In our latest video interview, we had the pleasure of speaking with AJ Pryor, the Chief Technology Officer at Torqata Data and Analytics. With a vast amount of experience under his belt, Pryor shed light on the fascinating world of tire industry analytics, a field that’s crucial yet often overlooked. Torqata, a SaaS company, has positioned itself as a game-changer in the industry, aiding businesses with data-driven decisions in a sector that’s traditionally been resistant to such advancements.
The tire industry, despite being dominated by Fortune 500 companies like Michelin and Bridgestone, frequently grapples with inaccurate forecasts and supply chain inefficiencies, an issue that Torqata is determined to resolve. By providing valuable insights and efficient software solutions, Torqata aims to simplify the process for tire retailers and auto services, contributing to better business management.
The company’s ambition doesn’t stop there; they are striving to become a leading authority on data and analytics in the automotive space, with the recent expansion of their marketing and social presence underlining this objective. In the enlightening conversation that follows, Pryor shares Torqata’s success story, its goals, and the exciting future he envisions for the company.
Revolutionizing the Tire Industry: Torqata’s Data-Driven Pathway
You’re running a tire business, and the constant inaccuracies in forecasts are giving you a hard time. But lo and behold! Torqata swoops in to save the day. The company, led by CTO AJ Pryor, is not just a tech entity. It’s a superhero in disguise for the tire industry, ready to pull it from the deep antiquated trenches of inefficient decision-making. AJ articulates, “Despite being large entities, Fortune 500 companies often don’t have particularly good or accurate forecasts. But that’s what Torqata is here to change.”
Being more than just an analytics service provider, Torqata is on a mission to help those who are the lifeblood of the tire world – the retailers. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there, struggling to find the right tire at the right price. AJ lets us in on the company’s goal: “We’re here to help make it easier for retailers to make better decisions and run their businesses better.” Say goodbye to the agonizing search for tires and hello to a smoother, data-enhanced customer experience!
But wait, there’s more. Torqata isn’t just stopping at revolutionizing the industry. They have their sights set on becoming a leading authority in the automotive data and analytics sphere. They are providing the right consultative relationships with customers, ranging from manufacturers to distributors and retailers. As AJ eloquently puts it, “We seek to be an authority in this space. It’s a tremendously exciting thing for us.” And the future? It looks bright and data-driven for Torqata.
The Unexpected Journey: From Physics PhD to Automotive Data Scientist – An Intimate Chat with AJ
There’s a charm to the unconventional, and our guest, AJ, personifies that charm. AJ is not just your everyday software developer. His journey to becoming a prominent figure in the software development and coding industry is peppered with surprising turns, starting with his earliest academic interests. “I was one of the good kids, keen on math and science,” AJ fondly recalls. Despite his strong academic performance, AJ didn’t get his hands dirty with coding until he found himself at the Georgia Institute of Technology. That’s where he was first exposed to programming, and it didn’t take long for the allure of coding to sink its hooks in. He adds, “I have a personality that tends to fixate on things I am keenly interested in. Programming was one of those things.”
AJ’s path did not settle into the groove of computer science; instead, he discovered that his passion lay with physics. Physics, he observed, offered a perfect blend of programming and scientific visualization that appealed to his love for problem-solving and creativity. However, the journey was not smooth sailing. There were challenges and obstacles that constantly tested his mettle. He mused, “I remember that basically, we were studying gravitation, and we had a challenge to land the Apollo spacecraft on the moon. It was the coolest thing ever.” This fascination with physics led him to pursue his doctorate at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he specialized in 3D image reconstruction algorithms.
Just as unpredictable as his entry into the world of programming was AJ’s eventual career choice. He could have followed the more predictable path and become a professor of physics. Instead, he confronted a crossroads and chose the road less taken – a career in the rapidly emerging field of data science. “I had to come to a fork in the road. I had two options – Wall Street or data science. I chose the latter,” he shared. This choice catapulted him into the tech industry, where he now leverages his skills and expertise to bring a new dimension to the automotive industry. He adds with a hint of whimsy, “So, how did I end up in a tire retail automotive company?”
Navigating Work-Life Balance, Nurturing a Healthy Company Culture, and Staying Bright Amid the Startup Struggle: AJ Pryor Shares His Secrets
When asked about his perspective on work-life balance, AJ has a unique perspective that informs his leadership at Torqata. His conviction of the paramountcy of maintaining work-life balance reverberates through the company culture. His is a narrative far from the mainstream glorification of overwork. Instead, he believes in keeping the hours within the traditional work day, a lesson learned from his keen awareness of his cognitive peaks and dips throughout the day. AJ humorously shares, “7pm AJ is just probably his brains melted by that point in the day, we’ll just have to try again tomorrow.”
Beyond the confines of the office, AJ cultivates a life that is filled with family, food, music, and technology. The father of four, husband, and hobby chef describes his home life as a harmonious rhythm that fuels his work. In his words, “When I feel my bucket is full at work, I’m a better dad. And by being a better dad, I show up better at work.” This sentiment, combined with his passion for music and technology, illustrates a rich tapestry of diverse interests that contribute to his overall well-being and productivity.
It’s not just about his personal balance, though. AJ carries this ethos into the heart of Torqata, promoting a culture of balance, respect for personal time, and a focus on long-term team productivity. He has a profound belief in creating a workspace that appeals to the kind of people he wants in his team, saying, “I believe that the way that I think about building a team and a culture is if you build the kind of world where the kind of people that you want to work want to work, they will want to work there.” This philosophy has resulted in a thriving team of “smart developers” and “curious-minded people” that reflect the same commitment to balance and achievement that AJ himself embodies.
Paving New Roads: AJ’s Tireless Innovation in the Tire Industry
AJ’s incredible journey from forming a data science team within American Tire Distributors to birthing Torqata – an entirely new venture – is a testament to his ingenuity and steadfast determination. This brilliant innovator took an often unappreciated necessity – buying tires – and made it a primary focus, recognizing gaps in the data and turning these into opportunities for growth and development. The tire industry’s traditional reliance on ‘sell in’ data was, to AJ, a severe limitation. He envisioned a system that could gather transactional data and inventory positions from countless retail shops nationwide, thereby driving more informed business decisions.
As the world grappled with a global pandemic, AJ and his team were undeterred. He led the expansion of Torqata from 15 to 80 employees in a fully remote environment in 2021. A challenge to most, yet he describes it as being ‘medium started.’ AJ’s passion for problem-solving and his knack for building successful teams make his role in the company an integral one. ‘I’m a finish the drill kind of person,’ he says, demonstrating his commitment to seeing his vision through. He may not see himself as a future CEO, but his indispensable contributions and collaborative spirit undoubtedly shape the direction and success of Torqata.
Though a ‘small cog in the big machine’ is not for AJ, he sees technology as a fundamental support function for driving the whole business. His unwavering focus on the present reflects his dedication and grit. And it’s this persistent attitude, encapsulated in his favorite quote: ‘What would you attempt to do today if you knew you could not fail?’ that continues to fuel his desire to solve hard problems with smart people. A testament to his belief in diving headfirst into the unknown, AJ proves that sometimes, a leap of faith can lead to achieving something special.”