Why focus on data as a professional?

The "Why" behind my new-found love for data

Ajay Ramanujam's photo
Ajay Ramanujam
·Sep 8, 2021·

4 min read

I'm Ajay, and this is a space where I freely share my thought processes.

Of late, I have chosen to focus on data, and becoming a data-driven professional.

Why? Why data?

As humans, we all deal with data everyday in ways we don't readily recognize. We use data (information) to inform our purchasing choices, where we go, what we want to eat, what next to watch at the theatres or stream and so on. Some of this information might be procured from others, the internet, and some might be intuitive (based on information gathered from past experiences). We are data-driven, by nature and so is every other species on the planet at varying levels. Our brains are natural machine-learning and intelligent biological machines that gather, process, and analyse data that informs our choices and actions everyday.

For the past million years or so, this has worked well for humanity, however, as we have grown as a species, the nature of our civilization, our society, the aspects of our day-to-day have become increasingly complex. But to only say that would be a disservice to the fact that we now have access to knowledge and tools that our predecessors didn't have back then that would have helped them make more accurate decisions. For example, let's take diets. In the past, our predecessors ate whatever was available to them, or they ate foods without much a granular level of understanding the effects it had on their bodies in the long-term. There was a basic understanding of healthy and unhealthy foods however, now we have a much deeper understanding of many foods and their long-term effects. We are now able to wield that data, and arrive at decisions resulting in healthier outcomes.

Back to the point I was making about the present complex nature of our world. To address the complexities, we do have bustling business activity as people are rushing to solve these pain points and problems creatively. The nature of these pain points, and problems are getting increasingly complex such that it is outside of the contextual realm of everyday lives such that we cannot rely on our instincts or on the strength of our brain processing power alone to solve them. It takes a unique discipline that must be developed to solve these problems, and a big slice of this approach involves being creative with solutions and having the skills to handle data (from gathering the right kind of data to solve the problem, to processing, analyzing and sharing it).

And so, I see a future where people are efficient data-aware and data-driven professionals at all levels of an organization from customer success to support to operations to HR to marketing to engineering. To be truthful, professionals are already harnessing the power of data that is generated, and presented to them via dashboards, and reports. However, I envision a future where people are data-confident rather than just being intuition-driven resulting in a healthy mix of the two, as in situations where intuition guides people through decisions when data might be sparse or unreliable.

At this point, one of the concerns that people might have when they think about data-driven professionals or managers that with being data-driven, these professionals might lose sight of people, and everyone just becomes a "number", or a "data point on a chart". I understand that this is a valid concern, however that might be stemming from a partial understanding of what data refers to.

Data just doesn't refer to sales data, or productivity data or anything to do with measuring an individual's work. Data also refers to the knowledge that we have gathered about ourselves as human beings in the field of psychology - what makes us happy, what makes us fulfilled, what gives us a purpose, the importance of family, friends, and the importance of playing a significant role in the community, and the world. We cannot be successful data-driven professionals without taking into account, applying data that tells who we are as humans and what we need. If we truly respect who we are as humans, we would be data-driven in all aspects, acting on data that that tells us what we need to live fulfilled lives where we are treated fairly, and with respect.

XKCD webcomic - Convincing How not to deal with people using data

We cannot be data-driven without focusing on others. We cannot be data-driven without being people-focused. To get rid of the latter would be inviting the devil to party, and giving him free access to the booze.

And so, I aspire to be a people-focused, and data-driven professional, and this is the start of my journey down that path.

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