June 30, 2020

Sean MacCarthy of Mega-Retailer Claire’s Upholds Curiosity as an Admirable Variable when Working with Data


Fashion is taste-making. Its industry depends on identifying and seizing the pulse of personal, aesthetic expression. Data is at the core of this cultural enterprise. The unbridled coverage and tracking of what styles escalate to peak interest (and purchase) relies on data analytics/science. Enthusiasm for this kind of data-driven work was palpable throughout the talk given by Sean MacCarthy, a strategy and insights executive at retailer Claire’s, in a lecture hosted by data-skills school Promotable. His nerdy proficiency of data amplified in the fashion industry—particularly channeled and harnessed by AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning)—was apparent.

Claire’s business model is a contemporary template for every company taking advantage of the operational benefits afforded in data—collecting, analyzing and managing it. Data remains the super staple food for a brand to excel.

When asked about how he hires for his data-inquisitive team, Sean scouts for these characteristics:
“Really curious. Really hungry. And self-starting attitude.”
It’s no surprise that the first emphasis was on curiosity, because it’s not only one of the most PR’d qualifications, it’s also perishable. The next work-trait of “hungry” turns curiosity into diligence for seeing ideation and problem-solving through. Then “self-starting” is the built-in drive to put things into motion and achieve productivity (another championed job requirement).

Such pristine attributes rank high in Sean’s professional criteria, a greatly essential list, in attracting the best minds over matter—the digital chemical of data in this case. The beauty of such a hiring menu is that it’s not only beholden to job-screening data analytics analysts and data scientists. Curiosity. Drive. Motivation. These are durable indicators in seeking ideal members to join a work culture—of the positively geeky persuasion.

Thanks again to Promotable who expand on their virtual workshops with expert perspectives through their planning of regular events online! Explore their channel on YouTube.


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June 23, 2020

Minding and Mining the Truth: Strategic Analytics Analyst Kate Lee Distinguishes between Data Analytics and Data Science


Kate Lee is a Strategic Analytics Analyst at big-data company IRI which specializes in CPG (consumer packaged goods). At a recent event hosted by data-upskill school, Promotable, she discussed the differences between the roles of data analytics analyst and data scientist. From her perspective, the former is essentially focused on reporting and insights-generation compared to the latter whose foremost concentration is parsing causal relationships to inform predictability. The scale and scope of the data sets collected and examined also varies between the two disciplines. Kate’s elaboration of the distinct differences between these two fields provides a great primer for anyone, data-literate or not, who is curious about them as potential career paths.

Until Kate’s talk, I perceived data analytics and data science as synonymous. Not only was this assumption of mine corrected, she clarified their respective purposes which are jointly vital in helping people and organizations navigate this era of the brutally “new normal.” Though the objectives and focal points are different between data analytics and data science, this statement from Kate’s opener rung true:
“We tell the truth.”
This is a claim, a call-to-action and an oath wrapped up in a bite-size proclamation. Whatever is revealed by data is also supported by it—whether the revelation is fancied or not. Especially now, truth and outcomes matter a lot. More than ever, how data is utilized helps make the decision-making process much less shallow.

Although practitioners of data analytics and data science may differ in their roles, they share the same mission: to inform choices.

Thanks again to Promotable who further contextualize their virtual workshops with relevant perspectives through their planning of regular talks online! Explore their channel on YouTube.


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Your visiting means a lot. Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you are able to contribute, please consider becoming a Patron to support this long-term passion project of mine with a recurring monthly donation—every bit of support makes a difference in allowing me to generate all of this content on a regular basis. Thank you for your consideration!

June 4, 2020

Trust and Triangulation: Abbott’s Jayant Rajpurohit on Data Analytics during the Coronavirus Pandemic


In these times inflicted by COVID–19, data is a necessity. How people and resources are organized and mobilized depend on it. In a recent webinar organized by data-skills school Promotable, the role of data analytics in this unfamiliar climate was addressed by Jayant Rajpurohit, a Global Lead for Market Research and Strategic Analytics in the Transfusion Medicine division at healthcare and medical devices company Abbott. Two data-centric factors that resonated the most with me from his presentation were:

Data Trust → Rigorous governance of data cultivates trust. As Jayant posed, “Can these data metrics be trusted into the future?” Only trustworthy sources lend themselves to be trusted—over time.

Data Triangulation → Instead of just, as Jayant put it, “spitting out data,” make sure it’s reliable—not rote. Continually cross-validate the data to ensure it’s correct and achieves consistency.

Data analytics stirs discussion and vice versa. The productivity of data-driven interactions counts on trust and triangulation. They provide quality data to inform quality decision-making. Helps to foster certainty when uncertainty spreads.

Thanks again to Promotable who augment their virtual workshops with relevant perspectives through their planning of regular talks online! Explore their channel on YouTube.


Support Design Feast on Patreon!
Your visiting means a lot. Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you are able to contribute, please consider becoming a Patron to support this long-term passion project of mine with a recurring monthly donation—every bit of support makes a difference in allowing me to generate all of this content on a regular basis. Thank you for your consideration!

May 25, 2020

How Data Scientist Tomeka Hill-Thomas Achieved Integration at Ernst & Young


One of the business goals I’ve heard on repeat is “integration”—its repetition in the corporate and consulting worlds reaches the magnitude of myth. This is why it was refreshing to learn about an actual case of successful integration, as it pertains to data, shared by Tomeka Hill-Thomas, a People Analytics Expert and Senior Data Scientist at management firm Ernst & Young, in the latest webinar hosted by data-skills school Promotable. Tomeka initiated the huge task of building a desperately needed employee database—modernizing it and, most of all, integrating it with more relevant types of employee-related content. This bringing-it-together effort encompassed these dynamics:

Inheritance to Improvement
The starting employee data set was your basic garden-variety, consisting of standard facts: birthday, gender, cultural heritage and so on. Fundamental but lacked density. It was expanded into a more muscular body of data in sync with the employee’s business domain, job performance and more.

Separate to Singular
The data inherited was fragmented—documented in mixed ways and housed across different sources. It was centralized for common findability and access.

Minor to Major
The initial employee data set was underwhelming—adequate for satisfying rote initiatives, for example, noting work anniversaries. It was advanced to enable better applications, far more strategic ones—like employee retention.

Kudos to Tomeka for sparking and leading the charge of making a big project happen—one that benefits in dividends. The integrated database established by her and her team* began as a short-term boost but ultimately plays the long game. Proverbial advantages have been realized and are advancing—such as time savings and efficiency gains, along with data accuracy, on-demand reporting, in-depth analytics and more. All of these benefit Ernst & Young’s workforce. They also qualify a business template of optimizing other, if not all, areas of the organization, company-wide.

Superficial as it sounds, this long-standing wish intensifies as a modern directive: integrate or… evaporate.

Thanks again to Promotable who align their virtual workshops with relevant perspectives through their organizing of regular talks online! Explore their channel on YouTube.


* During the Q&A session after her presentation, considering the growing quantity and quality of data collected and visualized, I asked Tomika if UI/UX designers were on her team. She confirmed their involvement. Great to know that they are integral to the project’s marathon-success. 👍


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May 18, 2020

Strategist Jefferson McMillan-Wilhoit Seeks to Craft Amazing Stories Driven and Backed by Data


“Pietà” (1498–1499) by Michelangelo (1475–1564). Photo by Art Gallery ErgsArt.

Jefferson McMillan-Wilhoit is the Director of Health Informatics and Technology at the Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center. He recently spoke of storytelling’s critical role in data analytics/science as part of modern data-skills school Promotable’s series of events. He stated—and restated—the importance of this step:
“Take the data and have it tell its story.”
A prime directive. No magic formula. Obstacles are always in play against good data storytelling. Jefferson urged minding the ingrained bias and the quality of the data itself. The former is significant—if unchecked, data analytics gets skewed toward cognitive predisposition, notably confirmation bias (among a great many others). The latter reinforces what previous Promotable presenters have also stated—that the quality of the data is in direct correlation to the quality of its analysis.

A point by Jefferson that stood out most to me was how much he enjoys, as he put it, “Amazing Stories.” He shared his fandom for good storytelling in literature and movies. As it applies to data analytics/science, Jefferson referenced the primary building blocks possessed by a good story: the opening scene, episodes of crises and the convergence toward denouement, all happening along a timeline. Intellectual nourishment is found in stories. Jefferson encouraged making the thorough and transparent effort in achieving this outcome as it applies to the utilization of data. In essence, storytelling of data to promote data-driven understanding to then contribute to evidential decision-making.

Storytelling also brings a sense of wonder, even awe. Jefferson’s repeated ask of “Is this telling a good data story?” recalls one amazing account of creativity—a true story. Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475–1564) created masterpieces of art. From amorphous stone, he shaped compelling sculpture. His motto: “Beauty is the purgation of superfluities.” Through the lens of data analytics/science, “superfluities” could refer to analytical bias, dirty data or other nonessentials. Like a data analyst/scientist telling the story of a specific set of data, Michelangelo was telling the story of another kind of raw material: stone.

Great data. Great analysis. No superfluities. In key ways, Jefferson, a classically trained data analyst, is channeling the clarity also sought by Michelangelo. Whereas the Renaissance artist used marble, Jefferson and his team use data—using it because it makes the best job of the truth. Amazing.

Thanks again to Promotable who connect their virtual workshops to relevant perspectives through their organizing of regular talks online! Explore their channel on YouTube.


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Your visiting means a lot. Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you are able to contribute, please consider becoming a Patron to support this long-term passion project of mine with a recurring monthly donation—every bit of support makes a difference in allowing me to generate all of this content on a regular basis. Thank you for your consideration!

April 23, 2020

Slalom Consulting’s Erinn Mitchell on Having Data Not Getting Lost in Translation


In the Harvard Business Review article “You Don’t Have to Be a Data Scientist to Fill This Must-Have Analytics Role,” the authors highlighted the emerging discipline of “Analytics Tanslator” as crucial in the increasingly converging worlds of data and business:
“At the outset of an analytics initiative, translators draw on their domain knowledge to help business leaders identify and prioritize their business problems, based on which will create the highest value when solved. These may be opportunities within a single line of business (e.g., improving product quality in manufacturing) or cross-organizational initiatives (e.g., reducing product delivery time).”
This is a precursor-job description for the current responsibility of “Data Translator” advocated by Erinn Mitchell, a Data & Analytics Consultant at professional services firm Slalom. This role calls for a specialist who is strategically (and happily) nestled between the business side—regarding goals and strategy, and the data side—regarding information that is collected and measured. The Data Translator’s instincts and skills are focused on turning complex, large data sets into actionable steps.

Adjacent to the rising importance of industry expertise, data visualization, storytelling, et al., the factor that intrigued me the most from Erinn’s presentation was putting a spotlight on a sought-after virtue: trust. Translating data into useful (potentially insightful) information for a business-schooled-and-minded audience is ultimately a workflow of trust.

Considering the absolute integrity and security of data in this systems-intense era (when reliability is both lossy and fragile), trust is the absolute requirement. The description given by Erinn for the Data Translator, whose purpose is vigilantly working across the areas of analytics and business, was apt: a relationship. To make it work, trust must be the basis (absolutely).

Thanks again to Promotable who supplement their virtual workshops with relevant perspectives through their organizing of regular talks online! Explore their channel on YouTube.


Support Design Feast on Patreon!
Your visiting means a lot. Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you are able to contribute, please consider becoming a Patron to support this long-term passion project of mine with a recurring monthly donation—every bit of support makes a difference in allowing me to generate all of this content on a regular basis. Thank you for your consideration!

April 19, 2020

Travel Writer Tim Brookes Studies, Carves and Advocates the Writing Systems of Indigenous and Minority Cultures through His Endangered Alphabets Project



What are you working on—on the side?

If something is important, we write it down.

Ten years ago, I discovered that most of the world’s writing systemsperhaps 90%—are in danger of extinction. No longer taught in schools, lacking official status, used by a small and dwindling number of elderly people, these writing systems nevertheless have served, in some cases for 2,000 years, as a primary means of expressing and recording the accumulated experience and wisdom of their cultures. Lose the alphabet, and within two generations not only is the information lost, but the sense of a shared past, a shared identity and purpose, is also lost.

I bought myself a set of hand tools and began to carve pieces of text (proverbs, spiritual texts, sometimes just individual letters) in some of these fascinating, often exquisite alphabets—and in the process discovered that many of them embody truths not only about their people and their culture but about writing itself. This became the Endangered Alphabets Project. In the past decade, I’ve done more than 150 carvings, exhibited them at colleges, universities, museums, libraries and galleries around the world, spoken about the vital importance of language and writing to cultural survival, and collaborated with individuals and groups who want to restore their language, their script, their identity, their sense of self-respect and self-determination. In addition to doing carvings, giving talks and promoting these scripts and their cultures, I’ve also published storybooks, teaching materials, journals, coloring books and illustrated dictionaries in minority scripts.

I’ve pulled together pretty much all I know and made it available to the public—in the online “Atlas of Endangered Alphabets.”

In the process, I’ve also become very much of a beginner calligrapher and typographer, though frankly most of my art/design work is based on the genius of indigenous people exploring their own endangered scripts, and of a small group xenotypographers who have given time, sweat and tears to create non-commercial versions of traditional scripts. I’ve also become a beginner woodworker/wood artist, and have come to respect the artistic properties of wood and the fact that not only is every kind of wood different, but every piece of wood is different. Working to combine the wood and the script to the best advantage of both is a challenge that never ends, and never fails to be fascinating.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

The Endangered Alphabets Project began as a side project while I was directing a college writing program. For the past 20 months, it has been my sole occupation, so that means I need to do a lot of fundraising, especially focusing on a Kickstarter campaign every year. Before this, I did my carving in the evenings and on weekends, and discovered how relaxing it is, paradoxically, to work with my hands last thing at night, so the act of focusing on that manual work drove out all the mental turmoil of the day, like a form of meditation.

Why have a side project?

I’m not sure I’ve ever worked harder or been happier. As I said, having a piece of wood in my hands every evening is the ideal end to a day. Beyond that, having a sense of purpose larger than my own head is a huge relief. The Endangered Alphabets have been very active on social media for the past 24 months or so, and it is an amazing thing to have a dozen or fifty people every day tell you you’re doing a good thing—I wish every person in the world could have such daily validation. And there is something astonishingly deep about making something beautiful. I don’t say I’m happy with all my work—I’m certainly not—but to be able to step back and see you’ve made a shape and a color and a line that works to your satisfaction…well, it goes a lot deeper than words. And that depth circles around to why writing systems are so closely connected to, and so deeply felt, by their communities, some of whom have embedded their writing symbols in flags or coins or banknotes or seals or tattoos or jewelry even though they themselves can no longer read them. That’s the paradox and the mystery I’m after.

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Tim Brookes.


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