Alum Spotlight: Marissa Bialek (MPP '16)

After graduating from Batten, I took the big leap to move cross-country. Awaiting in the Bay Area was my dream opportunity to work for Google: a company that allowed me to wear to the office my favorite red Transformer t-shirt and light wash blue jeans, and not just on Fridays.

My current role at Google is a People Analyst as part of our People Innovation Lab (PiLab), an incubator team seeking to conduct and import people-related research that transforms organizational practice within Google and beyond. The PiLab conducts applied experiments within Google to determine how to make work better (e.g., What makes for an effective team? or, How can we develop great managers?). As part of my role in the PiLab, I help manage “gDNA” – Google’s “100 year” longitudinal study on work. Since we know that people’s work experience is determined by innate characteristics (nature) and their surroundings (nurture), our gDNA survey collects information about both. Participation in the study is randomized, representative, optional, and confidential.

I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am today in my career. As cliche as it may sound, I had had my sights set on a job like this one ever since I started taking social psychology-related courses with Batten’s Prof. Benjamin Converse. I remember geeking out at things like Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion and the concept of “sticky” ideas. It was no surprise to many of my former classmates that I emailed Prof. Converse after accepting the People Analyst position to thank him for the inspiration. Above all, though, I absolutely fell in love with the idea that social science helps us better understand human behavior in a way that can change the world for the better… and I think that’s exactly what I’m working toward now as a People Analyst at Google – it goes to show an MPP at Batten can really take you anywhere.

One of the most important lessons from Batten that I bring to work with me every day is to consider the information you have and the information you don’t – because you never know how a few missing data points could completely change the story. I find that to be especially the case when working on people-centered research as the missing data points are often things like morals that are particularly challenging, if not impossible, to quantify.

Before I close out, my advice to current students is: do “something cool.” It doesn’t matter what “cool” means to you, but don’t let the time just pass you by while you’re trying to ace every exam. You might not find a specific subject matter that rocks your socks, or a professor who particularly inspires you, but listen, if Batten allowed me to take 3D digital animation classes in the Architecture school and have them count toward my MPP because they taught me how to tell a good story, then I have no doubt that Batten is a place where every one of you can find your own “something cool.”

Marissa Bialek is a People Analyst on the People Innovation Lab (PiLab) at Google in the Bay Area. She graduated from the Accelerated Master of Public Policy program in 2016 and received her B.A. in Political and Social Thought (PST) from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2015. She nerds out to social psychology research, animation, and video games.