Experfy: Could you tell us a little about yourself and what you have done?
Dr. Huebner: I’ve spent the last 25 years of my career as a data guru. My background is fairly diverse. I have worked with a variety of industries – healthcare, medical devices, manufacturing and ten years teaching computer science and information systems full time at several colleges and universities.
My work has been focused on database design and database administration, architecture, analysis and mining primarily. I’ve always been fascinated by the challenges that data brings forward – from how to integrate disparate data sources into a warehouse to cleaning up data or helping someone extract insights from their data.
It’s worth the challenges because when other people can see value in their data and make use out of it to improve some process or improve productivity, I recognize that my work has added value for them.
I enjoy teaching and coaching others around data-related topics, and helping people understand a bit more about their business.
I work for one of the largest learning organizations – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Our data services team focuses on helping school districts make sense of their data through our custom data insight platform, which is now in a prototyping phase. It’s an incredibly exciting and challenging opportunity to help districts gain insight into their students, with the end goal of improving student achievement and success.
In one of my previous roles, I was able to lead a Tableau Server and Tableau Desktop implementation that enabled new ways of analyzing operations, customer service, and sales data.
Today, that particular operations department uses Tableau to help them discover and solve problems, and even identify opportunities.
Experfy: Wow, that’s awesome. Which emerging technology do you think will redefine industries and create a massive impact?
Dr. Huebner: Advances in cloud technology will continue to make it easier to capture and analyze our data and provide the infrastructure for gaining new insights for decision-makers.
A combination of AI, machine learning, and data science has taken the industry by storm, and organizations will find ways to integrate these technologies into their businesses. Some industries and sectors could gain significant benefit from this, including manufacturing and education.
For K-12 education, these technologies could help move the needle and make a considerable impact on school districts which are, in many cases, struggling to use and analyze the data they have.
There is an entire field devoted explicitly to investigating and developing analytical methods, tools, and approaches for education – both K-12 and higher education – called learning analytics.
This area has the potential to have a very significant impact on student growth and achievement, using predictive analytics. Predictive methods can help us identify at-risk students (at-risk for not graduating, or at-risk for not succeeding on an assessment, and so forth) like this data science project on Experfy to build an algorithm to predict student performance.
Experfy: We too definitely believe that data can impact the education industry drastically. So do you think it is important for professionals today to reskill/ upskill themselves with emerging technologies?
Dr. Huebner: It’s critical to stay up-to-date in your profession. It’s evident that one person cannot be an expert in all areas, so each of us specializes in something.
Reskilling and upskilling can include formal and informal courses as well as on-the-job training.
It could be a combination of online coursework through a college or university, and micro-learning through places like Experfy.
Our data services team at HMH gets together a few times a month for knowledge sharing and training on various technologies like Tableau, SQL, and Python. Even within areas like analytics and data science, there are opportunities to continually educate yourself because there are always new advances in the algorithms, approaches, and tools.
Experfy: How do you think this will help them grow their careers?
Dr. Huebner: I think people that are data scientists and aspiring data scientists need both breadth and depth of knowledge.
Having expertise in some area, while having a broad-based understanding of other approaches, I believe, will serve people well. I’ll give you an example.
While I understand the breadth of algorithms available for classification, there’s one particular area that I’ve developed much more expertise in and that is random forests. I appreciate that random forests can often provide a very high degree of predictive accuracy as compared to other methods, for certain types of data.
In some cases, having a certification will also set you apart – which also demonstrates that you have specialized knowledge in some area of technology.
Keeping up with advances in a particular area could provide an opportunity to take that emerging technology and apply it at work – perhaps a new, more efficient algorithm is developed that cuts processing time in half. That could be a way to improve productivity or provide results to a customer much more quickly.
Experfy: Which other technologies do you recommend that millennial need to catch up with?
Dr. Huebner: There are so many to choose from, but here are a few that are certainly going to be disruptive and have tremendous impact on business. Blockchain – the technology behind bitcoin and cryptocurrency – is technology that will impact many areas including digital transactions, intellectual property and copyright, and applications in healthcare, manufacturing, and perhaps even educational data regarding privacy and security.
Blockchain is already having a tremendous impact – so there are a lot of opportunities to get involved and learn about it.
Innovations in deep learning will continue to grow. New hardware is being developed specifically for deep learning so that we will see improvements in development and processing of data specifically for deep learning applications. AI is also an avenue that is already having a significant impact on businesses – so learning as much as you can about it will be beneficial as you grow your career. You can attend meetups and conferences to network with others and learn something new.
(Check out our expert courses on Blockchain, here)
Experfy: Definitely. In fact, we’re also working on offering more blockchain courses to our subscribers – with your help! Anything else that you’d like to add?
Dr. Huebner: We live in an exciting time where there are constant advances in technology – to the point where it can be challenging to keep up with them. Whichever path you choose – be it data visualization, data science, analytics, machine learning, and so on, be sure to read a lot, stay up-to-date with what’s going on in your industry.
It is important to make time for your professional development and learning.
Like Dr. Huebner said, blockchain is all set to impact all the industries. So if you’ve been in two minds about learning what it is all about, it’s time to take action!