We recently sat down with MoonSoo Choi to discuss his time as an undergraduate student and his current role as Senior Manager of Data Science at Walmart.
What did your time at UC Berkeley mean to you?
As a student, it was meaningful to have the opportunity to explore a vast array of interests. For example, I was a Chinese minor in addition to being an IEOR major. There are just so many different things you can explore at Berkeley that I had never thought about.
What made you decide to major in IEOR?
I decided to pursue IEOR because it is so complex, yet it is also so current with societal needs. There was something about the systemic nature of IEOR that I wanted to understand better. For example, a system can be a collection of machines, robots, and micro-organizations, all working together in one operating system. But one small failure
Did you notice any similarities between the study of Chinese and the study of IEOR when you were studying both as an undergraduate student?
Well, both involve the study of social systems. For example, my Chinese-learning journey naturally exposed me to also learn more about the history, anthropology, and sociology of Chinese-speaking countries such as China, Taiwan, and some Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia. I learned about how those countries evolved over time and I was able to unlock societal insights at various organizational levels, similar to how operations research unlocks organizational insights at various levels of a system.
On a different but still relevant note, after graduating I also became interested in how humans individually and collectively behave in a system. When you put a group of humans in a system, what kind of behavioral deviations arise? Human behaviors are evolving and changing as we make advancements in technology. How do our behaviors impact the way we choose to use technology? IEOR involves very much the study of people, similar to the study of Chinese culture and society.
What did you enjoy most about IEOR at Berkeley?
The ability to map out the processes that are involved in complex systems. I think that is something IEOR students excel in, and it gives them an edge over traditional data scientists. For example, let’s say you can forecast demand for a product or what inventory status will be like. That doesn’t mean you actually understand what happens in those processes. With an IEOR degree, you get to understand more concretely what happens in each process that leads to a forecasted result, such as how the packages get shipped from fulfillment centers to stores and then to customers. Because of this, IEOR students become better equipped to create process improvements and transform them into business solutions.
Can you tell us what you do now?
I’m currently a Senior Manager in the Supply Chain & Transportation Data Science division at Walmart. I was just promoted one week ago! In my previous role, I was Walmart’s Data Science Manager in Site Merchandising. That role involved helping merchants procure items sold on walmart.com, which has experienced tremendous growth in recent years. They also run a wide array of AB tests for features they want to include on their website, and they want to see if those features increase or decrease consumer demand or change consumer behavior. My job was to build tools that could comprehensively analyze customer engagement, behaviors, and operational metrics. Now, in my new role, I’m part of a supply chain team that focuses more on how data science can be used to improve Walmart’s delivery service.