John heads the Data Science team at District 34. Originally a terrain analyst in the military, John uses his mapping and data skills to identify high-growth areas that are suitable for London first-time buyers.
How did you get into real estate?
I fell into the world of real estate by accident. As a Singaporean I had to serve in the military for two years, where I was selected to be a terrain analyst. I had to study the terrain and pick out the areas of strategic importance – the “high ground”, as it were – and present my findings to the commanders.
There are no smooth-talking estate agents in this specialised area of real estate. War is a matter of life and death, and everything has to be backed by hard data and evidence. Here I learnt about the importance of location: where you deploy your troops is critical to success in battle.
I guess I’m been doing the same thing ever since, just applying my skills in different areas. When I came to London I did consulting work for the government and private companies about where to put their things, from academies to shopping malls to data centres.
Now I apply my skills towards helping the man on the street looking to buy a home, probably the biggest and most complicated purchase of their lives. It is a life-changing decision, and it should be backed by more than just marketing fluff.
What do you do at District 34?
I help District 34 collect and analyse data, sucking in datasets on migration, commuting, transport, house prices and more into our “brain”.
The most important part of our analysis is the community: our members let us know their needs, such as where they need to get to work and their budget – a bit like Professor X’s Cerebro. From there, we put everything together, allowing us to bring forward developments that are most needed by our members.
Basically I sit at my desk and bash my keyboard all day. Thankfully I am allowed to leave the bunker once in a while to meet our members — I secretly really look forward to these meetings!
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To be able to do a “Ctrl+Z” command (undo) in real life. I actually tried it once, on my toaster after a really long night of number-crunching.
It did not work.
What do you do outside of work?
Reading, writing, and drawing. I published a book together with a friend of mine a while back – he wrote and I illustrated.
What is your most memorable moment at District 34?
Giving out flyers outside the tube station with my colleagues, dressed as a prison inmate chained to a giant ball with the word “RENT” on it.
We learnt a lot that day about improving our flyer design!