Mark Pitts is a data scientist and healthcare executive with over 25 years of experience solving business problems with technology and analytics. Pitts started programming at the age of 13 – writing his first program on paper because he didn’t yet have a computer – and hasn’t stopped since. As a fourth year undergraduate studying computer engineering, he realized that the value of computing technology, aside from being great fun, was in solving real-world problems. Yet, he also realized that most computer scientists knew little about business, and that most business people knew little about computing. Concluding that advanced expertise in both domains would be powerful, Pitts changed his major. Gaining admission to the top-ten accounting program at the University of Florida, Pitts earned a BS in Accounting with Honors and a Master of Accounting degree from the prestigious Fisher School. He also earned certified management accountant (CMA) and Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) credentials, and indulged his love of teaching as an adjunct professor of college courses specializing in management accounting and decision theory.
Pitts applied his multidisciplinary skillset to the real world, leading enterprise implementations of ERP, financial, and business intelligence systems, including application suites from MSA, Dun & Bradstreet, Peoplesoft, and Cognos. He also led multi-million-dollar, green-field development projects to solve enterprise-scale business challenges. Pitts ultimately progressed from the IT shop to the business, driving the financial performance of healthcare organizations in areas including managed care contracting, provider compensation, payment integrity, forecasting, clinical quality, medical billing, receivables management, and analytics. His innovative work has been recognized with a variety of awards, and his creations support benefits measured in billions of dollars.
As Pitts observed that both computing and business were changing rapidly, he came to recognize that advances in computing technology, the explosion of the electronically interconnected world, and advances in machine learning would combine to change the game – especially in healthcare. Once again believing that advanced expertise in multiple disciplines would uniquely qualify him to solve these new challenges (and perhaps also to indulge his love of learning), Pitts dusted off his calculus and linear algebra from engineering school and dove back into academia. Gaining admission to the renowned graduate statistics program at Texas A&M University, Pitts began a multi-year journey to earn a Master of Science in Statistics with a dual emphasis (surprise, surprise) in Applied Statistics and Biostatistics. He will graduate in 2013.
Pitts has a passion for writing and public speaking, with a track record of highly-rated appearances in a variety of venues – from business and executive conferences to technical and analytics conferences. Many attendees comment on his ability to make technical topics like vector space models and parallel computing accessible to everyone – and with a sense of humor along the way. He has been interviewed, quoted, and featured in a variety of print and online publications, most recently in the 2012 InformationWeek Advanced Analytics issue. He is a SAS Business Knowledge Series author, currently developing a course designed to introduce business people to the power of data visualization and analytics to solve everyday business problems. He is also incubating a book project that will gain more momentum post-graduation.
Pitts is a driven supporter of charities and non-profit organizations, and has a special interest in children’s issues. He currently serves on the board of a Hague-accredited international adoption agency, and is also volunteering to help create a unique hospice that is just for children. Pitts has served in a variety of other volunteer roles, including as a Guardian ad Litem for at-risk children – even arguing in open court on their behalf.
Pitts is currently employed by a Fortune 25 company, and he lives in Minneapolis with his lovely wife, their two teenagers, and four remarkably spoiled dogs. While he doesn’t have much time for hobbies at the moment, he fondly remembers days of skydiving (almost 200 free-fall jumps), rock climbing (you don’t want to know), scuba diving (he really did “swim with the sharks”), and motorcycling (sport bikes, obviously). He is also still glowing – and is somewhat harder to live with – after Harvard Business Review declared that Data Scientist is the sexiest job of the 21st century.
Some guys have all the luck. You can follow Pitts on Twitter @DatalyticSci.