Meet Fortune's 2014 Big Data All-Stars

August 3, 2014

Andrew Nusca, Robert Hackett, Shalene Gupta

Big data is about more than big numbers. Meet Fortune’s first class of Big Data All-Stars: 20 extraordinary people who we think are the best at connecting the dots, digging deep, and discovering the information that will transform the way businesses operate.

Andrea Burbank, Data Scientist, Pinterest

At the image-focused social network Pinterest, data scientist Andrea Burbank leads A/B testing, evaluating how changes in the look or functionality of its website, mobile application, or communications impact the behavior of its roughly 60 million users worldwide. When a small module convinces you to invite a friend to the service, or a recommendation email induces you to follow more boards, it’s likely that Burbank and her team have their invisible hands on it. “I’ve watched hundreds of experiments go by on millions of users for a combination of billions of user days,” she said at an industry event in March. The testing extends to the company’s own processes, too. One of Burbank’s big wins was democratizing the ability for other Pinterest employees to run experiments. “Before, there was a single point of failure, but also a single point of knowledge,” she said. Not anymore. —Andrew Nusca

Arno Candel, Physicist and Hacker, 0xdata

Arno Candel caught the science bug early. He grew up in Untersiggenthal, Switzerland, a small village wedged between a top particle accelerator lab at the Paul Scherrer Institute and ETH Zürich, continental Europe’s most prestigious technical university. Studying particle physics and supercomputing, Candel coded models of the universe on computers. After moving to California to work at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, he moved to the startup world, joining Skytree as a founding engineer and designing high-performance machine learning algorithms. At 0xdata he is a core developer on the data science platform known as h2o, which has been ranked the number one open-source Java machine learning project by members of the coding community GitHub. The platform enables deep learning and is compatible with the popular statistical programming language R. His title at the company? “Physicist & Hacker,” of course. —Robert Hackett