Past Meetup

Big Data War Stories

This Meetup is past

250 people went

Walmart Labs

850 Cherry Ave · San Bruno, CA

How to find us

Free underground parking behind the building on Bayhill Drive

Location image of event venue


No spots left? Sign-up for BigDataCamp ( at O'Reilly's Strata Conference ( on Feb 27th.


So you want to work with Big Data, but you don't have a PhD in semantic-bio-informatic-natural-language-computational-rocket-science? Our hosts at Walmart Labs and First Retail are sponsoring this event to communicate why the analysis of Big Data is vital to the competitiveness of organizations large and small. Panelists drawn from a variety of disciplines will share their stories from the front lines to demonstrate that using available tools and techniques a good engineer can deliver game-changing insights.

This conversation among real-life Big Data developers will be moderated by Dr. Andreas Weigend ( ( who does happen to have a PhD in rocket science (ok, it's actually in physics).


6:30 pm Networking
7:00 pm Welcome - Dave Nielsen
7:15 pm "The Need for Data Scientists" by Gam Dias (First Retail) and David Needham (Walmart Labs) who will describe the need for data scientists, machine learning engineers, and other engineers willing to learn about scaling and big data.
7:45 pm Panel Presentations: Each panelist (see below) will have approximately 10 minutes to recount a real-life story about working with big data. Then we will encourage discussion and questioning from audience. Moderated by Dr. Andreas Weigend
9:00 pm Final Words & Strata Raffle
9:30 pm Drinks & More Networking sponsored by O'Reilly Strata Conference (

Panel Bios:

Dr. Andreas Weigend (Moderator) directs the Social Data Lab ( at Stanford University. He was the chief scientist at Amazon, where he drove the customer-centric and measurement-focused culture that has been central to Amazon's success. Today Andreas speaks at top conferences around the globe, and most recently he shared his vision on the future of data at the United Nations. He's a great speaker who challenges and inspires his audiences.
This is not going to be a Meetup to miss!

Mark Torrance is Chief Technology Officer of Rocket Fuel, a web display advertising company that uses big data systems built on Hadoop, Hive, HBase, and MongoDB to analyze and optimize ad campaigns for their clients' performance metrics. He was the founder and CEO of (, the first financial service on the Web back in 1993, and since that time has continued to deliver compelling web applications and services to consumers and businesses. At his web consultancy Vinq, his team designed and implemented large scale web applications such as (, (, a patent search application for Stanford University, and an AI based webmail system for DARPA. Mark holds degrees from Stanford and MIT.

Chuck Lam is the author of Hadoop in Action, a best-selling book for understanding and using Hadoop. He first got interested in data when he studied signal processing at San Jose State University. He went on to get a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford, with a thesis on "computational data acquisition." He gained practical experience in large social data as a tech lead at RockYou, analyzing 100M+ users on its application platform and 20B+ monthly impressions on its social ad network. In the last two years he founded a mobile group coordination startup named RollCall, with funding from Charles River Ventures, Storm Ventures, and Kapor Capital.

Pete Warden is the founder and CTO of Jetpac, a company whose mission is to inspire travelers through their friends’ experiences. After spending over a decade as a software engineer, including 5 years at Apple, Pete is now focused on a career as a mad scientist. He enjoys gathering, analyzing and visualizing the flood of web data that's recently emerged, trying to turn it into useful information without trampling on people's privacy. Pete is a serial entrepreneur who founded Mailana and OpenHeatMap in addition to Jetpac.

Raj Venkat is the Lead Engineer of the Item Catalog team @WalmartLabs, focusing on building the next generation Global Product Catalog that aims to position Walmart as a leader in the multi-channel eCommerce space. He has worked for over 15 years in a wide variety of business domains including Supply Chain, Financial Services, Product Management and eCommerce. But the common challenge across all of these domains has been data structure, volume and scale. Backed by a rockstar team, he is working to tackle hundreds of millions of items in an n-dimension space using a deadly combination of Cassandra, Hadoop, Hive, Solr and related technologies. He has previously held positions as Chief Architect at Third Pillar Systems and Senior Architect at Accept Corporation and has degrees from PSG Tech and IIT.


Thank you to Walmart Labs (, First Retail ( & O'Reilly Strata Conference ( for providing us the venue & food.

If you would like to sponsor, send an email to dave at