Meet Grant Schneider, Head of Upstart Columbus

We spoke with Grant Schneider, a longtime Upstarter, about the new Columbus office.

Diana Adair

Upstart News & Insights,

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in a rural Ohio town called Newport (population: 1,941) — my dad and his friends built the house I grew up in with their bare hands. I then moved to Columbus and spent 10 years at THE Ohio State University, first getting Finance and Accounting degrees then pivoting to Statistics for grad school, where I did a Master’s and then a PhD. During my time at Upstart I’ve co-authored a textbook and am currently working on the sequel. My wife and I have a 2-year-old son and an 8-year-old Cocker Spaniel who keep us pretty busy, but I like to fill any remaining spare time with basketball, learning Mandarin, and reading.

When did you join Upstart?

In May 2014, I read an article about Upstart while procrastinating on writing my dissertation and decided to send a cold email asking for an interview. After a few phone calls and a trip to California, I convinced my wife we should pack up our lives and drive out from Ohio to start that August!

What excites you about the data science challenges at Upstart?

The beauty of speed as a habit from a statistical perspective is that, for a fixed timeframe, the sample size n grows so quickly that we’re able to experiment, learn, and iterate at a rapid pace. This creates a very dynamic research environment where we’re able to take on difficult problems and come up with creative, novel solutions. Combine this with the impact that our work has on borrowers’ lives (accuracy in our models is morally good) and you end up with a uniquely rewarding environment.

What sort of person is most successful at Upstart?

The sort of person who can most effectively extract information from the n data points. Being sharp and data-driven are perhaps unsurprisingly important qualities here, but equally important are humility and intellectual curiosity. The flipside of the large sample size is that we’re wrong a lot. We’ve got a great culture around this — “If we didn’t make mistakes, we wouldn’t be moving fast enough!” was a line in an email Dave sent out a few months after I joined that really made an impact on me.

Why Columbus?

I was doing some marketing of Columbus internally, but honestly the city sells itself! Columbus has all the ingredients needed to become the next great tech center in the US.

  • A world-class university full of bright students for us to hire (and many other universities within a few-hour drive)
  • High quality of life: affordable housing, short commutes, strong sense of community
  • Diverse, welcoming culture of the Short North and the city more broadly
  • A burgeoning startup environment
  • Existing financial hub is a strong plus since Upstart will become the most important technology partner to banks

What’s your vision for the Columbus office?

I envision us being the biggest and best tech employer in Columbus. Tactically, this means taking the Upstart culture I love, bottling it up, and moving it to Columbus with its own Buckeye spin.

What’s a recent change you’ve made?

Besides buying a house, moving across the country, and all the associated things, the biggest change I’ve made recently was the decision to stop wearing sandals to work. Over the past 5 years, I became known as the guy in the office who wore shorts and sandals every day, even during what Californians call “winter.” I was having a stressful week recently and decided to regain some control by breaking down the implicit assumptions that make up my life. One of the assumptions I decided to test was whether I was truly a sandals person, so I ordered a pair of tennis shoes. After trying them on, my mobility and posture have greatly improved, so I’m converted.

Jim Tressel or Urban Meyer?

Luke Fickell. Just kidding, that’s a tough one. I lean towards Urban but to correct for recency bias I’ll call it a tie and go with Woody Hayes for the win.

What was your go-to hangout on campus?

RPAC, the now-defunct Paninis, Little Bar

Favorite Short North spot?

Northstar for the chicken sandwich. Now that they’re adding a bar I might never leave.

 

Check out Upstart Columbus to explore open roles and join our team.