights into how to further optimize the product.
“I also want Pathfinder to be used by more suppliers. These techniques we are building could, and should, be used by more than just MAi. It would be great to have Pathfinder be the power behind as many decisions where it’s beneficial.”
What does an Ideal day look to you outside of MAi?
“I like to spend a lot of time inventing. I like to have a problem posed, then create a solution, and then implement that idea and put it into practice. I just love taking a vague idea or problem to an actual device, product, modeling technique. I currently have 2 patents for an electronic device that I built from the ground up, but I have a few others that are in various stages of patenting. And I do all of this in my home lab, just as I can design new ways of looking at data. It’s just fascinating the amount of power available these days that is just ready to be used by anyone.”
What does success at MAi look like for you?
“Continuously exceeding expectations. I think that applies beyond the company. Whatever the task or the goals, doing it better than expected is a success in my mind.”
This is the culture that is brewing at MAi Research. A driven, effective and an exceptional team, as Rob put it.
To learn more about how MAi Research and Pathfinder Analytics work with clients to creatively address challenging business questions, check us out at www.mairesearch.com and you can talk to Rob directly.