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GEEK OF THE WEEK: DANNY HEUMAN

by Michael J. Weiss | Jul 27, 2012
danny-heuman“OG – Original Geek”

Think of Danny Heuman as an Original Geek.

As one of Environics Analytics’ first six employees, he remembers the company’s first staff meeting at their original offices on Bloor and Yonge Streets. “We walked into an empty room except for some discarded cables and desks,” Danny recalls of that day in November 2003. “We had no computers. We had no phones. A single table served as our lunch room. We basically had nothing.” Nothing, that is, but a handful of very experienced people in marketing analytics whom Jan Kestle had lured to her startup.

Among that inaugural team—which also included Catherine Pearson, Tom Montpool, Mike Williams and Peter Pavlakidis—Danny was responsible for drawing up the project plan detailing the resources needed to create EA’s initial geographic products, census products and, ultimately, a segmentation system. And it was Danny who ensured the team was well stocked with jelly beans, gum drops and potato chips to fuel those long workdays. “I knew it was risky to leave a stable job to come here,” says Danny, now 41. “But I believed in Jan and I was excited about the prospect of building a company from the ground up. That first day, we just talked about where we were going to sit and what we were going to do.”

As Vice President of Custom Research, Danny has been instrumental in EA’s steady growth. With a team of researchers and methodologists, he currently oversees the creation of high-quality geodemographic products for corporate, government and not-for-profit clients. An expert in market analytics and modelling, he led the development of EA’s popular PRIZMC2 and PRIZMQC segmentation systems. He also was the lead developer of PRIZMCE, conducting the innovative research that integrated psychographic Social Values with geodemographics for the groundbreaking segmentation system.

“I liked that it wasn’t about studying rivers and mountains but focused on human geography.”

It’s an unlikely career for someone who had planned to be a social worker. Born in North York to American immigrants—his father was a computer security consultant for banks, his mother was a teacher turned homemaker—Danny was stricken with cancer as a teenager. While his doctors tended to his physical well-being, it was through the help of social workers that he overcame the disease emotionally, leading him to envision a future doing the same for others. But when he attended an informational program at Ryerson University for prospective students, he found himself drawn to the booth next to the one for social work: the school of applied geography. “I liked that it wasn’t about studying rivers and mountains but focused on human geography,” says Danny. “And there was a computer aspect to it that also appealed to me.”

Danny earned a bachelor’s degree in geography at Ryerson—EA’s Senior Vice President Tony Lea taught him geodemography during his third year—and went on to earn a master’s degree in geography at York University. His master’s thesis, entitled “Decision Support Systems and the Selection of an Administrative Centre:  Nunavut,” used decision analysis software to evaluate communities suitable to be capital of the then recently created Nunavut territory. His top pick, Iqaluit, later became Nunavut’s capital.

After working one summer at Compusearch where he was mentored by the best—Tony Lea, again—Danny joined the company full-time in 1995, and that’s where he met Jan Kestle. Since following her to EA eight years ago, Danny has built a variety of desktop and online site evaluation models for restaurants, retail stores, financial institutions and government agencies. “I like the diversity of work,” he says, “working on a retail challenge one day and a financial R&D project the next.” And he’s still working alongside Tony who, as he puts it, has a long history in this field and knows everything.  His guidance, encouragement and support over the years have been invaluable.”

Danny’s ability to multitask also serves him well with the busy responsibilities of early childrearing: Married in 2005, he and his wife, Katy, have a son, Mitchell, 3-1/2, and daughter, Shawna, 1-1/2. “We’re a typical Pets & PCs family,” says Danny of their lifestyle in Thornhill, “a suburban family with young kids, a detached home and two cars. We’re all about the family. Our TV is tuned to the Disney Junior Channel all day long. If you opened my garage door, you’d see a minivan and mid-sized sedan.”

Watching his children grow reminds Danny a lot of those early days in 2003 when EA was just getting off the ground. And like any parent, he’s pleased and surprised to see how far the company has come. “It gives me a sense of pride that we were able to create a company that’s continuing to grow,” he says. But some things have changed through the years. “I don’t eat nearly as much candy,” he admits. “We’re all growing up.”

–Michael J. Weiss