PRESTON — Choptank Transport, a national third-party logistics firm headquartered on the Eastern Shore, has promoted Jason Howard to the role of data scientist as part of the company’s business intelligence team.
Technology in transportation is a rapidly growing field. At Choptank, there is an emphasis on keeping up with the latest industry technology while creating new and better products for data analysis and fast dissemination. As a result, the company created a data scientist position to assist the business intelligence team with meeting these goals.
Howard, a Prince George’s County native and a graduate of Drexel University, received his master’s degrees from Ghent University in Belgium. He later earned his Ph.D. in biology from Florida International University in Miami. Shortly after graduation, he began work as a research faculty member at Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge.
“Ideas are flowing and there is a definite excitement at Choptank,” Howard said. “This is a dream position for a young developer, because you are quickly immersed in creating something new and big, that’s needed immediately and that will have a great impact on the company. A lot of companies use programmers to just maintain or patch something, but this department is very different.”
As a data scientist, Howard does analysis, exploration and research of customer and market information required to evaluate trends. He also is instrumental in building the tools and infrastructure to analyze it all, and then deliver it to the right people to understand it.
“I’ve been trained as a scientist,” Howard said, “so I have a background in things like research, experimental design, data mining and statistics.”
“We’re collecting tons and tons of data,” he continued, “but maybe not leveraging all of it to its fullest potential. There is a lot of information that could help us build better customer and carrier relationships, as well as helping internal communication.
“To take advantage of that data, we first must fully understand it. As a data scientist, I see a situation, try to translate it into math, then using those numbers I can look for patterns. With these patterns I can begin to make predictions. Then I can translate it back into a real-life scenario, and that’s when you get some actionable solutions or insights.”
Familiar with more academic surroundings, Howard quickly adapted to working in a fast-paced business like Choptank.
“In academic science, you work tirelessly for months to finally get publications out,” he said. “People read your paper, but then you don’t hear much about it after that. At Choptank, it is gratifying to see something you’ve collaborated on, actually be built and then quickly put into use.”
When asked how Howard’s job differs from the rest of the business intelligence team, he said: “The software development team writes code and programs for production-level software systems. They are building massive things ... like frameworks for entire software systems. I am coming up with smaller, more integrated pieces or plugins to provide more specific functionality.”
In addition to his daily tasks, Howard said there is another aspect of the company that resonates with him.
“I really admire the work that Choptank does for its community,” he said. “If you go to a local event, Choptank is often one of the main sponsors. The company has a large footprint in the tri-county area because of it. Choptank doesn’t have to do that, but they do.”