Alumni Spotlight: Laszlo Korsos, Lead Data Scientist - Uber

By Mohit Bhasin '15

Laszlo Korsos, Booth MBA '13

Laszlo Korsos, Booth MBA '13

2013 Booth alumnus and all-round nice guy Laszlo Korsos '13 is currently being nominated for Forbes 30 under 30. ChiBus connected with him remotely to figure out what it takes to make the list.

Chicago Business [CB]:  Tell me a little about yourself.
Laszlo Korsos [LK]: I started out as an aeronautical engineer and hoped to become a Navy pilot flying planes but I loved the math and engineering more than the actual activity of flying, so I decided to get my undergrad in Math and Finance and had experience in Private Equity and M&A in NYC before enrolling at Booth.

Once here, I deferred my first year at Booth to get a Master’s in Computer Science from the University of Chicago. Starting at Booth, I sought a greater challenge than those offered by the standard Booth classes so I started taking introductory PhD classes. Nicholas Polson, professor of Econometrics and Statistics, inspired me to get a PhD and so I segued my MBA into an Econometrics and Statistics PhD.

As a PhD I was working on research related to hedge fund replication and started getting a lot of calls from banks and hedge funds. Upon graduation I worked at Goldman Sachs as a quant structuring interest rate derivatives.

CB: Where does Uber fit into this vignette?
LK: A few years ago I climbed mount Aconcagua with a VC who introduced me to the idea of being a data scientist at Uber. After seeing the opportunity to grow the mathematical technology across the company, I jumped at the chance to join the team.

I currently work at Uber as the Lead Data Scientist of the Marketplace Modeling Team which develops the mathematical technologies that optimize the efficiency of Uber’s platform. 

CB: Which one of your 3 University of Chicago degrees was most valuable?
LK: Although the Computer Science degree was important for understanding what is computationally feasible and while I do a lot of business and strategy work, the classic UChicago rigor that the PhD offered was invaluable. It helps you structure complex problems in simple ways; once you do that you can leverage the years of work that others have spent trying to solve that simplified problem.

CB: Why do you think you were nominated for the Forbes 30 under 30?
LK: I used and introduced sophisticated mathematical tools to help Uber scale. We have grown into an organization where math is at the forefront of the business operations.

CB: Let’s talk about Math. What are statistical skills that any data-driven person should be comfortable with?
LK: Basic regression techniques are widely used but poorly understood. You need to know when assumptions break down and how to interpret results accurately. Difference in differences, instrumental variables, and discontinuity analysis are commonplace tools with a lot of applied value.

CB: What’s been your favorite project at Uber?
LK: UberPool! Every time you request an UberPool there’s an explosion of sophisticated math going on in the background.

CB: What do you do for fun?
LK: I was a fat kid - 225lbs. Halfway through graduate school I lost 75 lbs running along the Chicago lakefront. Now I'm an avid long distance runner and will be running the California International Marathon in a few weeks.

I'm also into high altitude mountaineering. My goal is to climb the 7 summits - I've done Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua and mount Elbrus. I plan on attempting to summit Denali next year.

CB: When are you coming back to visit Chicago?
LK: I miss Lou Malnati’s. Bay Area Pizza just doesn't compare. I also miss running up and down the Lakefront Trail.

Vote for Laszlo

1. Use the website form located at http://www.forbes.com/30-under-30-nominations/

2. Tweet at both @Forbes and @laszlo_korsos with the hashtag #My30Under30

3. Email forbes30@forbes.com with Laszlo's name, contact information (his twitter handle is good enough), the fact he works at Uber, and a reason why he should be nominated.