Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately described ComScore chief operating officer Cameron Meierhoefer's time at PC Data. He joined the firm in 1999, not 1997, and was hired not to start PC Data but to go to work as an Internet analyst for a division called PC Data Online, which was eventually sold to ComScore. This version has been corrected.
As a civil engineer, I had visions of building the Golden Gate Bridge. But the Golden Gate Bridge was already built. So I could have spent my career designing new suburbs, but I decided to follow my nose and do something I was passionate about.
I remember working on a design software program. I would work up the design, print it out, run 10 copies through the blueprint machine, drive them down to City Hall and hand them to someone who would scan it into the computer. I saw that the whole process started in a computer and ended in a computer but we went through all these steps.
There was this real inefficiency in the way this transaction happened. I was curious: What could we do to make this easier from a policy standpoint? So I decided to pursue science and technology policy.
After graduate school, I worked in that field through a variety of different research disciplines evaluating federal programs.
In social science, you’re measuring the way that society is operating and the influence of federal spending on the betterment of society. I learned the art of research, what federal policy has been and why it was that way, but I wanted to know more about statistics and how to make change in the broader world.
In 1999, I was invited to work as an Internet analyst for a division called PC Data Online, which was eventually sold to ComScore. I saw this as an opportunity to take that same type of discipline and put it toward something that was emerging.
PC Data was a market research firm. I learned about the challenges of measuring digital media where there’s more data than you can measure.
I also spent time on trying to quantify the e-commerce industry. At the time, we had only 20,000 people that instrumented their machines for us to monitor their activity.
A friend of mine pointed out this company called comScore that was claiming a 1 million-person sample selection targeted exclusively at measuring online commerce.
The Internet has so many sites and there’s so many possible behaviors that you need an extremely large sample set in order to report on all the things gaining traction in the market. As a researcher, when I looked at comScore, I saw that as an incredibly interesting sandbox.
I moved to comScore where I was responsible for data quality on e-commerce products. We were able to take a raw, untapped and robust data asset and build out a business that could provide insights not only in e-commerce but in other industries like banks and credit card companies.
I am proud of contributing to the product offerings that we’ve brought to market. I feel like I’ve contributed to the evolution of the methodology through a blend of technology and research that has never been done before.
There’s no better place for me in the world than where I’ve ended up.
As a society, we’re generating more data in one day than we did in 10 years just 20 years ago. That’s going to change the way we derive knowledge about our society.
I am glad I decided to follow my nose.
— Interview with Vanessa Small
Position: Chief operating officer of comScore, a digital business analytics company based in Reston.
Career highlights: Executive vice president of analytics, comScore; vice president of custom analytics, comScore;
Internet analyst, PC Data Online.
Education: MS, science & technology policy, Georgia Institute of Technology; BS, civil engineering, Columbia University.
Personal: Lives in the District with wife Melissa and three children: Logan, Lily and Audrey.