When Navy veteran Daryl Barker joined The Expert Institute almost a year ago, he was thrilled to begin his first full-time civilian job in a research capacity. Daryl was looking for a place that would allow him to broaden his horizons. After all, his background is very diverse: He started out in the military as a nuclear operator, went on to complete undergraduate studies in politics, and held internships in both legal and media research.
We caught up with Daryl to hear about the types of cases he’s been working on recently and what it’s been like working with attorneys and industry experts at The Expert Institute.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you got to TEI?
I’m from Santa Monica originally. I joined the Navy when I was 19 and went through 2 years of training in South Carolina to become a nuclear operator. I was stationed for a year on The USS Tennessee, an Ohio Class SSBN submarine that was going through a refuel in Virginia before completing 3 years of deployments in Georgia. After I finished my contract in 2014, I got into my dream school, Occidental College, where I majored Politics and minored in Art History. When I finished school, I interned with the Geena Davis Institute doing gender and media research. I really enjoyed the work I was doing so I began looking for a full-time research position. I came across TEI on Linkedin and the Research Analyst position seemed like a very natural fit for me.
What made the fit feel so natural?
I’m interested in the law, research, and a variety of topics that may not traditionally fit together in one job or career path. The Research Analyst position gave me the chance to align all my interests and presented me with a new challenge. I had the opportunity to develop a completely different set of skills from anything I’d applied previously.
I was also struck by the friendliness of the people at the office and how closely the teams work together. Everybody knows each other here, and we go out to do activities together regularly. If someone from the New York office is in town, we go out for drinks after work. We’ve also gone to Dave & Buster’s as a team. Coming from a Navy background, I was used to having a tight-knit group of people that I lived and worked with. I was excited to find a workplace that gave me the same sense of camaraderie.
Do you have a favorite memory with the TEI team?
I am kind of nerdy and I love to roller skate. Every week, I go to a roller rink in Glendale that has an LGBTQ-themed night. One time, my Research Manager came out and roller skated with me and it was a blast!
TEI has also been a really cool space to feel supported doing things outside of work. I volunteer for an academic decathlon for high school students and the company was receptive to organizing volunteers to go out for future events. I’m also working on a project with a former professor and trying to get a paper published, and I was able to take a couple of days off to go to a political science conference. I appreciate that there’s a lot of support day-to-day.
Speaking of day-to-day, can you walk me through a typical day at the office?
I usually get here early to review responses that have come in from expert outreach and follow up on cases that need extra attention. I frequently check in with Research Managers to update them on the status of my cases. I get a lot of feedback too, which helps me develop new outreach plans. I’ll also bounce questions off of the doctors on our Medical Research team. It’s great being able to learn from people who are trained MDs. They can tell me something right off the bat that would take a while to research.
For lunch, our team typically eats together in the common area, which helps us finish the day strong. At the end of the day, I’m making sure to close the loop with the clients, keeping them informed of the search process on our end and following up after they’ve retained experts to see how the relationship is progressing. It’s really cool to be working on something new every day here. A rush case could suddenly come in or you could get assigned a complex case that forces you to do a lot of digging. I’ve worked on a number of cases that seemed simple on the surface but once I got more involved in the research and talked to experts in the field, they proved to be more nuanced.
What is it like interacting with attorneys and experts in the field while researching your cases?
It’s definitely an exercise in humility. We work with attorneys who are very successful in their practice areas and experts who are both highly educated and particularly skilled in a range of fields. Sometimes you have to acknowledge what you don’t know and be able to take the time to learn about the topics and ask questions. In the Navy, I served in an engineering role. So when I first started at TEI, I worked on several cases that fell into my former wheelhouse. But since I’ve started, I’ve also worked on a number of neonatology cases and learned more about childbirth than I ever thought I would know.
It’s an interesting challenge to have a meaningful conversation with an expert who has spent more than a decade studying a topic that I’ve had 24 hours to get up to speed on. You have to be able to think on your feet, to gauge the expert’s level of knowledge and opinions, and take that information back to the attorney to let them know how this expert is going to opine.
What has been your proudest moment at TEI?
I worked on a hydroblasting case that was particularly rewarding. There are less than 10 hydroblasting companies in California and one of the larger ones was the defendant in this particular suit. Initially, almost everyone I got in touch with wasn’t interested in testifying because the community was too small. On top of that, the client had asked for the expert to meet a very particular set of qualifications. The expert not only had to be familiar with the technology, but also had to be a certified diver who could speak to how a diver would handle the same equipment differently than someone using it on land.
It was a very long search that involved contacting many experts and consulting with people internally to brainstorm new approaches. Eventually I was able to make connections with people in the field and found lesser-known programs that employed professionals who matched the client’s needs. Through these connections, I was finally able to find someone who checked all the boxes. The client was very happy with the outcome and said, “These are the kinds of cases we come to The Expert Institute for.” No one else would have been able to find that person for them.
What would you tell someone who is considering joining the TEI research team?
If you’re a cowboy, stay home. If you’re a team player, come out! We’re collaborative, positive, and team oriented — and that team dynamic is a huge part of what makes us successful. If you’re interested in being challenged every day to do and learn new things and looking to get out of your comfort zone, you’ll do well here.