FSQ Faces / Behind the Tech: Ali Rossi, Data Scientist

Learn more about Ali’s experience growing her career in data science at Foursquare.

Ali Rossi

Meet Ali Rossi, a member of Foursquare’s Data Science team and co-lead of our Foursquare Technical Women employee resource group. Ali and her team provide highly valuable data and insights to a variety of Foursquare customers, a task that went into overdrive once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Indeed, her team has continuously updated our Foursquare Recovery Index throughout the pandemic to help keep a pulse on the volume of foot traffic to various venues.

To learn more about how Ali juggles a part-time master’s degree, her work at Foursquare, and a “pandemic dog,” check out our Q&A below.

How long have you been at Foursquare, and how did you end up at Foursquare?
I’ve been here for three years. Before that, I graduated with a chemistry and math degree before realizing I didn’t want to be a chemist, so I worked in marketing for a few years. I moved into market research from there. When I finally came to Foursquare as the product manager on our analytics business, I was really interested in data science and had done some technical learning on my own—I even completed a part-time data science boot camp, learned Python, and was working on a few side projects. Foursquare took a chance on me and supported my move to working with our Visits and Insights businesses from the data science side. I’ve been in this role for about two and a half years, and I’m very happy here and always learning.

Can you tell us a little more about your current role and responsibilities at Foursquare?
I’m on the Data Science team, specializing in analytics, which provides support across many of Foursquare’s products. A major component of my role is to work with our Insights team and put together data stories for customers who want to use foot traffic data to better understand their customers. I’m also working on sales enablement. For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, we started a series where we tracked visitation to some key categories that our clients and the public would be interested in, such as retail stores, airports, restaurants, and more. We’re still tracking those categories over time, to help understand the recovery across different parts of the country.

What is the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?
I’m working on visualizing several of our standard insights reports in Unfolded, a platform for geospatial data analytics acquired by Foursquare earlier this year. For example, Median Distance Traveled is a report we offer that helps clients understand how far people tend to travel from their homes to visit a specific chain or type of place. By offering this data in the Unfolded platform, users can visualize and understand insights by geography such as state, market, or zip code to make local decisions around billboard placement, store site selection, etc. It’s fun for me to develop an understanding of which data is the most powerful for our clients so we can offer the right insights in the most useful and accessible way.

What advice would you give other employees looking to grow within Foursquare?
We’re still a small company, which means there are a lot of opportunities to get involved in different things that you’re interested in. For example, I previously wasn’t responsible for a lot of client interaction in my role on the data science team, but I had experience in that area from my past positions in client service and product management at Nielsen. So, I asked my manager if that would be something I could get involved in, and now I’m the data science point person for helping clients understand how to best utilize our Visits data.

Do you have any mentors within the company that have helped you grow in your career?
I’ve been lucky to have a great manager who was one of the people who fostered my move from product management to data science. In fact, there are several great managers at Foursquare that will figure out the best way to bring you into different projects that interest you. I’ve also had some amazing female technical mentors, which is awesome—I’ve never experienced technical mentorship in another company.

Why are diversity, equity, and inclusion important to you? How does Foursquare’s culture embody those values?
I’m the co-lead of Foursquare Technical Women (FTW), an employee resource group for underrepresented genders in tech at Foursquare. The group is really important to me because it’s a space where we feel comfortable discussing certain issues many of us face. We would love to see diversity grow here, and we’re headed in that direction, a lot due to the efforts of FTW.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?
I started pursuing a master’s degree in Computer Science in August, and it’s a huge commitment. I’m juggling the master’s, work, plus a new puppy, so it will take me over three years to finish the degree. I had been a bit concerned about starting the degree, thinking Oh, my god, I’ll be X age by the time I finally finish, but a friend gave me a great perspective—in three years you’ll still be that age anyway, AND you’ll have a degree! So to build on that, my perspective now is just to go for it, and you will figure out how to do it all!

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love cocktails and food, so I’m always going to places in Williamsburg and around that area. I’m also always at the dog park every morning, and now I’ve got a community of dog moms and dads that I chat with. It’s so enjoyable to be up early drinking coffee, watching the dogs, and catching up. Who knew that I would enjoy going to bed early and waking up at 7:00 AM to do that!

What’s a book you have recently read or a podcast you’ve listened to that you would recommend?
My favorite book this year has been Klara and the Sun, a futuristic story about a world where children beg their parents to buy them lifelike robot companions. It’s a fascinating look into the psyche of one of those robot friends that I found very entertaining and somehow relatable.

What’s a hidden gem that you would recommend?
Francie, on Broadway in Williamsburg. They’re known for this huge crown of duck that they bring out on a gorgeous platter surrounded by flowers and herbs. I am also partial to their cheese cart that they wheel around for dessert. I love solo dining and will sometimes go to Francie or another neighborhood spot and sit at the bar if I have a day off the next day.