Welcome to Discovering Data

Loris Marini - Podcast Host Discovering Data

New year, new name! The Data Project becomes Discovering Data. In this episode I talk about what this project is becoming and how it will help you become a more impactful data leader.

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Episode transcripts

... And no team is doing data perfectly, but imagine if we could have conversations with the most inspiring and successful data leaders and learn what worked for them, and what didn't. Well, this would be an immensely valuable pool of knowledge that we could all use and tap into, to amplify the impact of our work and perhaps solve one, or hopefully all, of the many hard problems that we will have to solve in the next decades.
We want to overcome technical, lexical, cognitive gaps inside and outside data teams. We want to strengthen the dialogue between business and technical leaders, and we want to tap into the community to accelerate the professional growth of everyone involved.
Ultimately, we want to maximize the impact of the work we do. And we do this by seeking different points of view. You discover when you know you don't have any answer yet. And so you're in this frame of mind that is very open. You're open to new ideas. You're open to challenge your beliefs. And I think that mindset is what most data teams are missing at the moment.


Okay. First episode of 2022. I just want to say my most sincere happy new year from Sydney Australia. I am so excited about this year. I took a much needed break. And I'm feeling a lot more, you know, focused and energized. And I can't wait to tell you all the many ways and the ideas and what's coming your way with the content.

But before we do that, I want to iterate my vision for this project and the mission. I went through a bit of thinking over the break and we're been working really hard towards the end of last year to build a new website for this project, The Data Project started as part of data foundations and there was a blurred line between my consultancy company and the media side of it to the podcast.

However, I realized that I never intended, and I never ended up, focusing the podcast on consulting because I was so entranced by the pleasure of discovering or finding out things that I didn't know and challenging my beliefs. So the result of this, is a rebranding, a new website, and we're going to still keep doing our consulting over a data foundation.

So if you need an independent, external point of view, and you have data issues do go there I'm based in Sydney, Australia and it's on datafoundations.com.au. But the podcast here is something that goes beyond consulting and it deserves, I thought it deserves its own space, so we are now on discoveringdata.com and there's a new logo a new website, and I'll tell you way more in a minute.

Why this podcast exists

But before we dive into the what's changing, I did some introspection and I realized that, you know, if you were to ask me “what are you really stand for?” You know, what is the core belief that powers this whole thing that you're doing?

Well, my answer would be that I believe that innovation and creativity flourish when we learn about topics outside of our immediate focus area. You can almost imagine that we are all in data, right? Different roles, different seniority levels, different focus areas. But imagine that we are all somehow placed along a line, from the moment when data is stored to the moment it's used to make a decision and then actions that are taken based on that decision.

We covered this in a few episodes in the past, particularly with Ben Jones when we were discovering data literacy (Ep 16). We are all somewhere along this line, we need to figure out a way to talk to each other more effectively. We need to find ways to communicate the impact of what we find out throughout the process.

This is the only time in the history of organizations where we truly, truly need to talk to one another even if we are doing something completely different, because we know that a dataset or a data point or even a single number, eventually trickles down and impacts everyone within the organization.

It's rare to find datasets that are confined that can only be used, in marketing or in sales or in operations, marketing, sales, operations, finance, engineering, all of these are just organs in an organism. And so the organism to work needs to know what's happening in each sector, in each domain, in each sub-function.

If you think about being a CEO for a second, the Chief Executive is the one that has the largest view on the organization and they need access to that knowledge, maybe not directly because they have other people that report to them, but they need to be able to tap into that knowledge.

And it's not just a mixing pieces of knowledge to come from different departments. There is a huge gain to be realized when we collaborate between domains and we cross those boundaries. I might be in engineering and not know, have no clue, what you really struggling with in marketing. All I see is a ticket or a request, but that doesn't really convey the essence of the struggle, of the frustration that you and your teams in marketing are experiencing every day.

If I knew that perhaps I could design a much more useful solution instead of just submitting the ticket to fix a symptom, instead of tapping into the roots of the problem and that's one aspect, but there is just the sheer amount of new ideas that can come up when different people that have different mindsets come together and talk to one another.

And these are in no way new ideas, organizations have always struggled with getting people to talk to one another and improving information flow, but with data and the knowledge economy, if we want to truly compete, we need to be able to think in a distributed way, and we need to get used to talk to one another, particularly if we belong to different systems in different domains.

So how does this show help do that? This show is about extending the field of view of everyone involved in the data value chain from ingestion and storage to decisions and ultimately actions. Some company understood this, and now in the industry people are talking about “data translators” or “data product managers”, people that have a bit of a technical and a bit of a non-technical background and can do the “stitching” between different stakeholders.

But perhaps a more scalable way of doing this is to encourage everyone to be more curious about what's happening upstream and downstream relative to their job and their function, and have more fun. It all comes down to how much you enjoy the work you do. Do you feel like your work is happening in isolation? Do you have any idea who consumes the data products you build or the infrastructure you provision knowing that I think would create teams that are way more collaborative, and this can feed-back into a positive, inclusive culture.

We want people to keep collaborating and sharing ideas and feeling that they are part of this inclusive am psychologically-safe environment where mistakes are welcome, where people own their successes and their failures, where teams are promoted, not individuals, and where data is approached as a team effort, not as an individual, a genius or an out-performer that can get it over the line and “get it done”.

So my hope is to narrow the gaps between everyone involved in data and whoever comes upstream and downstream. And by doing that, grow a culture of empowered knowledge workers that contributes to the organizational knowledge, so the organization becomes smarter as a result of that collaboration, and this ultimately helps the chief executive delivered to the board.

And if we really understand what data means we can empathize with each other when things don't go as well, we can find solutions much faster and better, we can cut through the noise and get to the business. Essentially I really believe that if we stay curious conversations lead to ideas and new ideas are what innovation is all about!

And so this, this show is about creating a community of data leaders that is built on curiosity on empathy and can truly help the organization achieve its goals, but also the individuals that are part of the organizations to feel that their work has an impact.

So again, how are we going to do that? Well, extending the field of view of everyone in along the data value chain is one aspect. We want to move across the boundaries between disciplines because we have to, from engineering to architecture, to design. We need to be a little bit more flexible when we talk about topics and be comfortable with not knowing and keep that curiosity and that drive to discover.

So Discovering Data is a community of leaders and anyone in data, built on empathy and curiosity, we want to overcome technical lexical, cognitive gaps inside and outside data teams. We want to strengthen the dialogue between business and technical leaders and we want to tap into the community to accelerate the professional growth of everyone involved.

And ultimately we want to maximize the impact of the work with you. And we do this by seeking different points of view and holding each other accountable because we know that our ego always gets in the way of growth. And we try to correct for that by, you know, deliberately leaving our comfort zone and learning new mindsets and, uh, challenging.

What makes Discovering Data different?

Now you might ask what makes Discovering Data different? There are 2 million podcasts and counting. Well, this coming data is not here to push a technology solution or a framework. We are here to discover the ideas and the principles that others already figured out, what problems they were intended to solve, what the limitations are.

Think for a moment about levels of information maturity in various organizations.

What we know is that very few are leveraging their data and information assets to actually improve, protect, grow the relationships that are the heart and soul of what they do. And no team is doing data perfectly, but imagine if we could have conversations with the most inspiring and successful data leaders and learn what worked for them and what didn't...

Well, this would be an immensely valuable pool of knowledge that we could all use and tap into, to amplify the impact of our work and perhaps solve, one or hopefully all of the many hard problems that we will have to solve in the next decades.

Most of the initiatives I've found so far, start from the belief that they know what is right. And they know that there's an approach that is clearly winning when compared to all others. Of course, they have their podcast and they have their online events and they give so much back to the community, but there is always an agenda that is always an interest of selling a particular solution or a technology, or a service.

That's not what we're doing here at discovering data. We are vendor-agnostic, we are independent, we just keep asking questions and see where those questions will lead us.

You discover when you know you don't have any answer yet. So you're in this frame of mind that is very open. You're open to new ideas, you're open to challenge your beliefs. And I think that mindset is what most data teams are missing at the moment.

I hear a lot of, you know, this is how we do things here. During my consulting, I met clients and what they kept saying is that there is almost a tug-of-war happening between different people in the data team to solve the same problem, ‘cause everyone has a different idea of how the problem should be solved, and so just finding a cohesive and coherent roadmap is something that most people are struggling with. You know, how do you evaluate the pros and cons?

But I think that process gets simplified, or it becomes a lot easier, I'm talking particularly to heads of data, or anyone responsible for delivering business outcomes using data and information, and that are also responsible for managing people, you know...

How do you keep this heads together? They are smart people and they believe strongly that their version of the truth is the absolute truth. While maybe there isn’t such a thing, there are different perspectives. And so being open to recognize, and you know, it's almost an internal training you need to do you go through this process of challenging the assumption, the belief that you have figured out the truth, and start becoming more comfortable with the fact that you have a strong opinion, that it is one opinion and one way of solving the problem, that there are other people with other opinions, and innovation happens when we cross the boundaries between fields, when we open ourselves to consider another point of view or the point of view of another person that is completely different from ours.

Most often, when this is done correctly, we arrive at a third option that no one has considered before and that third option often ends up being the one that really drives business value.

What topics does the podcast cover and how's it structured?

Well, one of the aspects that makes us different is multi-disciplinarity. Instead of confining ideas into tight boxes, we follow the questions. We challenge the assumptions and we strive to build a more accurate reference frame to do our job better and more effectively.

So we range from data trust to data literacy, to data quality and governance, architecture and data modelling. We're using insights from neuroscience and insights from leadership and change management, plus a ton of domain knowledge and combine it all together into a cocktail that once we drink it hopefully we'll be more able, more effective, at communicating with different people and when communication happens, ideas flow, and that typically leads to more impactful solutions.

Who is this for?

People that are responsible for using data to generate outcomes for businesses and communities, that's the people that want to talk to. And people that want to be able to speak with anyone from the individual contributor, the junior data scientists just being hired, all the way to the CEO, with confidence.

It's for people that feel that they're not being listened to and that their initiatives don't receive the necessary funding or that want to learn how to build awesome data teams and grow a data culture within the organization.

But it’s also for people that want to navigate the complexity of data management. You know, they want to be able to communicate ideas effectively and want to leverage what other data leaders have already figured out.

It’s also for CEOs in startups that feel that they should just be able to “get data”, but they feel that something is missing. It's for entry-level graduates who struggle understanding the industry and have unrealistic expectations and seek advice on how to structure their career.

It's basically for everyone that is curious, that loves data and information that want to be on top of it. And they're tired to listen to the same jargon, to the same “spiel” and just want to hear something different.

What changes with the new name?

There's a few changes. The first one is the logo, the original logo, to be honest, it was really hard to describe. I loved it, and it was a great logo to start and I'm really grateful for that friend of mine who built it for me and managed to not become crazy with me and my abstract descriptions of what I wanted or what I had in mind!

But I wanted something more simple and I was also looking for something that could be more flexible and I could draw without looking at it. I wanted something really, really simple. So I went for the head. There's an interesting story here. The first version that I designed on paper was obviously messed up. Then I went on a Canva and a mocked around with a bunch of the premium logos and vector files they have, and I (almost) settled for, for a head for a design that with hindsight now was awful.

I was so convinced that that was it, and I went to my wife for like the 50th time asking, what do you think about this? She looked at me and said: “I don't know, I think you should engage a professional designer” and I remember feeling a little bit disappointing and going, like, what do you mean? I just spent two days a minute on this!

With hindsight, I should not have spent two days on this. You know that's why you go to professionals because they know their thing. And so that's what I did, I went on Fiverr and I found my person and that team was unbelievably good. They were came back with five variations I didn't like any of them, but the 6th was exactly what I wanted. And all I had to do was just trust them and they came up with something really nice and really simple. I'm really curious to hear what you think about the logo.

It shouldn't need explanation cause it's just a head with a brain, but there is one detail, the only piece of color in the logo that is a bit of a pink at the bottom of the brain root. I believe it's called brain root, where our spine essentially it connects to the brain. That pink represents compassion, empathy, and all the soft.. what we improperly call “soft skills”, everything that has to do with the emotional sphere.

And it’s at the bottom... I'm not sure whether the anatomy of it is correct because I'm not a neuroscientist. But what I know is that evolutionary speaking, the brain evolved into stages almost where the first part of the brain, what we called system one or the emotional brain evolved first, and then on top of that we have system two that evolved at a second time, and that has to do with our cognition, you know, with our awareness, with our being logic, with our (rational) thinking.

From the work, I guess, of Daniel Kahneman we know that there's ton of evidence scientifically that those two systems do not really talk to each other normally. And that's kind of why data is interesting to me, right? Because we are in the business of making decisions, using evidence, but the hardware and software we are using to do that, our own brain and minds are not designed to do that. Quite the opposite.

You know, there is a huge evolutionary advantage that system one has compared to the emotional brain compared to the rational. Essentially, you know, I find interesting that here we are, you know, trying to do things with information, we data, to make decisions that are more informed when we know that 90% of the decisions most people make are based on emotions. And so, interesting truth, and so what are we going to do about it?

And that's why one of the things we're going to talk about over on that. Podcasts in the future. So that's the logo. I hope you like it, let me know.

A new name: Discovering Data

The second aspect I want to talk about is the new name, Discovering Data. We used to be the data project, two things I didn't like about the first name.

First of all, data is not a project is a program. That's what I learned doing this job for a year and I was thinking about it in the wrong way. And that's, you know, that's an example of cognitive bias in my mind, I felt project who was a cool word, but what I did not realize is that projects have a beginning date and have an end date.

Data doesn't have an end date. Data is this thing that you need to keep doing, keep working at it, keep adding to it. Because from that you extract your organizational knowledge and with that you win the game, so there was really no end date to data. So that was one aspect of the word project that I didn't particularly like.

But the second aspect is that I was looking for a name that had some motion into it. You know, that clearly expresses the fact that things are moving, that it's not done, it’s not static.

And the third one is, I know I mentioned only two, but the third one, perhaps the most important one is the one I mentioned at the very beginning. The fact that we should stop pretending that we know what data is all about. We should perhaps start acknowledging the fact that we are all trying to figure out how to leverage this type of asset, and it's okay not to know. And when you accept that you enter in a frame of mind that is grounded on curiosity, you have an open mind that you want to discover you want to learn. And that's what I'm excited about.

There's nothing more aligned with my nature, my personality, and what I love to do then the word discover. And so when I hopped align and I found that discoveringdata.com was available I couldn't believe it.

So, so here we are in discoveringdata.com hop on a website and let me know what you think about the name, the logo and the new website. There will be bugs, I'm just launching this as a kind of soft launch. So if you do find that any bug, please, please, please send me an email, you'll find it in the show notes as usual and let me know.

What changes in terms of content?

There are a bunch of events and ideas that I have in my head, hopefully I'll have the strength and the focus to, to get them done that this year. But in general, I hope to send more useful content your way.

And I hope to connect with you, YOU the listener that are receiving my voice in your head right now. I would love to know you because chances are we never met and you have an interesting story to say, and I will love to get in touch. So stay tuned. They're going to be more events coming your way, and hopefully we can, uh, together we can bring this community to life.

And the last bit is partnerships. I don't have much to say right at the moment, but I am partnering with a whole bunch of organizations that are doing meaningful work in this pace of data leadership. And I found a host of non-for-profit organizations that are really, really impressive you know, when you look at how much they achieved with zero to little to zero funding.

I would like to use this platform to expand their voice and give them a space to talk about why they're doing what they're doing and how is that going to impact our life as data practitioners, data lovers, data users, consumers, you know, everyone that is touched by data and information, which is essentially everyone these days. And so I'm really excited about that partnership.

I think that's it for now. I just want to wish you a fantastic beginning of year, and I'll see you on Friday when we were going to talk about data lineage with Jan Ulrych from MANTA.

Thanks for listening! - Loris

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