Employee Spotlight: 12 Questions with Lu Yu, Data Science Manager


For today’s employee spotlight, we’re highlighting the one and only Lu Yu – our data science mastermind. Lu is a crucial member of our team, we’re incredibly lucky to have him. Data science is a complicated art, but Lu does a great job explaining its value for us in this spotlight. So without further ado, let’s learn about Lu and Verikai’s Data Science team!

1. How long have you worked at Verikai?

I started in January 2019.

2. Where did you grow up and where are you based now?

I grew up in Qinhuangdao, a city in northeast China, on the coast of the Yellow Sea. My first stop in the US was Washington, DC where I learned about American culture and fell in love with the US. I spent almost 8 years there, completing my masters program and starting my first job stateside. I’m now based in San Francisco and couldn’t think of a better place to live!

3. What brought you to the company?

Two things:

First – Verikai’s vision/product matches everything I believe in as a data scientist. I know big data and machine learning are on their way to changing the way all major industries operate – it’s just a matter of time. Insurance is no different, but it’s an old-school industry, and the way insurance companies underwrite hasn’t really changed. That said, I think it’s one of the more obvious fields to show evolutionary potential with the use of machine learning/AI applications. From a technical perspective, it’s a super fun problem to solve. And on top of that, being able to more accurately underwrite brings tremendous value to individuals and businesses looking for affordable insurance options.

Second – I was also impressed by the culture of the company. The leadership team has cultivated an environment where all our opinions are valued while giving us the freedom to own work initiatives.

4. As Data has grown and become so important to companies, can you tell us what a Data Scientist does? What does an average day look like?

Without being too dramatic, obtaining a valuable data set that others don’t have is like sitting on a gold mine. A gold mine can make you rich – if you know where to dig. The same goes for data. A data scientist is the person who finds the value (often predictability on certain events) from the data, and packages it in a way that any person can understand.

Depending on the stage of the project, a day could be spent cleaning data and putting it into a usable format, or testing modeling approaches, or examining model results and making sure it fits our clients’ business operations and goals. I also have a lot of interaction with other departments, making sure our project goals are on track. I’ve been lucky enough to build a data team who have both excellent technical and interpersonal skills, while also being down-to-earth people. It’s cool to get to work with so many departments and differing skill sets/personalities, whereas at a larger company I’d be more confined to one set of employees.

5. What do you like most about your job and working at Verikai?

First off, I whole heartedly believe in the company’s mission to improve insurance underwriting with data and machine learning. I truly think Verikai is the future of underwriting. On top of that, Verikai’s culture authentically encourages people to grow, both professionally and personally. I was convinced in my first interview that this was a place where I would have the opportunity (and plenty of room) to make a big impact. I felt encouraged to grow in the direction I wanted. Plus our people are super smart, and more importantly, good people. They are nice and professional, and always ready to help others when asked. The combination of product passion and company culture makes working hard relatively easy.

6. Why is data science such an important part of the insurance industry and especially with Verikai’s products?

Because the competitive advantage, which is the value we provide to our customers, lies in the data and the machine learning capability. The number one goal for insurance players has always been lowering the price while maintaining profitability. Whoever achieves that gains competitive advantage. To do that, one needs to know more accurately than others the risk associated with each individual and group, and data science is an incredibly powerful tool for predicting the risks. At Verikai, we’ve collected trillions of valuable behavior data points. Utilizing proprietary machine learning techniques, we are able to identify incredibly useful patterns connecting people’s claiming experience to their daily behaviors. This is what truly sets up apart from our competitors.

7. For Verikai, the Data Science team’s data validation analysis sits right in the middle of a customer’s evaluation process. Can you tell us why the data validation is so important to Verikai and to the customer?

I believe our data validation process is what sets Verikai apart from our competition. It’s one thing to make promises but it’s another to prove it. We prove it and take great pride in how the data validation process is the key step in ensuring prospective customers that the predictions and associated ROI we boast are accurate and provide real value. The validation stage also gives us the opportunity to calibrate our risk scores to the customer’s specific book of business, which can significantly improve value. No matter how good the data and models are, there’s always a certain level of variance associated with the predictions. While we are confident in the way we predict risk, it would be irresponsible to gurantee any specific lift without a robust validation exercise. We have spent extensive time designing and refining our validation process, making sure the conclusions are mathmetically sound, and the validation presents clear value to the clients and multiple ways through which the value can be realized.

Now a few fun ones…

8. What do you like to do in your free time?  

I enjoy having drinks with friends (playing mahjong while doing that is a big plus)! Regarding healthier activities, I have been regularly playing tennis since graduating college as it’s a sport I really enjoy. During the pandemic I developed an interest for boxing, now it’s my new favorite sport. I enjoy the inspirational stories of a lot of boxers and how during a match, all they have to rely on is their own skill and self-confidence.

I’ve also tried to develop a reading routine, another pandemic undertaking, to ensure I am diversifying my interests and learning about different topics.

9. If time zones and coworker interaction wasn’t a limitation, where is your ideal place to live and work?

Hawaii or New Zealand.

10. Book, movie, play/theater, television, concert? Choose one and why

Book. Like I said above, I don’t think of myself as a big reader, but choosing from these options I still prefer reading books. With reading, I can always pause and think about the information as long as I want. After every reading session, I’m always feel like I’ve learned and accomplished something. It’s never a waste of time.

11. The desert island question – What three things would you bring with you if you are trapped on a desert island with no electricity?

A flintstone, a knife, and a bottle of water.

12. If you won the lottery what is the first thing you would do?

I’ve always dreamed of buying a Nissan GT-R sports car – that would be the first thing!

To learn more about Lu, check him out on LinkedIn!

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