Medical marketing agencies employ plenty of people who have made data and analytics their life’s work. What the business lacks are individuals with data/analytics know-how who are able to craft compelling narratives out of the information at hand. Meet 81qd’s Daniel Leszkiewicz, a data scientist with a flair for storytelling.

Now that we’re mostly past it, how would you characterize your pandemic experience?

My takeaway is that you may want to give everything to your work, but you need to make sure you give everything to your family. I’m a better worker and family person since I realized that each feeds off the other. I didn’t make any massive changes, but there’s more balance in my life.

Why did you get into this industry?

Partly because I grew up in a family of learners and scientists. I wanted to do something in the healthcare space broadly, but not as a practitioner. So I studied neuroscience for five years and got my Ph.D., then spent two years at the University of London in a postdoctoral program. When I got back to New York, I realized I was done with research. I didn’t want to deal with mice and getting grants.

How did you transition over to the analytics side of the business?

I’d been working on the medical team creating content about antipsychotics and got to wear a lot of hats — I built websites, I made videos. Eventually I realized that I missed playing with data. So I kind of came back to where I was as a scientist — but instead of collecting data, I have the treasure trove of data that I wanted when I was creating content. I ask lots of questions.

Who helped you out along the way?

My Ph.D. adviser at Pitt taught me how to do research in a way that ultimately lets you tell a story. Too often people get caught up in doing the work and getting the data, but absent a story the data is relatively meaningless. And 81qd’s current CEO [Leon Behar, who heads up 81qd parent Marketing Knowledge Group] got me to be a good writer. He achieved something that every other educator I’ve had, including my mother, wasn’t able to achieve, which was to get me to write at a higher level. If you think about it in terms of carrot or stick, that required a lot of stick.

How is your role different from that of other people in similar jobs?

I think of myself as a translator. We take a client’s requests or thoughts and turn them into a strategy that can be used by somebody who doesn’t know anything about a drug or disease state.

What is your favorite part of the job?

We can rapidly prototype things. I’ve been able to do that a bunch of times this year. That’s the beauty of not building houses or working in an automobile shop for living.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Keeping up with the massive amount of change. I love getting my hands dirty with data, but no one is ready to handle the changes that will happen in the next year when it comes to access to information and the impact of AI.

What are your work station must-haves?

Some headphones to listen to music or podcasts, an iPad with a camera on my doggie and a window, whether I’m in an office or at home. At home I stare out at a bunch of trees. In Manhattan, our offices are on the 84th floor of the World Trade Center. You can get lost in the view.

What is something about you that your colleagues don’t know?

Since the pandemic, I’ve taken up sim racing. I drive a virtual car on a track using a VR headset and a steering wheel.

What is your pop culture sweet spot?

I’ve always been into spies, whether from a fiction or nonfiction perspective. It started with James Bond many years ago, when I was fascinated with all the gadgets he uses in his job and the far-flung places he goes. I love spy novels about the 1980s, with switched-up briefcases and taking pictures of documents. Taking us to the other worlds we probably won’t visit — that’s a wonderful aspect of literature.

What are your plans for retirement?

I’d love to work part-time in the tech or food or art world. I’ll probably find some time to tinker on stuff around the house; a couple of weekends ago, I rehabbed my espresso machine. I’ll keep myself busy.