Alumni

The Visual Storyteller: Ken Jee (M.S. in Commerce ’15) Helps Aspiring Data Scientists through YouTube

McIntire alum Ken Jee explains how he transitioned into a career in data science and educates others on the subject through his growing YouTube channel.

Ken Jee

With over 30,000 subscribers, Ken Jee’s YouTube channel on data science has grown from an academic pet project to a sought-after technical resource for business professionals. Producing videos that range from tutorials about how to start a data science project to advice on getting a job in sports analytics, Jee is approachable, concise, and unafraid to show viewers the behind-the-scenes reality of coding.

“When I was doing my M.S. in Computer Science at DePaul, one of my professors made us record a video, and one of the options to present it to the class was to post it on YouTube,” Jee recounts. “I left it up and didn’t think much about it, but when I checked back later, it had around 5,000 views. I thought to myself, ‘People are actually interested in this stuff?’ It blew my mind.”

His YouTube videos represent the convergence of Jee’s myriad of interests, which extend beyond data, analytics, and coding to include his passion for sports, business, and mentorship. He serves as the Director of Data Science for Scouts Consulting Group, a management consulting firm that specializes in the business, sports, and national security sectors. But his interest in sports analytics can be traced back to his time as an undergraduate economics major at Towson University, where he played on the school’s golf team.

“Economics resonated well with me because it was understanding the world through data and trends,” he says. “I found a way to integrate it into my golf game. I was able to quantify some of my performance and find a way to improve based on real data.”

Trading Athletics for Analytics
A golf and baseball enthusiast, Jee says it’s all he wanted to do. “I would tell everyone that I was going to do one of those professionally.”

The Bethesda, MD, native moved to Florida after college to pursue a golf career, but six months later, he decided it wasn’t economically feasible to continue. Realizing his passion for sports analytics could dovetail into a career, Jee got a job with Draft Kings, a fantasy sports company that uses technical applications like SQL and Python to predict the outcomes of sporting events.

“That gave me a completely different view of this industry that I was excited about,” he says. “Data science is particularly powerful with understanding sports because sports are so metrics focused.”

If he was going to pursue a career in sports analytics, Jee knew he would need some business acumen. Jee decided to apply to McIntire’s M.S. in Commerce Program, “a no-brainer,” he says, because of the coursework’s blend of hard technical skill development with soft skill growth.

“I wanted to get into consulting, and UVA had the best placement into consulting, period,” he says.

Self-Sufficiency through Ambiguity
From the beginning, Jee says the M.S. in Commerce Program challenged him. His first project was to develop a process map for Patagonia, and the open-ended nature of the assignment pushed him to learn a lot about communication, analysis framework, and presentation.

“That’s how a lot of life questions are,” he says. “You have to figure out how to get an answer by looking at the resources that are out there and doing the research.”

Another highlight for Jee during his time at McIntire was working on consulting projects for real-world businesses. The opportunity to present findings and recommendations to C-suite executives of well-known companies prepared him for the consulting world after graduation and helped to build his confidence.

“I’ve talked with the owners of teams, the presidents of organizations, professional athletes, and captains of the Ryder Cup team,” he explains. “I am able to go in and talk to them like an equal. I am not scared of the conversation because I know that I can provide value to them. I absolutely learned that in the M.S. in Commerce Program, and I don’t think I could have learned it at many other places.”

After his time at McIntire, Jee landed his sought-after consulting job, but he found it to be less technical than he wanted in a role. He decided to return to school to earn a second master’s degree in computer science to acquire the requisite coding skill set he would need to be a data scientist. He attributes his successful transition into a new career field to the business skills he gained and the lessons he learned during the M.S. in Commerce Program, however.

“I learned to be self-sufficient and self-motivated, and how to come to an answer without having to necessarily ask someone for help,” he says. “It’s something I will always carry with me in any endeavor that I have.”

Storytelling through Data
Today, Jee runs Scout’s satellite office in Chicago, where he says about half his time is spent doing hands-on coding and data science work building models for clients in the basketball and golf worlds. He enjoys balancing the technical aspect of his role with client engagement. Prior to COVID-19, he delivered the presentations onsite, but now he says client engagement has shifted to a virtual environment.

Jee also dedicates a significant amount of time to mentoring his team and showing them how to pipeline their work effectively. It’s this same passion for education and teaching that drives him to create content for his YouTube channel.

Breaking down data science into digestible topics for people interested in both the technical and professional aspects of the field, Jee has published videos covering broad topics such as “Is data science right for you?” and “What you need to know for a data science internship.” He’s also developed how-to guides like “Scrape Twitter data in Python with Twitterscraper Module.” He intentionally films the technical videos in real time, with minimal editing, to remove some of the glamour that’s typically associated with coding.

“I make mistakes. I make errors. I have bugs that I have to fix,” he explains. “I think that’s something really important to see. Data science and software engineering are extremely iterative processes. You make mistakes, and you have to go back over it. There’s a real human element to it.”

Each video is an opportunity for Jee to connect with aspiring data scientists. He’s worked diligently to create engaging content and hopes his channel will continue to serve as a resource.

“During my transition into data science, I realized there weren’t resources out there talking about how to go from a business background into data science,” he says. “I feel like I’m able to make a really meaningful impact on people who are interested in the field but don’t know where to start. The M.S. in Commerce Program gave me the ability to tell a good story.”

Visit Jee’s YouTube channel and his research repository playingnumbers.com, where people can publish content related to sports analytics and build their portfolio.

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