This summer, I spent two months in Burkina Faso, West Africa, setting up our new non-profit, Tractors For Africa. Our tractor arrived in late June (see my previous post), and I stayed through July and into August to train the farmers in proper use and maintenance, re-assemble the equipment we had sent, and setup a sustainable cooperative governance and financial structure.
On my way back to the states, I spent a week in Senegal visiting the agricultural projects of Africare on the ground and learning from their successes and (admittedly few) failures. The Senegalese have had success with peanuts, rice, and fruit crops such as mangoes. Eastern Burkina Faso lacks the rainfall necessary to support mangoes at scale, but increased cultivation of peanuts and other legumes would provide nitrogen to enrich the soil.
After Senegal, I visited Rome, then proceeded to job interviews in Geneva, London, Denver and San Francisco. In the end, I decided to take a hybrid consultant/data scientist role with McKinsey & Company in Boston. I started in September and am currently working on projects as diverse as crop production/price forecasting and drone vision. I work directly with our Deep Learning and Geospatial teams here at McKinsey, and I have already learned a lot from my new colleagues. I am incredibly grateful for the chance to work with the brilliant and pragmatic people here at McKinsey. It is an exciting time to be a consultant as we help our clients quantify uncertainty and make the best possible decisions with modern machine learning and data science techniques.
McKinsey is a rather busy place, but in my spare time, I’m collaborating with professors back at South Dakota State University on two research projects. The first is on grain marketing optimization, and involves stochastic modeling, dynamic programming and control theory. The second is a comparison of the effects of four types of tillage on sorghum yields and soil characteristics in Burkina Faso. You can read more about these projects on my research page.
I was fortunate enough to move in with MIT and Harvard grad students here in Cambridge, MA. One of my roommates is a computer scientist, one is an engineer, and one is a masters students at the Harvard Kennedy School for Public Policy. Through them, I have been invited to presentations and events on the campuses of both schools. The research that is going on within a few blocks of me is incredible. Automation, control, deep learning… the experts are right here, and I get to hang out with them! Truly, it is an exciting time to be alive.