Skip to content

This company wants to hire people who can program in R or Python and do statistical modeling in Stan

Doug Puett writes:

I am a 2012 QMSS [Columbia University Quantitative Methods in Social Sciences] grad who is currently trying to build a Data Science/Quantitative UX team, and was hoping for some advice. I am finding myself having a hard time finding people who are really interested in understanding people and who especially are excited in doing so in quantitative way, along the lines of this.

I more often see candidates who are more interested in machine learning and prediction for its own sake rather than seeking to gain human empathy and a depth of understanding. Somewhat related to this is experience with Stan, and while not necessary for doing good analysis, is such a wonderful tool for creating powerful models and doing so in an iterative, exploratory way. I have found that the amount of complexity that can be built into a Stan model is a very good way to capture pretty subtle but important aspects of our domain, and that a willingness to invest in the tool is a really good signal for a certain way of thinking about data and data problems.

So I was wondering, do you know of a source of candidates that would align to this way of working with data, and if so, how do I best reach them? I know that QMSS was designed to cater to these needs, but even from there it has been hard to source candidates who aren’t more interested in machine learning (or else don’t have the technical experience necessary). It wouldn’t be quite fair to advertise a STAN developer position, but I do intend for this sort of modeling to be a critical component of our work (after, and along with, simpler methods of exploratory analysis, of course).

A brief description of what I’m looking for is this:

– Excited about working with and supporting qualitative research (this is both our research domain and our internal partners in doing so)
– Excited about understanding human systems quantitatively
– Emphasis on exploratory data analysis
– Stan experience
– Very strong programming experience (Python or R)

Our company:

Hey—QMSS is the program that my colleagues and I created, nearly 20 years ago. It’s great to see it still going strong.


  1. Joachim says:

    For anyone in that same position, the Cognitive Sciences department at UC Irvine is a source of graduates with that combination of skills and training. I’m always happy to put people in touch:

  2. Doug Puett says:

    Thank you Andrew! Anyone who is interested can contact me directly at dpuett [at]

  3. Keith O'Rourke says:

    > a depth of understanding
    I think a depth of understanding is a bit much to expect from most new graduates as they likely have primarily focused on getting the technicalities right. Perhaps should not be surprising that they want to focus on technical things as that is what they fell comfortable and very competent doing – something they can excel at. Remember being advised during the hiring of a Phd statistics from an Ivy league university many years – our collaborator from that department told us the expect them to be useless for at least the first year. Today they like have much better programming skill so it would be apart from programming expect them to be useless for the first year.

    Perhaps look for someone who is in a second career or transferred from another field into quantitative methods and already has a depth of understanding?

    p.s. from first page, looks like you are doing Herbert Simon type protocol analyses – interesting.

  4. Tom says:

    A good place to connect with people with those skills is the job-posting site

Leave a Reply