Ben Olsen

Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, Founder and CEO of Analytics Guild

Sammamish, Washington

Class of 2010, Philosophy major


Olsen has built data solutions and managed data teams for Costco, T-Mobile, Juniper Networks, and more, but he’s always returned to Microsoft throughout his career. Beginning as an analyst, he then moved on to data warehousing, project managing, and analytics in both volume licensing and display advertising. He just finished creating a MOOC for Microsoft in edX called “Interpreting and Communicating Data Insights for Business,” taken by students around the world. He’s also taught data visualization at the University of Washington, and will continue to teach and mentor next year at SPU.

How does your time at SPU connect to what you’re doing today?

Philosophy taught me logic (and logical thinking), how to put narratives together that are compelling, and how to deal with abstract concepts as thoroughly as possible. It also gave me the ability to empathize with other people’s positions on difficult subjects, and plenty of other communications skills that are key in success with business.

Which SPU faculty or staff member made a difference in your education?

Dr. Patrick McDonald, in his deep care for student development, and Dr. Stephen Layman, for his rigor and approach to philosophy. Dr. Luke Reinsma, for his wisdom and ability to teach one how to write.

What advice would you give to current SPU students?

Vote with your feet — don’t get bogged down in overthinking next steps. By trying new fields and jobs, I stumbled into my career — I could not have planned it.