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Victor Benjamin: Eschewing buzzwords, opting for usable and accessible research

Faculty Sketch

Victor Benjamin, Assistant Professor of Information Systems and co-director of the Actionable Analytics Lab, sighs when asked how he describes his job. “Artificial intelligence. Darkweb. Cybersecurity. Analytics. All of those things are kind of buzzwords now, so I find it tough to explain to people what I do in a meaningful way. I try to focus on research that is high-impact to society, not just because it is cutting edge, but because the public is a consumer of these technologies in their everyday lives.”

Victor’s first foray into academic research was during his time as a student at University of Arizona (a rivalry on which he will not comment!). He was on a National Research Foundation (NSF) grant there, which showed him how information systems research can have meaningful outcomes. For example, Victor and his colleagues at the W. P. Carey Actionable Analytics Lab examine issues like bot content online or how social media metrics can inform product design at Adidas.

While Victor loves being in such a rapidly changing field, he is grateful for his students who keep his skill sets fresh. “A lot of younger folks — it's not even their age, it's their mindset — they're young in the capacity that they want to learn. What are the emerging technologies? What's going to be the next state of the art thing? Having a new batch of students each semester forces me to stay current.”

Victor also commends the supportive environment at W. P. Carey. “I have so many mentors here. Pei-yu Chen and Raghu Santanam have both provided me with excellent guidance and opportunities. Mohan Gopalakrishnan worked with me on a project during my first year at ASU and has frequently checked up on me several times since then. Mike Goul and Amy Hillman are incredibly supportive as well. Sometimes I think that they are so busy there’s no way they have time for me — but then they do. I have felt welcome here since day one.”

What is your favorite W. P. Carey event?

This is specific to the IS department, but we have lunch together just about every day. It’s actually funny because we moved to the BAC building, but every day we still go back to our old BA lunch spot together. We have great camaraderie and I hope we keep doing that.

What was your first job and what did it teach you?

I worked at RadioShack, and it was a terrible experience. I learned how to NOT run a business. I also learned I was a bit too honest of a salesperson. I would be like “Don’t buy this subpar product!”

What's the most adventurous thing you've ever done?

China was the first country I visited outside the United States. I guess one thing I've always enjoyed about academia, especially in business school, is the cultural diversity. There are a lot of things about the way we live our lives which are just complete social constructs, and when you go experience somewhere else, a lot of cultural biases we are familiar with just melt away. So visiting China was a very cool experience for this reason.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

My wife and I love to play Pokémon Go together. I have also gotten into road biking, which there is a great community for in the Phoenix area. I was a little hesitant about the spandex suits at first, but they actually really work.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

There are so many to choose from. I would probably say mind reading or time travel. With both of those, you get some control over what events unfold.

Salty or sweet? Both

Coffee or tea? Coffee

Cat or dog? Dog

Board games or video games? Video games

Book or movie? Movie

Mac or PC? PC

Morning person or night owl? Night owl

Hot or cold? Hot

On time or late? Late