Master of Information and Data Science Immersion Day Two
The following is an update from the second day of our MIDS immersion. Be sure to check out our recap from the students’ first and third days.
The second day of the Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) immersion was devoted to the UC Berkeley School of Information’s annual DataEDGE conference, which drew big names from a number of different fields and skillsets. The collected speakers provided a broad overview of the current state of data science for our students, all of whom arrived at UC Berkeley with different interests and talents.
Throughout the day, students commented on the holistic nature of the talks, with speakers raising questions they had not yet thought of or introducing them to an area of the field they may have overlooked. Students were also given time to interact with these big-name speakers, which led to connections many will likely nurture for years to come.
As one student wrote, “Today’s speakers provoked a litany of questions within domains as diverse as surveillance for national security, data visualization design, and campaign funding via SMS.” One of the biggest names in data science right now is that of The Climate Corporation, a company recently acquired by Monsanto that’s using historic planting and climate data to predict future crop yield and advise farmers on the best planting times and locations for their fields. Tjarko Leifer, Operations Vice President at The Climate Corporation, had a great deal to say to the DataEDGE attendees, and his talk was well-received by our students:
I was especially intrigued by Tjarko Leifer’s presentation on The Climate Corporation. Leifer highlighted how farmers still implement practices based on the notion of “That’s how my dad did it,” although a wealth of data analytics now exists that can advance smarter decision making in farming. The Climate Corporation helps to close this gap by molding farming metrics such as singulation rate and seed depth at a granular level into models that produce actionable recommendations to farmers.
I sat at the edge of my seat as I considered how data science will impact the agricultural industry not only in the United States, but also around the world as climate change alters weather patterns and challenges customary farming practices. The world’s population will continue to increase, but perhaps these data-powered decision making tools could make famine a thing of the past in most areas.Leave it to the MIDS program to get my heart pumping and brain whirring before the clock strikes 10 a.m.!
— Erin Boehmer, January 2014 cohort
Another favorite section of the day was given over to the practical usage of data in everyday businesses, and featured talks from Kyle Rush of Optimizely (“Using Practical Data for Conversion Rate Optimization”), Kenneth Yu of Kabam (“Using Data Science to Make Fun Games”), and John Foreman of MailChimp (“Leading from the Back: Data Science at a UX-Driven Business”).
Of Kyle Rush, one of our students remarked that his talk highlighted the “importance of leading users to the result you would like and doing a/b testing to find out what users expect and want; testing is not just about optimizing for your own results, but better user experience can drive value for users as well as improving performance metrics.” Takeaways like these left students better prepared to tackle their own upcoming classes in the similar topics of Exploring and Analyzing Data and Research Design and Application for Data and Analysis.
Other standout speakers from the second day of DataEDGE included Stephen Brobst of Teradata, who led a discussion about “Conducting Experiments to Inform Business Innovation.” Just like the Optimizely, Kabam, and Mailchimp talks, Brobst’s presentation was devoted to practical usage of how data is employed to answer key business questions. The same was true for Hugh Williams of Pivotal, who spoke not on the specifics of data usage in his company, but on actionable tips from his own employment and data background.
By the time the DataEDGE conference had wrapped up, students had been treated to engaging speakers from a number of different backgrounds and subject areas, and each student was able to take away their own idea of what it means to work in data science in the modern world and how they themselves could shape data practice for the future.
From the mouths of students:
The sessions today were immensely enriched by the discussions I had with the other MIDS students and those I met at the conference. After a thought-provoking panel discussion led by Quentin Hardy of The New York Times, I continued the fascinating conversation with a venture capitalist from XSeed, as we considered how data science could redefine “prejudice” into data-supported probabilities that legitimize controversial practices such as racial profiling. By the end of the discussion, we had connected through our profound interest in the power of data, and, before long, had also connected over LinkedIn so as to stay in touch.
The immersion has been so helpful, not only in allowing me to meet new people and discover different endeavors, but also in showing me how beneficial and genuine networking is when propelled by passion and curiosity. In the short span of the past two days, the Immersion has challenged me to consider the context surrounding new applications of data science and, in the wake of this excitement, provided an invaluable opportunity to meet those people who can help me to transform this passion into action.
— Erin Boehmer, January 2014 cohort
I’ve been blown away with the caliber of students in the program that I’ve had the chance to interact with as well as the caliber of speakers at today’s DataEDGE conference. It’s been amazing to be surrounded by people that are so passionate about how data is changing everything about how we operate as a society. What an inspiring introduction to what’s possible through this program — from our fellow classmates to the faculty to the individuals from industry and academia, everyone has unique and powerful stories for the potential of this new discipline.
— Brad McMinn, May 2014 cohort