In the loop

In the Loop: Marie Duran on when a pivot changes everything

By October 7, 2020 No Comments

When she’s not in perpetual motion—traveling, running, practicing morning yoga, or sweating through a dance class—Alkymi Solutions Architect Marie Duran likes solving problems. She spent years as a consultant, understanding how to remove process roadblocks for business users who need data to make decisions. Now she’s helping Alkymi deliver those same solutions. 


We’ve all had them—often many.

They’re the defining moments, pivots, insights that change everything. They can be sparked by one serendipitous meeting, brief exchange, a challenge turned opportunity or the instant ping of a new perspective. 

Marie Duran had her first career-defining pivot as a student at Lehigh University, where she planned to study biomedical engineering until a computer programming class changed everything.

“I was taking biology and thinking, ‘I don’t think this is for me.’ I was overwhelmed and struggling,” she remembers. “But in that first programming class, I immediately loved the trial and error of putting together a computer program—running it to see if it worked and if it didn’t, figuring out why. I’d be super zoomed in on building something and solving a problem. I loved it, and I knew instantly it’s what I’m supposed to do.”

After graduating with a degree in information systems engineering, Duran started a career in consulting at Accenture and then Ernst & Young, helping large enterprise clients find solutions to tough problems. 

The aha moment that resulted in a breakthrough

This move quickly brought her career success, and she became an expert in process improvement and automation, machine learning, and data and analytics for financial services clients. “I focused on improvement through digital transformation. We were revamping old processes with technology,”  she explains. 

While working on a project for an insurance company trying to eliminate time-consuming data entry, Duran and her team ran into repeated roadblocks.

“There was one big process they wanted to automate because it would yield a huge amount of cost savings. It was on everyone’s radar,” Duran says. But the data they needed to process was unstructured, and the robotic process automation (RPA) solution they had in place couldn’t handle it.

They tried over and over again to solve the problem, encountering strange glitches, and getting nowhere. After many long days and nights, Duran had an aha moment. She noticed that the user interface was dynamically changing every interaction, blocking access to the data they needed for automation. 

“Then, it hit me,” she says. “Why couldn’t we go straight to the database instead of the front-end? We tried it, and it worked.”

This aha moment changed two things for Duran. First, she knew she could find solutions to challenging problems, even if everyone else was thinking differently. And second, she learned that unstructured data is a pernicious problem—and an untapped opportunity—for businesses.

Getting to the heart of business users’ challenges

In her work with Accenture and Ernst & Young, Duran saw firsthand the challenges business users encounter when extracting and processing documents and data.

“We interacted with a lot of the front-office staff to understand what they’re doing on a daily basis and how technology can help them automate those tasks,” she says.

Partially, this experience is what led her to Alkymi (her second pivot) and to leave the comfort of management consulting for a fast-growing startup working on a problem she was familiar with. But, also, consulting was starting to feel repetitive. She was solving the same problems over and over for various clients. She understood why financial services companies were exploring data extraction solutions from emails and documents because the technology they’re working on was not getting the job done. 

As a solutions architect at Alkymi, Marie’s experience in the field is an enormous asset for Alkymi and its customers. 

“I understand the context of where business users are coming from and how Alkymi’s concept of human-in-the-loop transforms how they work.” 

Duran puts Alkymi’s value this way: “Is there ever going to be a day when Alkymi’s technology doesn’t make sense? This technology will be relevant until business users can just push something directly into a system or database and all the back-end systems connect automatically. So, for a pretty long time from now.” 

For now, Duran has a lot more problem-solving to keep her happy—and busy.

Is unstructured data a problem you’d like to solve? Schedule a demo with us to see how.