Meet Cake: this is Jessica

By Davy Kestens

Meet the people behind Cake in this interview series. Today, it’s up to Jessica, co-founder and Head of Data Science.

Name: Jessica Ruelens
Role: Co-founder and Head of Data Science
Making Cake since: December 2018
Location: Lummen, Belgium

Tell us about your workspace 

We live in an old (renovated) house of over 200 years old. It is located right across from both the church and the school. My workspace looks straight onto the church and it’s the smallest room in the house, but still ideal for a standing desk with enough natural light. 

My first challenge of the day is getting my kids, 6 and 3 years old, to school on time, somewhat clean and fed. The school is right next to our house, so I can start working as soon as I drop them off. I usually start by checking Slack (not emails, we don’t do emails) and checking our dashboards to make sure our user base is still increasing and no data processes have started misbehaving overnight. During our daily stand-up zoom call at 9, we discuss the focus for the day together with the team. But very often that doesn’t coincide entirely with what I’ll be doing as priorities shift quite a bit, blame it on start-up life.😬

The church bells and the noise at school remind me to stop for coffee and eat. Most of my day consists of a mix of concentrated work and Zoom video calls to discuss planning, specific integration or development parts. I also like to visit a co-working space closeby every now and then to mix things up a bit and see some real humans for a change. Hopefully we can meet in person with the team again more often in a few months as well. 

I’ve had my fair share of offices and commutes over the years, there was even a year in which I was taking the ferry to work in Sydney harbour. They all have advantages and disadvantages, but working from home being the default is a great time-saver when you have kids. And a big bonus is that I can be there for all the big and smaller moments in their lives.

What do you do at Cake?

I am the Head of Data Science, which means that I plan and coordinate mostly everything to do with the functionality we are building around and with data. That includes (but is definitely not limited to) our machine learning models to enrich transactions and creating aggregated reports for our B2B partners. 

Our enrichment model and the insights that are now made possible thanks to that is a great milestone in itself, but one that will never be finished as we see more data coming in all different types of formats and hopefully soon rom different countries. Thanks to that enrichment model, which structures the unstructured transaction data that we receive from the bank, we can hand out rewards to our users 💸 and create interesting reports for partners.📈

Over the past few months our team has put together 2 white papers around some hot topics: meal boxes and their increase in popularity in the past few years and second-hand fashion, which has also gained considerable traction lately.  These white papers show the potential of our unique transactional dataset and it’s great to see how it’s showing all these interesting patterns when you start looking for them. For instance, we see that meal boxes are especially popular amongst time-poor families with young children and second-hand fashion buyers are more likely to shop at fast-fashion brands than at any other brands.

Apart from planning and coordination, I also still very much like to get my hands dirty with reporting (together with Xavier), data loading scripts, data modelling and following the development of machine learning models, where I can. I am also very lucky to be in this line of work, I can’t imagine a more exciting job where you get to explore and find new kinds of patterns and trends every day. Although it might not look like that from the outside.👩🏻‍💻

I am also very blessed to work with a team of geniuses who are working hard to achieve our ambitious goals. Without these people we wouldn’t have been able to create this unique and interesting dataset.

Why Cake and not another company?

Being asked to join a start-up is not something that happens every day, so when Davy talked to me about his ambitious plans, I didn’t have to contemplate long before saying yes. The enrichment and reward functionality our team has built and reports that are possible with our data set is something I am very proud of. It proves that when people realise their data is valuable and they decide to share it, there is so much to be gained in terms of market transparency. Not only considering spending habits, but also looking at income. I am secretly hoping for a day on which policy makers will turn to datasets like ours to make informed decisions around upcoming regulations.

What’s your most memorable Cake moment?

There have been a few, but one that springs to mind is our summer barbecue in a beautiful park in Brussels with the entire team and partners present after a long time of not seeing one another face to face. There were many laughs, cocktails and beers, and it was great to catch-up informally again after a long period of zoom-only conversations. 

The evening had a great vibe and I felt a real sense of companionship with likeminded people, all sharing a common goal. 🎯

What’s your favourite cake?

I am not good at baking myself. Well, that’s an understatement. I can’t bake at all, I don’t like to follow recipes.😏

But luckily my father can make the best frangipani cake and I always urge him not to bring too much over if he bakes one, because, you know, the working from home alone thing.😅

Any topping on the Cake?

We are currently revamping our B2B reporting platform with advanced filtering functionality to help retailers track their market share and market penetration in almost real-time, assess the success of churn and acquisition campaigns, compare their customers to competitors’ customers, etc. It’s looking really sharp 🤩 and I can’t wait for our partners to start testing it out and getting to know their competitive performance and customers better in terms of demographics and spending behaviour at other merchants for instance. 

Enjoy! 🍰

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