Employee Spotlight on “Elementee” Andrew Vignes

Andrew Vignes

Andrew Vignes is a Forward Deployed Engineer at Element Analytics.  He joined the company in March 2017 and is based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  He has a BS and MBA from Louisiana State University and a Masters in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University.

Q: The Forward Deployed Engineer (FDE) role is somewhat unique to Element Analytics.  Tell us a bit more about what you do on a day to day basis here at Element.

A: I think you have to take two things into account when considering the FDE role at Element Analytics.   First, for the FDE role itself, we are involved in all customer facing activities - both before and after they become a customer, including:
     Training (development and delivery)
     Demonstrations of software
     Customer requirements gathering
     Supporting customers as they implement and utilize the Element Platform
     Project Planning and Management   
     Providing embedded services for the customer

Second, given that Element Analytics is a startup, you also get exposure to and get involved with many other any parts of the business. Often, I’ll find myself on marketing calls, or product management calls, where they rely on my experience to help plan marketing campaigns and product roadmap, respectively.

Q: Your work as an FDE has taken you around the globe.  What has been the most memorable customer visit to date?

A: Customer validation is always reassuring.  Recently we sat down with the owner of system architecture for a Fortune 100 refining company.  He has tremendous experience and knowledge of the space in which we’re operating.  In doing his due diligence regarding our company, we delved quite deep into both Element Analytics’ and other software that he had seen in his former roles.    

He found not only that Element’s approach to data readiness was spot on, but that we’re offering a step change in both functionality and technology.  The product is not dependent on users having IT skills, but rather business knowledge and the ability to think logically and critically.   Hearing this from an expert in the space really validated the work we’re doing.

Q: From your perspective, what skills make a successful FDE at Element?

A: Building relationships with our customers is paramount.  This is how we establish lasting relationships:

  • Listening skills.  We must pay attention to what our customers are trying to communicate.  Our customers often have decades of experience and that experience is critical to each engagement.

  • Message delivery.  We must be able to communicate on two fronts.  First, is external with the customers.  Translating what we do into terminology that is meaningful and relevant to customers is critical.  Second, we have to bring back the priorities as defined by our customers to the various teams at Element Analytics.  If we can’t make the internal teams understand what we’re seeing out with our customers we lose critical input.

  • Responsiveness.  Of course, Element can’t be everything to all people.  However, within the scope of our engagements and when larger requests fit our roadmap we respond with a speed and completeness that I haven’t seen in another software vendor.      

  • Business domain knowledge - we have to understand our customer’s business and what they are trying to accomplish. Of course, the reality is that we’re never an expert in all situations. When this is the case we have to be ready to put on our business analyst hats and become as knowledgeable as possible in the course of each engagement.

  • Technical prowess.  Managing data in any and all formats and from any and all sources.  We need to be able to extract, transform and load using a variety of means such as SQL and your programming language of choice.

Q: What three words or phrases would you use to describe Element Analytics?

A: Laser-focused, Nimble, Honorable

Q: If you were stuck on an island what three things would you bring?

A: Lots of duct tape, lots of sunscreen, and flint stones

Q: People would be surprised if they knew:

A: I absolutely love superhero movies.

Q: If you had one superpower what would it be and why?

A: The ability to swim at speed and breathe under water.   Every time I pass a body of water I can’t help wondering what’s beneath the surface.  It’s a whole world that we’re not privy to.

Q: When you’re not at work, people can find you:

A: Fishing with my kids, gardening with my kids, and reading

Q: What gets you up in the morning?

A: A crying baby! :)   No, I’d say my family.  

Q: You’ve got 4 kids, how do you manage “work-life balance”?

A: Flexibility.  The flexibility to perform work outside of normal business hours is critical.  Working from home / lack of commute helps too!     

Q: What’s a book you’re currently reading?

A: I really love the anthology “The Year’s Best Science Fiction,” edited by Gardner Dozois.  Dozois published the first collection in 1984.  I haven’t read all of the collections, but I’ve read quite a few.  It’s been quite interesting to see how science fiction has evolved over the years.  I’m currently reading the 18th annual collection from 2001.  Gardner just released the 34th collection a few weeks ago.  Can’t wait to start it!

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