by Isaac Pattis
Name of Company: BlueKai
Location: Bellevue, WA
Name of Employee: Robert Bale
At BlueKai, the classification team constructs and maintains proprietary taxonomies that are focused on identifying consumer intent in advertising. Our team also works to construct custom taxonomies with clients that are implementing our data management platform. I am involved with managing the taxonomy governance processes for our team, and I also help determine best practices for our partners.
Can you describe a typical day for you at BlueKai?
A typical day usually begins with the idea that I’ve got everything lined up to roll straight through my tasks. That is, until I get to work. There is a steady stream of tasks that might be considered rote (such as reviewing the data being sent by a provider for classification), but there is an equally rapid flow of tasks that are unexpected or are more of a troubleshooting nature (How can we better address this provider’s needs? Does taxonomy actually achieve their goals?). Sometimes the number of unexpected tasks feels daunting, but our team takes things in stride. I’d like to think that the normal day is the one where I start off working on one project, but I find myself delving into several new ones.
What three words would you use to describe the culture at BlueKai?
Smart, empowering & sharing
What is the most memorable experience or accomplishment you have had as an employee at BlueKai?
I think some of the more memorable experiences are those where I’ve demoed a mock taxonomy to a high profile client and they’ve responded by saying, “Ah, that’s what we could do there….” Sometimes they can be critical. Other times they’re enthusiastic. But, in all cases, they’re interacting with the taxonomy that I’ve had a hand in putting together for them.
What would you describe as the best part about working for BlueKai?
I think one cool aspect is that the company, while it continues to grow, is made up of people who are intelligent, savvy and very personable. I like the fact that everyone tries to connect and share information—the culture is very much based on increasing information flow through the company. This is found top-to-bottom here at BlueKai.
Any advice for current students looking to enter your field?
Take time to realize that we each have skills that can be honed whether or not you’re a “taxonomist.” We can all learn to do technical things. Still, the soft skills are equally important to hone. Don’t forget to listen to people or look for ways to improve something. This is the stuff that helps make it simpler to get into this field.
In many ways, management of information tends to boil down to being attentive to context or helping provide context. My career path to date doesn’t look like it was authored in a straight line. However, within the different industries and job titles I’ve touched, it’s all been about being attentive to detail and remembering that, in the end, it’s about exploring something that will make a practical difference for someone (or something).
While a student at UW, was there a particular class or experience that led you to explore opportunities at X Company or the overall field that X Company is in?
I really enjoyed the processes I learned while in my “Organization of Information Resources” (IMT 530) and “Metadata Design Studio” (INFX 538) courses. These were the lead-in courses that helped give me insight into taxonomy.
What is your favorite memory of the UW iSchool?
Of the many memories that I have of the iSchool, there is a series of mental snapshots I have from the Capstone experience. It’s probably cliché to call out that memory, but it’s still pretty visceral for me. I can still see us designing the poster and picking it up from the print shop. I had flashes of nervousness as we presented our talk during the event, yet felt a sense of relief when I could explain our poster to bystanders. Finally, I remember being happy when it dawned on me that our team really had accomplished what we’d set out to do.