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You are listening to the HumAIn Podcast. HumAIn is your first look at the startups and industry titans that are leading and disrupting artificial intelligence, data science, future of work and developer education. I am your host, David Yakobovitch, and you are listening to HumAIn. If you like this episode, remember to subscribe and leave a review. Now onto the show.
Welcome back to the HumAIn Podcast listeners. Today, our guest speaker is Merav Yuravlivker¹, who is the founder and CEO of Data Society. She is a co-founder of a movement in Washington D.C to accelerate the data economy and the next wave of the workforce. Merav, thanks for joining us on HumAIn.
Thank you so much for having me.
Well, we all know that we are now many weeks into what has been the unprecedented year of the Century known as the COVID-19 scenarios that we are experiencing.
We are only one fifth of the way through to.
One fifth of the way through but it feels like a lifetime. And one thing that we know that is so certain, is that data has never been as important as it is today.
Now to set the stage for this episode: Love for our listeners, to learn a little bit about who you are and what you do, and then let us dive into the data economy.
Sure. So, as you mentioned, I am the CEO and founder of Data Society, and we are a data science training and consulting firm. And we work with government agencies as well as large organizations and corporate clients to help them understand their data, to solve problems.
So whether that is through customizing training programs, to their use cases, to train up their workforce, to understand data, or whether that is building customized software and algorithms to help them make predictions about trends that they are seeing, we are there to provide solutions because we know that data is only useful when it is being analyzed and when it is being looked at and we help companies and agencies do that.
Now it is incredible because both of us here on the show, we are both involved in the education industry, as well as products and services. And everything has been disrupted as a result of COVID. But one of the industries that, although it has been disrupted, we have been seeing a lot of movements in, is the education, the digital transformation industry.
I have talked about with few of our other hosts and guests on HumAIn that, although there has been some disruption with Galvanize we have come out ahead, we have transformed, moved a lot into this live online model. What are some of the things that you have seen as well?
Yeah, absolutely. So I think what has been truly amazing is just the way that our team has handled the transition from more in-person training to more live streaming. So really big frankly, round of applause to them, for working with our clients, who have also been incredibly flexible and understanding.
And what we are seeing is a lot more interest for organizations that have offices across the world for these live streaming training that we are offering. So just to give you an example, one of our clients is the Inter-American Development Bank and they are here in Washington D.C.
So typically we do in-person trainings for them here although we also deliver trainings all over the country, but since we switched to live streaming, we have a lot of students from South America who are joining us now, and it has been really wonderful to see that additional impact that has had and the different points of view that they are bringing to the table.
And also seeing that type of collaboration between colleagues who do not normally work together. So we are seeing a lot of amazing advantages to switching to this model and that is just one of them.
And it is incredible to see this live streaming model. I have been on a few investor pitches this week, where we are seeing different startups, teaching Spanish over live streaming.
And even for many of the high school students who may be listening in or who are wanting to accelerate careers in #datascience or software engineering, there is one startup founder I have been following great attention with. It is actually the founder of Fiveable and they have been working on helping AP students get five’s on their exams here in the United States and globally. And they have seen tens of thousands of people studying live with instructors on the platform.
As these AP exams are literally on the way of going live any day. I remember when I was in high school, this was some of the most stressful times, but it is also incredible to see that we are starting to see more accessible and more equitable results that are possible as a result of the new modality of live online education.
I think you are exactly right. Seeing how this is really going to shift the way that people think about education. And there are, of course, a lot of considerations, we used to do full day training, but obviously it is very difficult for someone to sit in front of a screen and pay attention for 8 hours of a day or 7 hours of the day.
So now we are chunking it into smaller portions over longer periods of time to make sure that we are maximizing that learning and that retention. So all of these little shifts and adjustments that we are making to make sure that we keep that interactivity there, keep people engaged has been a really great addition to the content that we have.
Now of course learning is something that we always want to do as we are lifelong learners. But again, the phrase of the year is COVID-19 and data is very important today. I think it goes without saying that individuals like yourself and myself, a lot of our news and attention is being spent on COVID. We are seeing dashboards and analytics and reports out there every day about how are we flattening the curve? Are we alone together?
Where are the trends and diagnoses going with things like contact tracing and test and trace and track and trace and all these different initiatives, but there is so much going on. And can you, as someone who has worked a lot with NGOs and nonprofits and institutions that are trying to understand more about this, can you share with us some insights you have been discovering in the industry?
So, I think what you are saying is exactly right. Data is the only way that we are going to get through this successfully and make sure that we prevent it in the future. So it is really important for us to understand that data that we are collecting about this pandemic is truly for the benefit of the entire population. And what I mean by that is, when we look at the comparison between let us say South Korea and the United States who both discovered their first #COVID19 patients around the same time.
South Korea really went very heavy into the data and they instituted contact tracing and they instituted diagnostic tests, at a very high level and they were able to contain it because they could really quarantine people at a more specific level. Now it is important to state that, of course, South Korea is a much smaller country than the United States.
And it is much more isolated when you think about the borders that are around it. So they did have those advantages. But when we think about the level of testing that we need here in the United States, we are still working up to that as we are seeing. And what I will say is that while there is a lot of politics that seems to be involved in this pandemic, it is important to understand that data is apolitical and it is important to use it in order to inform our decisions.
So when we do not have data that we are collecting on it, we are not sure what our real numbers are. Like I know that New York City where you live, how to adjust their number of deaths higher and the middle of April, because there were so many that were unaccounted for, these are people that died in their homes, they did not even make it to the hospital.
And we are not sure who those family members, who those individuals infected, where is that contact tracing. So not knowing that can have a huge impact. And just to give you an example, I think it is estimated that about 20% of the people who have been infected with COVID are responsible for something like 90–95% of cases. So we really are looking at such a contagious disease and because it is asymptomatic, it is so important for us to be able to isolate those individuals as quickly as possible.
And the only way we can do that is with the data that we are talking about. So it is really been fascinating to see the level of research that has been done on this and I think we are going to see a lot of new insights and new protocols that will come out of it.
I think it is absolutely critical that we do proper isolation, containment, quarantine processes, because another very surprising statistic that came out of New York City from Governor Cuomo was that almost 66% of hospitalizations that we are seeing today in the 5 boroughs are people who are not essential workers and people who are not out there on the streets.
It is that perhaps something is going on with cleanliness and sterilization and that these impacts, as you are mentioning may be someone is going out to the grocery store. And now the essential worker at the grocery store is asymptomatic. And everyone is getting this condition thinking that they are safe.
So, my hope is that we are able to set up better track and trace processes over time. And I think you hit it best at the start of the episode Merav, which is that apolitical #data is what we should be thinking about. Thinking about unbiased data. If we can step away from all the stereotypes, we can think about how ethics and standards can help everyone together advance as an entire society so we can come out ahead from COVID-19.
Of course, we are seeing all the unemployment reports and a lot of statistics out here that COVID has impacted every part of the economy. But the key to understand is that data can help us identify trends and signals to then determine what does reopening look like? What does protection of different vulnerable populations look like?
But I think one of the keys there that I would love to dive deeper into is the difference between data process from data scientists versus epidemiologists. It is often assumed that data scientists, we have this magic secret sauce, we whip our fingers and we yell a special spell and magically we are at 99% accuracy. But is that the truth here?
I mean, I left my magic wand in the closet. So unfortunately I am not going to pull it out right now. I do think there is a lot of that misconception going around. And in fact, we did a study last year of data scientists and asked them what their biggest pain points were in their workforce, and what we found is that they had a lot of difficulty communicating insights to their managers and to their staff outside of their data science teams, because there is not a common data vocabulary we like to call and we actually train executives as well as general staff, because we want to be able to bridge that gap and co facilitate that type of collaboration and communication.
Another misconception that a lot of people have is that data science is magic. You push a button and all of a sudden, you know exactly what is going on, and I am sure you could also speak to how much time data collection and data cleaning actually takes. Usually it is 80% of any data project and a lot of the data scientists that we surveyed said that there was a lot of frustration on the part of their bosses because they do not understand exactly how time-consuming it is to collect that amount of data and then to collect it accurately and make sure that it is clean and ready for processing.
One thing that I will say is a key factor to any successful data analytics project is that industry knowledge; and one important factor that epidemiologists have that maybe not all data scientists have is a really deep understanding about the spread of disease, how diseases are transmitted, what are the key factors and influences in society.
And by having that knowledge and that by building on top of that with an additional data science layer, you are really merging the best of both worlds because they will be able to pinpoint exactly what they are looking for and they will be able to interpret the results in an industry specific way. So I think it is important to collaborate, but also understand of course that they are not the same and they are not interchangeable.
I think that is a hundred percent spot on because the epidemiologists know so much more about medical and healthcare data, whether it is looking at lungs or understanding different symptoms and how they impact each other, then a data scientist who takes a neural network and says, let us find a trend. But I think another thing that you share that is super interesting is about the data preparation, collection and refinements stage.
And we talk a lot about #designthinking in both software engineering and data science, but one of the areas that a lot of Americans do not know about is if Apple and Google want to set up this fantastic idea of contact and trace where you install these apps. And we are seeing some from MIT and now Apple and Google. Well, it does not work unless we get a critical mass of people to actually install the apps with their telecommunication providers and their devices. If 1 million, people less than a third of a percent of the population do it, how helpful is that going to really be?
I think it could be helpful in terms of extrapolating and modeling some of that network effects. So there are ways where we can do that to simulate what that could look like on a larger population. I will say and this is just from my personal standpoint about data privacy, there are some very valid concerns that have come up, people do not want to be tracked by a company without getting certain assurances about how their data will be used.
So I think that aspect needs to be addressed, and I am sure that leads to some hesitation by people who want to participate in the contact tracing program, but potentially are unsure about what that will lead to in the future in terms of their own privacy.
I mean, some of the hesitancy I can see there is from a new show that has been on air the last couple of weeks for anyone who has been Netflixing and chilling there is of course always Hulu and chill and Amazon Prime and chill. And there has been this show Uploads, which is all about this future world where you are living and you have no spoilers here at all, but this digital avatar presence or digital twin let us call it. And what is super interesting is they have this scene where someone puts on privacy mode, but then it is not really privacy mode.
So, I think that is what we think a lot about here today. And you should definitely check out the show, if you are a listener here, they are short episodes, but they are so futuristic. It is very much about where the world could be, but let us ground down into reality where we are today. I mean, I know at Data Society, you are working on some phenomenal projects and you have some new initiatives and new partnerships as well that you wanted to announce today. So let us hear what you have been up to.
Absolutely. So Data Society, of course, we are focused on helping people and that is usually helping people with their careers, helping organizations operate more effectively. But obviously when COVID hit, we saw that this was going to be a massive issue. And we wanted to figure out what the best way would be for us to be able to contribute.
And I had an experience recently, now it was a little while back where I went into a grocery store and I could only find about half of the products that I was searching for. And I realized that, I am sure you have experienced this as well, there was no way to know what is going to be at the grocery store until you get there.
And right now on demand delivery services, of course they are pricier than usual, and it also can take several days. So there is a lot of different implications as to why I wanted to go to the grocery store by myself. And I thought, well, what if we could connect with data inventories from grocery stores and then build an app to be able to share that information with shoppers so that they can check the supplies before they go. And that way they will only have to make one trip because the other concern is that the more trips you make outside, the more exposure you have to COVID.
So our aim is to reduce that, so you only have to go out one time to get the essential products that you need. And what we found out very quickly is that groceries had their hands full already. And a lot of them do not have up-to-date inventory APIs, for example, that we could tap into. So we ended up partnering with another local Washington D.C company called OurStreets, and they have built an app called OurStreets Supplies, which helps people find out what is in stock at a grocery store near them.
And it is a crowdsourcing app for now, so just as you correctly, noted earlier with contact tracing, it is only useful when people are reporting what is in stock and you can go and you can see, if I want to go to the grocery store, what has been reported to be in stock and that way, I know where to go. So right now we are using their data to do some descriptive statistics and then we will be going on to some #predictiveanalytics if and when we get enough data to do so.
So we are really excited to be able to help people understand; What are the trends? When is this most likely to run out if the store close to it, does not have the supplies that you need? Are there other stores within a one mile radius that do have the products that you need? Can we recommend that to you? So we are really excited to partner with them and bring in our data analytics expertise to help support their application.
I think this is such a thrilling idea because as someone who is a New Yorker, I host weekly dinner parties with a lot of colleagues and everyone tells me this store is out of chicken, this store is out of flour, this store is out of toilet paper.
And the only way that people discover what is real is actually by asking your friends; Oh I went this week to Trader Joe’s. They had it. I went to this specialty store on this corner and this avenue. But you no longer can call the store, you cannot even go on the websites often. So I think this is a fantastic solution that you are working on. Is there toilet paper? And is there the goods?
Well thinking of solutions, this is one solution, talking about COVID for good and how we can use data to help empower supply chains, which I think is one of the biggest industries that we have seen a lot of disruption, but also a lot of opportunity to digitally transform during the past year.
I think there is a lot more that is happening beyond the supply chains. Of course, the educational tech industry where we both have our hearts near and dear, as well as the healthcare industry. I wanted to talk a little about the educational industry.
We have for many of our listeners who are listening live or on the recording, here we are, in May and the monthly jobs report for unemployment recently came out with a numbers at least 20 plus million in April, another 5–10 million in May, and what was so interesting is, when I was reading the report, It was saying something that about 80% of these workers, which is so shocking, I think it is surprising this statistic that about 80% of them today have not actually been laid off.
They have been furloughed. Which is a phrase that many Americans do not even know what it means, like what is furloughed? And has that even happened in modern history. Like what does that mean? Can you share some of your thoughts on furloughed workers, the edtech industry, and what opportunity that can present to many of us?
So furloughed workers are workers that are still technically employed by companies, but are not receiving paychecks. And what is really unique in this situation is previously when employees were furloughed, they were not eligible for unemployment insurance, but because many companies are anticipating this to be a short crunch as opposed to a long lasting effect, they do not want to lose some of their employees by letting them go too soon.
So they are furloughing them and in the hopes to bring them back, assuming that the economy can go in the direction that we want it to. And the government has now stated that anybody who has been furloughed is eligible for unemployment insurance, and what is really good as well about furloughing is they still have access to their health insurance, which is critical, especially at this time.
But we are seeing a lot of people who are kind of sitting at home quarantining and figuring out, what do I do now? Now it is interesting, I read another statistic showing that about 77% of furloughed workers anticipate going back to work and I hope that is true, but we are also anticipating, I know Airbnb and Uber, I think just said, they are laying off about 10–15% of their workforce.
And what do we do with the individuals who now need to think about another career transition? And one of the longer term initiatives that my company is working on is helping prepare those individuals to re-enter the workforce with very highly prized #dataanalytics skills. So working through the Department of Labor, for example, or through local governments with job force training, workforce training programs that can help revitalize individuals.
And again, bring that industry knowledge that they already have and have taken years to learn and then pair it with that data analytics skill set to create something completely new and help them become more agile in this environment. So that is absolutely something that we are anticipating and preparing for now so that we can, again, support these individuals as they transition.
I think that is so important. And if you are anyone listening to the show who has either been laid off or furloughed, this is literally the best opportunity to learn new skills and to digitally transform. And of course it may not be the first thing on your mind because of course we are thinking about bills and your livelihood and your family.
And I want to encourage everyone who is listening to see how you can start making that pathway to digital transformation, whether that is working with an organization like Data Society, where they operate or Galvanize at our campuses, remote live online as well.
I think it is incredible that we have been seeing some statistics from the government that have the most recent CARES Act package, this was about $300 billion that was passed about 1% of that almost 300 million American dollars was allocated to work force initiatives.
That means cities like New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C and of course that is a trickle down effect means different areas get different funding, but that is to help both employers retain their workers through maybe furloughed analyst programs.
And for consumers like yourselves who are listening to reach out to your local small business administration, your local training workforce centers to see what can you learn to continue accelerating your career path?
Exactly. And I want to reiterate on a point that you mentioned David, which is not to feel pressure to immediately dive in and try to do training 8 hours a day. It is an incredibly stressful period for everyone. And so it is really important to take care of your mental health first and make sure that you are feeling alright, you are doing what you need to do to stay healthy, because I know there is a lot of expectations right now.
Like, oh, I am home, there are so many things that I can do. And I think it is important to note sometimes it is okay to, as you said, Netflix and chill or Amazon Prime and chill, go for a walk, spend time with family and find ways to take care of your mental health. Because I think, again, that is an issue that we are going to see much more information about moving forward. And it is one that we at Data Society are mindful of as well.
I think one of the keys that you just hit on so well Merav is that we need to think about #mentalhealth, physical health, and all health in general. And one of the best things you can do during COVID-19 is setting up consistent patterns in your life or consistent habits. When you would go to the office, you had a routine and that routine kept you very good.
Whether that is on your way to work, on the way home from work or at your living place. But now a lot of the people we cannot go to gyms, we do not have the opportunity to go to the parks and that is transforming life into a digital only society. So it is so important that when you are remote, you are able to call a friend, do a remote yoga class, do a remote fitness class. I mean, I have picked up the Insanity and P90X beach, body workouts.
Nice. Those are intense.
So intense and I have not picked them up since the early 2010’s. So it has been a long time going to gyms and in-person experiences, but I have been consistent with it. I have been doing it now for almost six weeks every day. So it is definitely different.
Wow. Are you noticing a difference?
Well, I will tell you, when you go to college, you think of the freshman 15, you put on 15 pounds. I might be a COVID negative 15. If I keep up with us.
I hope that for everyone and I think it is possible and by the next time some of you see me, I might even have a different hair color going that far to try new things out. So I encourage people, for your mental health, try out things, be willing to be creative because now is that right time.
And whether that is just giving you the space to get into the creative arts and cook or whatever you need to do. One of the best things that I heard when I was watching the season finale of Westworld, there was this great ad before.
No spoilers on Westworld. This is just a plug there for the futuristic thing, but it is that there was this ad from HBO that said, It is okay not to be okay. Like right now it is okay not to be okay and to acknowledge that and to talk to your friends and family about that, it is so important for mental health.
Yeah. And that is, I think a really important point as well. It is really okay to not be okay. We are, you can be sad. You can cry, you can get angry. It is important to experience those feelings and express them in a healthy way.
And, we are expressing feelings, we are getting very emotional with each other here on air. But beyond that, it is also important to express what work looks like, because now in this time, whether you are one of those 30 million Americans or more that have been impacted by layoffs or furloughs, you might be considering; What does the future work look like for myself? Or if you are a founder or an executive, what does the future work look like for my company or organization? And I want us to dive a little bit deeper into both of those topics so we can see what are some of the predictions, trends that Merav and myself we are thinking about.
Let us start on the individual. I think that is again very important thinking about each and every person. We have talked about these workforce programs that we think will be up and coming throughout the entire United States over the next couple of years, what are some of the predictions that you might be seeing around jobs or industry shifts that you are seeing some early signs that you would encourage people to get on that bandwagon?
Well, I think one of the first signs is that real estate, commercial real estate is going to shift dramatically over the next few years. We have already heard from some very large companies that they are not planning on their workforce coming back into the office through the summer, some even until 2021.
And because they are not seeing a drop in productivity, now there are a lot of questions asking, well; How can we use those dollars better? Does it make sense to have offices? I do think speaking for myself and speaking to my team as well, we miss being in an office, we enjoy having that type of casual communication that comes out of it.
And I think it is very difficult to know what we are missing out on when we are not in the office. So even though the levels of productivity might be the same, there are a lot of intangibles that are very hard to measure that encourage innovation and collaboration that really only occurs in an office space.
But I do think there is going to be a lot more work from home jobs moving forward. And I also think there is going to be a big shift towards data literacy. And what I mean by that is an understanding of how to ask the right questions of data, understanding what the terminology means, what the potential means and feeling comfortable to manipulate data, visualize data to a certain extent. And the reason why I think that is because as we are seeing, it is becoming more important to leverage data on a day-to-day basis. And this pandemic has really accelerated that.
And we are seeing a lot of companies and organizations that we are speaking to who are now thinking through what it would take to train up their workforce and even that base level. So when we are thinking about additional job opportunities, again, there are a lot of areas that are now going to be opening up with a focus on data analytics. We are seeing healthcare. I think there is going to be a lot of insurance, health insurance companies that will be expanding, Zoom obviously is doing quite well.
So I think we are going to see a boom of that type of live streaming technology. I had a really great conversation with a friend of mine yesterday, who was talking about how AR not VR, but AR (augmented reality) is going to become more ingrained in our lifestyles because it is like Pokemon Go. It kind of fits in a lot more easily than having a VR headset.
So if we are going to see a trend, I think towards that and towards robots delivering our food again, that is something that is already happening in test trials across the US. And so we are going to see some little robots that are running around on sidewalks, deliver it with our pizzas inside and stuff like that. So I think we are going to see that type of shift and we are going to see a lot more jobs in that type of automated, like automated behavior.
I love the scenarios and the simulations that you just explained here Merav because AR and VR definitely is having a coming of age moment. We talked back to the new Amazon blockbuster show Upload again, no spoilers here, but there is a lot of AR and VR in the show, and the use cases are so practical. They are things that once you watch them in the show, you could say, oh yeah, we do not know exactly the timeline is that, next year, is that in 5 or 10 years, but once it gets there, wow, these are so practical. I want this in my life. So I definitely think we can be moving more towards these augmented and virtual experiences.
Absolutely, as well, the healthcare industry is going to go through a tremendous acceleration of digital transformation and growth, especially with service. My sister has actually worked a lot in the service industry, predominantly with insurance companies and is now embarking on a new journey as well with a healthcare company, one of the largest out there, and they are going through tremendous growth at this time. And I think it is not just for this time. I think as populations’ age, as we move into infrastructure, where health becomes ever more important to track and trace. It is an industry I see no signs of slowing down.
Beyond thinking of as you have shared those industries, including health care, I think as someone who looks at products and startups every week, the industries that I see accelerating beyond healthcare, beyond education include DTC, which means direct to consumer. So any products that are, you go on Amazon or online and you buy this product so you can use it at your home or your work from home area. I think that is going to accelerate. So that could be wearables, that could be a home hair kit to get hair coloring, that could be a home shaving kit, that could be anything in that space, I think is going to accelerate.
I think any products that do enable work from home, just like you shared, you see that trend into mid 2020, maybe even mid late 2021, 2022, who knows where it is going to go. But I mean, everyone is going to need maybe two monitors at their houses and they are going to need all these light kits and green screens. I mean, the whole industries are going to accelerate to build these fantastic work from home experiences accelerated by companies and their innovation departments.
So I think we are going to see a lot there as well. I am most excited about direct to consumer because I think that is something that startups have always been trying to accelerate. We have seen it over the years with even traditional products like Casper and Brooklinen, but now we are going to see it more with other tech products.
Yeah. And I will just add on there. I think a huge shift is going to be conferences. That is not something we address specifically, but I am sure you have seen, there were many conferences we are planning on attending this year obviously they got canceled. And now the question is who is going to be the big player in the space for #virtualconferences. And what will that look like?
Because a big advantage is not only being able to travel to a different city, but also meeting other individuals in that industry. And whoever can capture that market first, I think is going to see quite a bit of growth because what we are seeing is that any big events, concerts, conferences, family, gatherings; those will not be back to normal, I think before mid 2021 at the earliest and what is the next year going to look like for those types of events.
I had the opportunity to attend the New York Tech Meetup, which normally is in person with hundreds of people. In fact, it is the largest meetup in the world. Sometimes is even 2000–5,000 people for their annual event and they just did an online event using some new platforms. I think they are all really interesting. The technology is still very beta. I think a lot of companies are accelerating these remote conferences, but, I think you are right, that is going to be a very exciting space to help with collaboration, networking and so forth.
I think beyond that with conferencing as well, we are going to see, like, what does a remote experience look like? We hear about Zoom fatigue, people getting tired. So is there going to be new mental health tech out there to help people recover? Whether those are traditional tech products like Calm and Headspace or other new wearables or injectables or who knows what those products look like, but I think that is going to be evermore important.
We have seen the acceleration of live streaming as you have shared about Merav at the start of today’s show, not just in education, but with streaming games like Fortnite. And of course, other ones like Apex Legends and all these new games out there where people are having competitions online live.
I mean, we have seen even how Magnus Carlsen, the grand master chess today, has partnered with the chess tournaments to do live online AI, supervise chess tournaments to make sure no one is cheating, but then they get money and prizes. Even now AP exams are going online, GMAT is going online. We are seeing how it is all happening so we could be having, I suspect a coming of age for digital transformation as a whole.
And tying that all in together. I mean, when we think about education and digital transformation, both of us, we are in the industry around product and education. But one of the questions I am always asked by someone new into tech and digital transformation is how do I get started? I as an individual contributor, that decision maker, if I am a mid-level manager, if I am the C-suite executive, where does that happen for an organization to make the shift? If today they are saying, we got to make some decisions, but where does it start?
That is a great question. And that is one that we help a lot of our clients answer. The first thing I will say is that it is becoming more imperative now more than ever for companies to make that shift to become more data informed.
I think the way that companies are behaving now is really going to inform their trajectory over the next 3,4–5 years, and if you are not starting to plan for this data economy that we are in, it will be like competing in a race when you are in a rowboat and your competitors are in motorboats. You will get there eventually, maybe, but you are probably going to spring a lot of leaks and you are definitely not going to be ahead of that pack. So the question is how to transform from that rowboat and get that motorboat.
And a lot of that has to do with the ability for an organization to be agile and to empower its workforce, to think independently, to ask the right questions and to be able to solve challenges effectively. So as somebody who might be a manager or director in the C-suite, It always starts from the top. It is so important to have a data champion in any organization who can really provide that mandate to their employees and set that culture and say, hey this is something we are investing in. If you come to me with a recommendation, you need to show me the data behind it.
You need to be able to prove that you have done your research. So it is not just a gut feeling, but it is also proven by the trends that you are seeing, the statistics that you are seeing. And we love training up our executives and our directors because when we empower them with the right language, with the knowledge of the tools that are out there with the understanding of how to hire and how to build a data science team, they get very excited. And we see that starting from that top, all of a sudden they want to talk to their data scientists. They want to provide the resources to get new tools and to provide training programs.
And so starting at that level, training up your executives and your managers and then training up a general staff, even a one day workshop of; Why is data important? How can we use it? How can you as an individual contribute to that? It can help people understand why you do not want to have a hundred Excel spreadsheets that live on your computer alone, that do not have any references to anything else.
So being able to think through how you want to collect data effectively and then taking a subset of those individuals and helping them go to the next level and get those data analysis skills so that they can find the answers to the questions that everybody else is asking. And when you are looking at that type of a collaborative environment that also enables by the way, the data science team to focus on what they love doing, which is building complex algorithms and solving those difficult problems, not necessarily cleaning data. I think you are going to see a huge shift in the way that a company and organization operates.
I mean, if we just look at the data, organizations that are more data informed, that translates to a difference of about 3–5% in terms of their bottom line, in terms of increased revenue, which is huge when you are talking about tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars every year. So I think we are going to see a lot of companies that are going to take that initiative now are really going to thrive once this pandemic dies down and you can tell I am very excited about it because I really am passionate about transforming the way that an organization runs or even that an industry runs.
And when we give people the opportunity to solve these types of problems on their own, we just see so much innovation, so much excitement, and ultimately it translates to benefits for all of us across the board. Just to give you an example, when we are doing our programs within HHS, the Department of Health and Human Services, each student has a capstone project, that is a direct problem that they have identified, they want to solve.
And we have seen our students be able to identify what are comorbidities across different diseases based on different pills that they have been taking medications. We have had one of our students who took a 40-hour manual task of sorting through grant applications and translating it into a 15-minute task, using a text mining to automatically sort them. And you are looking at that level, they are working hard to serve their constituents better. And I am just seeing so much that we can unlock when we give people the right tools.
I completely agree there. Both of us being in the education space, I also run some of our data science for executive and manager workshops, and I will say that for companies that go for these executive workshops to help their managers and their executives get aligned for the buy-in and for the vision and the communication of data literacy, It is at least a 10–1 success rate for these companies versus the others. I mean, it is night and day.
So I think it is critical, if you are definitely an executive or leader listening here on the show today, definitely consider one of those for your departments to gain some of that knowledge to lead with a good data strategy. Tying all this in together Merav, we have talked about so many topics today around successfully transforming for the next wave of the workforce, accelerating the data economy.
What is a call to action that you have for our listeners today?
I think the first call to action is If you are in a company and you are anticipating these transitions, of course, you can always reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I am happy to answer any questions that you have and happy to help. I think the other call to action is to take an inventory of where you are currently.
So assess what data tools do you have? How is your data stored? How is it stored securely? And then thinking through your workforce; Who are your powerhouses? Who are your people that really are leveraging data and how well is it understood in terms of data governance and data policies?
So trying to take stock and inventory and understanding what your goals are. So it is very difficult to say, okay, by this time, next year, everything is going to be running on AI. And I am only going to have people that understand how to use Python to build neural networks. That is a huge lift. If you are going without a database that is established and that is concrete. So I think you really have to take it in phases.
And the first phase is to assess where you are and then see who else on your leadership team you can get for buy-in for this type of a transformation. And I am sure you have seen this as well in your work, but anytime that you could highlight a successful project, that is used data. So if you are working on a team that uses data to do something awesome, shout it from the rooftops and your company and that typically gets a lot of traction.
It is a great way to show recognition to the people who are using these types of skills and show other people that are working around them. Hey, maybe I can use data to solve this other problem that I am having. So really making it a shared workspace for success is a great way to do it.
And if you are an individual, I absolutely think you should take a look at what resources are available to you, especially if you are currently furloughed and you are thinking about what is the next stage for you? Just like learning a new language. There is not a downside to learning a bit of programming, learning a little bit more about data because it will always come in handy. Data is now just used everywhere. So really taking those first steps, I think is a great idea.
Merav Yuravlivker, CEO and co-founder of Data Society. Thank you for joining us on HumAIn.
Thank you very much, David.
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