Michael A. Cohen: Chief Science Officer, Convertro

My NativeAdVice:


Michael Cohen is a predictive data science engineer and scholar with organizational leadership experience in the development of methods and software for data-driven management. He works closely with business decision makers and innovates to provide intuitive business oriented results, facilitating the adoption of advanced analytics. He also teaches executives, MBAs, PhDs, and undergrads marketing management and predictive analytics. Michael maintains a scientific research program that develops data-driven methods for managerial decision making. His subject matter expertise is in digital media & e-commerce, food marketing, corporate social responsibility, and competitive strategy, which is backed up by extensive technical expertise in: Data Management & Analytics, Econometrics & Bayesian Statistics, Management & Marketing Science, Software Application Engineering, Technical & Cloud Computing, Decision Support Systems & Optimization.

How did you get into the industry?

As a student applying to PhD programs I wanted to pursue study in the development of statistical theory and methods. At the time transactional marketing data from supermarket scanners was becoming more available. My pursuit to be an innovative data scientist merged with the most exciting data at that time, and put me on the path to becoming a quantitative marketing scientist.  After a decade of rigorous study and research I was prime to contribute to Marketing Technology - or MarTech for short.

Any emerging industry trends?

Putting data at the center of your product strategy. AdTech has begun to see a drop in venture capital investment except where products elevate the usage of data in innovative ways to deliver substantial added value to marketers. While it is one thing to say data is at the center of your strategy and to invest in scaling  its collection, consolidation, securitization and access, it’s an entirely different investment to productize valuable data usage. Without a strategy that links the data to innovation to extract that value, putting data at the center of your business strategy means nothing.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Increasing data availability tracking individuals through their marketplace experience provides endless opportunity to assess the role marketing plays to influence consumers. While marketers are excited about the promise of this data they rarely have the means to extract, decision, and act. Even when they have the means its is often the case that legacy activation processes, and poorly aligned organizational structure and incentives, make the adoption of data-driven management infeasible. As it becomes more evident that the right data, decisioning, activation is truly a competitive advantage in the marketplace, marketing organizations will be forced to update and flourish or remain antiquated and famish. The role of tech is to create a user experience that facilities the type of collaborative teamwork that a data-driven marketing organization requires. Practice which delivers results the organization can get behind. This often requires a consultative partner to put in place the organizational structure and incentives that unlocks the power of data to enhance the experience of the marketer’s end customers.  

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

The ubiquity of mobile technologies and the continued human dependence upon them, and the value humans enjoy from them, make mobile devices and the service beacons they rely upon the central terminals for data collection. Constructing all the fine details of the human story in data, through a litany of entry points into the human experience, using life-integrated mobile technologies, supercharges products and services that are irresistible to marketers and consumers. Consider `always on’ mobile apps for mobile phones and wearable technologies such an apple watch. With access to data that describes the human experience, everything from location to biometric readings, into scalable science and data technology, a new behemoth of the virtual and augmented market era will emerge.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

Backed by Verizon and energized by partnerships and products that expand the footprint of unique and differentiating data, the integration of AOL and Yahoo! into Oath is very exciting. The vision that has assembled a global house of over 50 consumer and b2b brands that excite the marketplace because of the unique value proposition that the data strategy unlocks, is coming to life and it’s humbling to be here at the epicenter.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

One of the most rewarding parts of building a business is the opportunity to assemble the teams of people to make the vision real. The new age of tech enablement requires that business contributors be equipped with a broader array of talents. It’s not so much about expecting everyone to be everything, it’s about expecting everyone to adopt and harness the power of tech to accelerate innovation and productivity in their role. We’ve built teams that are a conduit between the technologies and the objectives they aim to serve as well as the key results they promise to deliver. The profile of these teams includes technical skills matched with an intimate understanding of users and end customers of their work. It’s not enough to put people of these varied skills sets together, the diversity must be achieved within the individual contributors. It engenders a deeper understanding of both the data and the humans that generate the data. Humans are the machines we must learn, and machine-learning requires a careful understanding of humans, and the marketplace in which they function, to realize its full potential. In addition to the core benefits gained by having diverse individual contributors to the business, there are extra benefits. Contributor diversity is enlightening and empowers teams with a higher level of compassion for both teammates and those in the business that they partner with or serve. The benefits of this civility are many. Teams created in this mold have higher retention, productivity, and overall happiness and the benefits to the bottom line are unquestionably substantial.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

My most difficult moments are when I ask myself to change, when I ask myself to leave the past ways of doing a thinking behind. Challenge myself to acknowledge my imperfection, accept imperfection as a fundamental truth, and enlist in a pursuit to minimize that imperfection knowing that perfection will never be fully achieved. When we chose to innovate it is inevitable that we run into the process of self-reconciliation. While some people are better suited to this process than others, as managers and visionaries we must work within the confines of others. Battling cognitive dissonance in myself and others is one of those unwinnable wars. Living and working with it makes it impotent.  

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Enable them to achieve the dreams they didn’t know they had along with the ones they did, at once, making them the hero of their story.

How do you motivate others?

Identify what matters to them. What are their base instincts and talents? Why do they come to work? Why do they chose this job? Or in fact, what would they rather do?

Making time to learn about others is necessary. Making resources available to connect with them on a deeper level through activities that excite the human experience and senses is the doorway into people’s motives. Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish when it comes to investing in people and experience. What you and they learn from this investment guides enables you to help people realize their goals, and at once, help you to achieve yours.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Don’t let your amount of experience be a barrier to learning. It’s safer to approach a question, a situation, or someone's point of view by assuming there might be something you missed and can learn. Asking questions to align your understanding with others, and doing so with genuine inquiry and empathy, facilitates a path of trust and confidence for all. While your time is valuable don’t be a victim of ego or arrogance and understand where that insecurity comes from as a first step towards pacifying and marginalizing its negative effects.