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Data Science Director Christopher Becker Transfers Philosophy Skills to Technology, Healthcare

The NC State Belltower at dusk and night.

Big ideas and big data play a big role in alumnus Christopher Becker’s work life at MedArrive, an IT healthcare startup. As director of data science, Becker tackles both by relying on the skills he learned from his NC degrees in philosophy and math.

How does knowing about linear algebra and Aristotle or calculus and Camus help? He uses his strong problem-solving and critical thinking ability, knack for statistical analysis, logical reasoning and leadership skills to guide a cross-functional team in setting strategies, removing roadblocks, and transforming data into business directives for his company.

MedArrive, headquartered in New York, delivers a fully integrated care management platform that connects health plans, healthcare providers and patients with a network of emergency medical technicians and paramedics to provide non-emergency in-home care in partnership with existing hospitals and clinics.

Chris Becker.

“I communicate our team’s priorities with others in the business to ensure alignment across initiatives,” says Becker, who also earned a master’s degree in analytics. “I’m ultimately responsible for enabling deeper focus while ensuring we achieve our milestones and have a good time while we’re at it.” 

Working at a startup has its rewards and challenges.

The pace is fast and exhilarating and with it comes non-stop learning about data, the business and patients, Becker says. Finding ways to step back from work is difficult, but incredibly rewarding once established, he adds.

Becker is a self-described philosophy nerd. While he was the kid who always asked ‘“why,” he was not exposed to what he called “philosophy proper” until he was an undergrad at NC State.

“It became all I could think about and all I talked about with friends,” says Becker, who won the Logic and Cognitive Science Initiative award in 2015. “I fell in love headfirst. “

So who is his favorite philosopher? “John Dewey,” says Becker. “I respect him for showing us that philosophy isn’t an ivory tower exercise; it’s an incredibly valuable tool in our collective arsenal to take on the most pressing problems of any generation, social or otherwise.“

To be sure, Becker has a talent for seeing the link between technology and philosophical issues. In doing so, he turns raw numbers and facts into knowledge and makes impactful data-driven decisions.

“Studying philosophy improved my ability to think in systems and worldviews; to find common ground through charitable interpretations,” he notes. “It also made me realize the importance of reflecting on your mortality so as not to take life too seriously, but to enjoy it purposefully and with humility.

“I use every single one of the things listed above daily in both my work and my broader life.”

Becker says he values his time on NC State’s campus, a place where participating in such extracurricular activities as inter-residence council and the college’s student council, helped him develop as a leader.

That’s how he also gained practical experience working with large groups toward a shared goal, he adds.

What he values most, however, are his time with friends, the excellence of the faculty, and the patience of advisors. Additionally, he says he is grateful for an environment “that allowed me to think deeply about many topics.”

Becker’s advice to someone entering the field reflects the philosopher and mathematician in him. Be aware of technology’s ethical implications and impact on society, be audacious and humble when confronting systemic problems, read up on compounding, and invest in your 401k.

About the latter, he adds, “invest, even if that means you eat ramen for the first year in your career.”

Looking ahead, Becker will continue working in the data and analytics space for the near future, while contemplating a second career centered on writing and teaching.