From Teacher to Tessellation: Luke Stanke
Out of college I was convinced by a former rowing teammate to move to Charlotte and join him as a teacher. I worked as a high school science teacher where I taught Biology for one of the lowest performing schools in the state. My task was to improve student performance from 8% proficiency. This was not a small task, I came up with an ambitious plan and that included near-constant collection data to inform my decisions. I obsessed over the data. The kept the data in an elaborate but it tidy spreadsheet. My efforts paid off and my students improved to 65% percent proficient.
In my final year of teaching––this time as a middle school science teacher where I (gasp) taught the exact same concepts to 6th graders with the same expectation––I was asked by our development director to bring forward any compelling stories for fundraising purposes. I still kept that elaborate spreadsheet. One day I saw some huge gains by students. I immediately ran into the fundraising office and showed her the spreadsheet. She was super excited by my enthusiasm. I showed her the elaborate spreadsheet with the key insights. And her response was now one I would see coming: she had no clue what she was looking at, she needed to see the data summarized. Not just at the most granular level. It was a major lesson learned, and one I still carry with me today.
When I was a teacher I was really good at using data and I wanted to get a graduate degree in data. The problem: I didn’t know which program offered a graduate degree in data. In the end I chose Educational Psychology. The program does feature things around psychology, but really it was focused on a combination of applied statistics and assessment/survey design. After four years of coursework and working an actual full-time job analyzing data for the College of Pharmacy I new it was time to move on to a new role: a Data Scientist at Minneapolis Public Schools.
No role better prepared me for today. The role really seemed like the dream job, and most days it felt like it. My job began with me producing highly craved insights for various stakeholders for my Director. He was no ordinary leader, he was (and still is) a visionary and was on the fast track to becoming a chief someday (he now is). Minneapolis was loaded with the same issues that plague all other organizations––something I didn’t know at the time, but was often chalked up to being a public sector role. We were doing some really cool things and getting important information into the hands of principals, teachers, students, and the public. We re-organized things, built a data warehouse for the data science team, implemented Tableau, and focused on change management (again, solving the same problems across all organizations). Information often bottled up with lead times of three or more months were now automated and making it out within days of release to us.
When a local consulting company came knocking, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I decided to find out what the private sector was doing better than the public sector (very little). While I was there I was able to learn many things and really refine my ability to train.
But as the son of an entrepreneur, I’ve always had an itch to work for myself. As the company grew from doubled its employees to more than 6000, I started to feel like a number. And after of few years of less-than-meaningful work, I decided to move on.
Shortly after, Tessellation was born. At the time we were not sure what it’d become but we know we wanted to build something where passionate experts came together to help grow themselves, our clients, and our communities. We want this company to stay familiar where everyone at the company knows everyone else. A place where people discuss and debate, but can admit when they are wrong and want to grow. A place where different viewpoints are celebrated; and a place where we are always trying to have fun.