03. May 2017

The Data Lover

Businesswoman Christin Schäfer is living her dream in Adlershof

It’s the little things that have the greatest effects. The hidden details and bite-sized information. Observed from above, they can reveal structures and patterns and even help to answer moral dilemmas. For example, the fear of a scrupulous investor that his money might be going into projects that contradict his morals. With her young company “acs plus – data with care”, Christin Schäfer has developed software for a financial service provider which promises to yield answers to exactly those questions. Understanding the world through data analysis has been the statistician’s life-long passion. She feels privileged to have been born into the digital age: “I am lucky that the world is developing in a way that people, who can deal with data, are needed.” During her childhood growing up in Kassel in the early 1980s, the only accessible large data repository was the phone book. Christin used to colour in the numbers with crayons. She would use red for the “ugly” numbers like 3 or 7, green or blue for the “nice” numbers like 8. She loved the patterns this created and studied the statistical distribution of last names. She had a “big moment” listening to a radio report on a physics facility working on the detection of neutrinos. Discovering them was possible only by analyzing the data flow from the facility’s sensors. “The discovery was made by a data analyst,” she says. She had an epiphany. The life of the enthusiastic researcher, amateur photographer and opera buff has been full of moments like this. From 2002 to 2006, she was part of a project funded by the family ministry at the Fraunhofer-Institute, which was already located in Berlin Adlershof at the time. Her research looked at the conditions under which young couples decide to have children. Schäfer discovered a surprising correlation in the wealth of data of the Socio-economic Panel: the prospects for procreation were good, if two people shared household chores. Pure science, however, did not satisfy her desire for practical relevance: “I am happy if somebody tells me: cool, that’s really useful.” Schäfer began a second career in the financial sector. First as a risk analyst for Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt and then for a bank in Vienna. Being a part of the digitisation of banking was a defining moment for her. “I really wanted to get back to my data.” Back to coding by herself. And returning to Berlin, the “greenest” city on her “emotional map”. So, Schäfer started “career number three” and started a company for data analysis services in Adlershof. She moved into a room with a splendid view on the fourth floor of the international start-up centre OWZ in February. “I have a spring in my step every time I go into that room and I look forward to every new day at my office.” By Winfried Dolderer for Adlershof