Interview Zach Goldberg, Google Prediction API

Here is an interview with Zach Goldberg, who is the product manager of Google Prediction API, the next generation machine learning analytics-as-an-api service state of the art cloud computing model building browser app.
Ajay- Describe your journey in science and technology from high school to your current job at Google.

Zach- First, thanks so much for the opportunity to do this interview Ajay!  My personal journey started in college where I worked at a startup named Invite Media.   From there I transferred to the Associate Product Manager (APM) program at Google.  The APM program is a two year rotational program.  I did my first year working in display advertising.  After that I rotated to work on the Prediction API.

Ajay- How does the Google Prediction API help an average business analytics customer who is already using enterprise software , servers to generate his business forecasts. How does Google Prediction API fit in or complement other APIs in the Google API suite.

Zach- The Google Prediction API is a cloud based machine learning API.  We offer the ability for anybody to sign up and within a few minutes have their data uploaded to the cloud, a model built and an API to make predictions from anywhere. Traditionally the task of implementing predictive analytics inside an application required a fair amount of domain knowledge; you had to know a fair bit about machine learning to make it work.  With the Google Prediction API you only need to know how to use an online REST API to get started.

You can learn more about how we help businesses by watching our video and going to our project website.

Ajay-  What are the additional use cases of Google Prediction API that you think traditional enterprise software in business analytics ignore, or are not so strong on.  What use cases would you suggest NOT using Google Prediction API for an enterprise.

Zach- We are living in a world that is changing rapidly thanks to technology.  Storing, accessing, and managing information is much easier and more affordable than it was even a few years ago.  That creates exciting opportunities for companies, and we hope the Prediction API will help them derive value from their data.

The Prediction API focuses on providing predictive solutions to two types of problems: regression and classification. Businesses facing problems where there is sufficient data to describe an underlying pattern in either of these two areas can expect to derive value from using the Prediction API.

Ajay- What are your separate incentives to teach about Google APIs  to academic or researchers in universities globally.

Zach- I’d refer you to our university relations page-

Google thrives on academic curiosity. While we do significant in-house research and engineering, we also maintain strong relations with leading academic institutions world-wide pursuing research in areas of common interest. As part of our mission to build the most advanced and usable methods for information access, we support university research, technological innovation and the teaching and learning experience through a variety of programs.

Ajay- What is the biggest challenge you face while communicating about Google Prediction API to traditional users of enterprise software.

Zach- Businesses often expect that implementing predictive analytics is going to be very expensive and require a lot of resources.  Many have already begun investing heavily in this area.  Quite often we’re faced with surprise, and even skepticism, when they see the simplicity of the Google Prediction API.  We work really hard to provide a very powerful solution and take care of the complexity of building high quality models behind the scenes so businesses can focus more on building their business and less on machine learning.

 

 

Interview Jaime Fitzgerald President Fitzgerald Analytics

Here is an interview with noted analytics expert Jaime Fitzgerald, of Fitzgerald Analytics.

Ajay-Describe your career journey from being a Harvard economist to being a text analytics thought leader.

 Jaime- I was attracted to economics because of the logic, the structured and systematic approach to understanding the world and to solving problems. In retrospect, this is the same passion for logic in problem solving that drives my business today.

About 15 years ago, I began working in consulting and initially took a traditional career path. I worked for well-known strategy consulting firms including First Manhattan Consulting Group, Novantas LLC, Braun Consulting, and for the former Japan-focused division of Deloitte Consulting, which had spun off as an independent entity. I was the only person in their New York City office for whom Japanese was not the first language.

While I enjoyed traditional consulting, I was especially passionate about the role of data, analytics, and process improvement. In traditional strategy consulting, these are important factors, but I had a vision for a “next generation” approach to strategy consulting that would be more transparent, more robust, and more focused on the role that information, analysis, and process plays in improving business results. I often explain that while my firm is “not your father’s consulting model,” we have incorporated key best practices from traditional consulting, and combined them with an approach that is more data-centric, technology-centric, and process-centric.

At the most fundamental level, I was compelled to found Fitzgerald Analytics more than six years ago by my passion for the role information plays in improving results, and ultimately improving lives. In my vision, data is an asset waiting to be transformed into results, including profit as well as other results that matter deeply to people. For example,one of the most fulfilling aspects of our work at Fitzgerald Analytics is our support of non-profits and social entrepreneurs, who we help increase their scale and their success in achieving their goals.

Ajay- How would you describe analytics as a career option to future students. What do you think are the most essential qualities an analytics career requires.

Jaime- My belief is that analytics will be a major driver of job-growth and career growth for decades. We are just beginning to unlock the full potential of analytics, and already the demand for analytic talent far exceeds the supply.

To succeed in analytics, the most important quality is logic. Many people believe that math or statistical skills are the most important quality, but in my experience, the most essential trait is what I call “ThoughtStyle” — critical thinking, logic, an ability to break down a problem into components, into sub-parts.

Ajay -What are your favorite techniques and methodologies in text analytics. How do you see social media and Big Data analytics as components of text analytics

 Jaime-We do a lot of work for our clients measuring Customer Experience, by which I mean the experience customers have when interacting with our clients. For example, we helped a major brokerage firm to measure 12 key “Moments that Matter,” including the operational aspects of customer service, customer satisfaction and sentiment, and ultimately customer behavior. Clients care about this a lot, because customer experience drives customer loyalty, which in turn drives customer behavior, customer loyalty, and customer profitability.

Text analytics plays a key role in these projects because much of our data on customer sentiment comes via unstructured text data. For example, we have access to call center transcripts and notes, to survey responses, and to social media comments.

We use a variety of methods, some of which I’m not in a position to describe in great detail. But at a high level, I would say that our favorite text analytics methodologies are “hybrid solutions” which use a two-step process to answer key questions for clients:

Step 1: convert unstructured data into key categorical variables (for example, using contextual analysis to flag users who are critical vs. neutral vs. advocates)

Step 2: linking sentiment categories to customer behavior and profitability (for example, linking customer advocacy and loyalty with customer profits as well as referral volume, to define the ROI that clients accrue for customer satisfaction improvements)

Ajay- Describe your consulting company- Fitzgerald Analytics and some of the work that you have been engaged in.

 Jaime- Our mission is to “illuminate reality” using data and to convert Data to Dollars for our clients. We have a track record of doing this well, with concrete and measurable results in the millions of dollars. As a result, 100% of our clients have engaged us for more than one project: a 100% client loyalty rate.

Our specialties–and most frequent projects–include customer profitability management projects, customer segmentation, customer experience management, balanced scorecards, and predictive analytics. We are often engaged to address high-stakes analytic questions, including issues that help to set long-term strategy. In other cases, clients hire us to help them build their internal capabilities. We have helped build several brand new analytic teams for clients, which continue to generate millions of dollars of profits with their fact-based recommendations.

Our methodology is based on Steven Covey’s principle: “begin with the end in mind,” the concept of starting with the client’s goal and working backwards from there. I often explain that our methods are what you would have gotten if Steven Covey had been a data analyst…we are applying his principles to the world of data analytics.

Ajay- Analytics requires more and more data while privacy requires the least possible data. What do you think are the guidelines that need to be built in sharing internet browsing and user activity data and do we need regulations just like we do for sharing financial data.

 Jaime- Great question. This is an essential challenge of the big data era. My perspective is that firms who depend on user data for their analysis need to take responsibility for protecting privacy by using data management best practices. Best practices to adequately “mask” or remove private data exist…the problem is that these best practices are often not applied. For example, Facebook’s practice of sharing unique user IDs with third-party application companies has generated a lot of criticism, and could have been avoided by applying data management best practices which are well known among the data management community.

If I were able to influence public policy, my recommendation would be to adopt a core set of simple but powerful data management standards that would protect consumers from perhaps 95% of the privacy risks they face today. The number one standard would be to prohibit sharing of static, personally identifiable user IDs between companies in a manner that creates “privacy risk.” Companies can track unique customers without using a static ID…they need to step up and do that.

Ajay- What are your favorite text analytics software that you like to work with.

 Jaime- Because much of our work in deeply embedded into client operations and systems, we often use the software our clients already prefer. We avoid recommending specific vendors unless our client requests it. In tandem with our clients and alliance partners, we have particular respect for Autonomy, Open Text, Clarabridge, and Attensity.

Biography-

http://www.fitzgerald-analytics.com/jaime_fitzgerald.html

The Founder and President of Fitzgerald Analytics, Jaime has developed a distinctively quantitative, fact-based, and transparent approach to solving high stakes problems and improving results.  His approach enables translation of Data to Dollars™ using methodologies clients can repeat again and again.  He is equally passionate about the “human side of the equation,” and is known for his ability to link the human and the quantitative, both of which are needed to achieve optimal results.

Experience: During more than 15 years serving clients as a management strategy consultant, Jaime has focused on customer experience and loyalty, customer profitability, technology strategy, information management, and business process improvement.  Jaime has advised market-leading banks, retailers, manufacturers, media companies, and non-profit organizations in the United States, Canada, and Singapore, combining strategic analysis with hands-on implementation of technology and operations enhancements.

Career History: Jaime began his career at First Manhattan Consulting Group, specialists in financial services, and was later a Co-Founder at Novantas, the strategy consultancy based in New York City.  Jaime was also a Manager for Braun Consulting, now part of Fair Isaac Corporation, and for Japan-based Abeam Consulting, now part of NEC.

Background: Jaime is a graduate of Harvard University with a B.A. in Economics.  He is passionate and supportive of innovative non-profit organizations, their effectiveness, and the benefits they bring to our society.

Upcoming Speaking Engagements:   Jaime is a frequent speaker on analytics, information management strategy, and data-driven profit improvement.  He recently gave keynote presentations on Analytics in Financial Services for The Data Warehousing Institute, the New York Technology Council, and the Oracle Financial Services Industry User Group. A list of Jaime’s most interesting presentations on analyticscan be found here.

He will be presenting a client case study this fall at Text Analytics World re:   “New Insights from ‘Big Legacy Data’: The Role of Text Analytics” 

Connecting with Jaime:  Jaime can be found at Linkedin,  and Twitter.  He edits the Fitzgerald Analytics Blog.

Updated Interview Elissa Fink -VP Tableau Software

Here is an interview with Elissa Fink, VP Marketing of that new wonderful software called Tableau that makes data visualization so nice and easy to learn and work with.

Elissa Fink, VP, Marketing

Ajay-  Describe your career journey from high school to over 20 plus years in marketing. What are the various trends that you have seen come and go in marketing.

Elissa- I studied literature and linguistics in college and didn’t discover analytics until my first job selling advertising for the Wall Street Journal. Oddly enough, the study of linguistics is not that far from decision analytics: they both are about taking a structured view of information and trying to see and understand common patterns. At the Journal, I was completely captivated analyzing and comparing readership data. At the same time, the idea of using computers in marketing was becoming more common. I knew that the intersection of technology and marketing was going to radically change things – how we understand consumers, how we market and sell products, and how we engage with customers. So from that point on, I’ve always been focused on technology and marketing, whether it’s working as a marketer at technology companies or applying technology to marketing problems for other types of companies.  There have been so many interesting trends. Taking a long view, a key trend I’ve noticed is how marketers work to understand, influence and motivate consumer behavior. We’ve moved marketing from where it was primarily unpredictable, qualitative and aimed at talking to mass audiences, where the advertising agency was king. Now it’s a discipline that is more data-driven, quantitative and aimed at conversations with individuals, where the best analytics wins. As with any trend, the pendulum swings far too much to either side causing backlashes but overall, I think we are in a great place now. We are using data-driven analytics to understand consumer behavior. But pure analytics is not the be-all, end-all; good marketing has to rely on understanding human emotions, intuition and gut feel – consumers are far from rational so taking only a rational or analytical view of them will never explain everything we need to know.

Ajay- Do you think technology companies are still predominantly dominated by men . How have you seen diversity evolve over the years. What initiatives has Tableau taken for both hiring and retaining great talent.

Elissa- The thing I love about the technology industry is that its key success metrics – inventing new products that rapidly gain mass adoption in pursuit of making profit – are fairly objective. There’s little subjective nature to the counting of dollars collected selling a product and dollars spent building a product. So if a female can deliver a better product and bigger profits faster and better, then that female is going to get the resources, jobs, power and authority to do exactly that. That’s not to say that the technology industry is gender-blind, race-blind, etc. It isn’t – technology is far from perfect. For example, the industry doesn’t have enough diversity in positions of power. But I think overall, in comparison to a lot of other industries, it’s pretty darn good at giving people with great ideas the opportunities to realize their visions regardless of their backgrounds or characteristics.

At Tableau, we are very serious about bringing in and developing talented people – they are the key to our growth and success. Hiring is our #1 initiative so we’ve spent a lot of time and energy both on finding great candidates and on making Tableau a place that they want to work. This includes things like special recruiting events, employee referral programs, a flexible work environment, fun social events, and the rewards of working for a start-up. Probably our biggest advantage is the company itself – working with people you respect on amazing, cutting-edge products that delight customers and are changing the world is all too rare in the industry but a reality at Tableau. One of our senior software developers put it best when he wrote “The emphasis is on working smarter rather than longer: family and friends are why we work, not the other way around. Tableau is all about happy, energized employees executing at the highest level and delivering a highly usable, high quality, useful product to our customers.” People who want to be at a place like that should check out our openings at http://www.tableausoftware.com/jobs.

Ajay- What are most notable features in tableau’s latest edition. What are the principal software that competes with Tableau Software products and how would you say Tableau compares with them.

Elissa- Tableau 6.1 will be out in July and we are really excited about it for 3 reasons.

First, we’re introducing our mobile business intelligence capabilities. Our customers can have Tableau anywhere they need it. When someone creates an interactive dashboard or analytical application with Tableau and it’s viewed on a mobile device, an iPad in particular, the viewer will have a native, touch-optimized experience. No trying to get your fingertips to act like a mouse. And the author didn’t have to create anything special for the iPad; she just creates her analytics the usual way in Tableau. Tableau knows the dashboard is being viewed on an iPad and presents an optimized experience.

Second, we’ve take our in-memory analytics engine up yet another level. Speed and performance are faster and now people can update data incrementally rapidly. Introduced in 6.0, our data engine makes any data fast in just a few clicks. We don’t run out of memory like other applications. So if I build an incredible dashboard on my 8-gig RAM PC and you try to use it on your 2-gig RAM laptop, no problem.

And, third, we’re introducing more features for the international markets – including French and German versions of Tableau Desktop along with more international mapping options.  It’s because we are constantly innovating particularly around user experience that we can compete so well in the market despite our relatively small size. Gartner’s seminal research study about the Business Intelligence market reported a massive market shift earlier this year: for the first time, the ease-of-use of a business intelligence platform was more important than depth of functionality. In other words, functionality that lots of people can actually use is more important than having sophisticated functionality that only specialists can use. Since we focus so heavily on making easy-to-use products that help people rapidly see and understand their data, this is good news for our customers and for us.

Ajay-  Cloud computing is the next big thing with everyone having a cloud version of their software. So how would you run Cloud versions of Tableau Server (say deploying it on an Amazon Ec2  or a private cloud)

Elissa- In addition to the usual benefits espoused about Cloud computing, the thing I love best is that it makes data and information more easily accessible to more people. Easy accessibility and scalability are completely aligned with Tableau’s mission. Our free product Tableau Public and our product for commercial websites Tableau Digital are two Cloud-based products that deliver data and interactive analytics anywhere. People often talk about large business intelligence deployments as having thousands of users. With Tableau Public and Tableau Digital, we literally have millions of users. We’re serving up tens of thousands of visualizations simultaneously – talk about accessibility and scalability!  We have lots of customers connecting to databases in the Cloud and running Tableau Server in the Cloud. It’s actually not complex to set up. In fact, we focus a lot of resources on making installation and deployment easy and fast, whether it’s in the cloud, on premise or what have you. We don’t want people to have spend weeks or months on massive roll-out projects. We want it to be minutes, hours, maybe a day or 2. With the Cloud, we see that people can get started and get results faster and easier than ever before. And that’s what we’re about.

Ajay- Describe some of the latest awards that Tableau has been wining. Also how is Tableau helping universities help address the shortage of Business Intelligence and Big Data professionals.

Elissa-Tableau has been very fortunate. Lately, we’ve been acknowledged by both Gartner and IDC as the fastest growing business intelligence software vendor in the world. In addition, our customers and Tableau have won multiple distinctions including InfoWorld Technology Leadership awards, Inc 500, Deloitte Fast 500, SQL Server Magazine Editors’ Choice and Community Choice awards, Data Hero awards, CODiEs, American Business Awards among others. One area we’re very passionate about is academia, participating with professors, students and universities to help build a new generation of professionals who understand how to use data. Data analysis should not be exclusively for specialists. Everyone should be able to see and understand data, whatever their background. We come from academic roots, having been spun out of a Stanford research project. Consequently, we strongly believe in supporting universities worldwide and offer 2 academic programs. The first is Tableau For Teaching, where any professor can request free term-length licenses of Tableau for academic instruction during his or her courses. And, we offer a low-cost Student Edition of Tableau so that students can choose to use Tableau in any of their courses at any time.

Elissa Fink, VP Marketing,Tableau Software

 

Elissa Fink is Tableau Software’s Vice President of Marketing. With 20+ years helping companies improve their marketing operations through applied data analysis, Elissa has held executive positions in marketing, business strategy, product management, and product development. Prior to Tableau, Elissa was EVP Marketing at IXI Corporation, now owned by Equifax. She has also served in executive positions at Tele Atlas (acquired by TomTom), TopTier Software (acquired by SAP), and Nielsen/Claritas. Elissa also sold national advertising for the Wall Street Journal. She’s a frequent speaker and has spoken at conferences including the DMA, the NCDM, Location Intelligence, the AIR National Forum and others. Elissa is a graduate of Santa Clara University and holds an MBA in Marketing and Decision Systems from the University of Southern California.

Elissa first discovered Tableau late one afternoon at her previous company. Three hours later, she was still “at play” with her data. “After just a few minutes using the product, I was getting answers to questions that were taking my company’s programmers weeks to create. It was instantly obvious that Tableau was on a special mission with something unique to offer the world. I just had to be a part of it.”

To know more – read at http://www.tableausoftware.com/

and existing data viz at http://www.tableausoftware.com/learn/gallery

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