Josh at the Digital Analytics Association Symposium on February 2nd, 2017 in Raleigh

Below is the first guest post to appear ON, and I couldn't be more pleased or honored to have this author!

Our middle guy Josh Miner attended the DAA Symposium at NC State about two weeks ago, and with the encouragement of Jim Sterne and Charlotte Whitmore authored the article below.

You can see the article in its original context here, and from there can geek out on all things analytics, too.  Again, Thank You to Jim & Charlotte for giving Josh this particular opportunity.

Congrats Joshua!



Joshua Miner, age 9

On Thursday February 2nd, my cousin Charlotte and I went to the Digital Analytics Association Raleigh Symposium.  I’m a nine-year-old boy, and when I heard that Charlotte was not only attending, but also presenting at a data analytics conference, I wanted to go too.  I was the only kid there.  I also knew there would be some stuff I would not be able to wrap my head around.  Still, a conference about data is right up my alley.  I enjoy computers.  I’m learning programming – particularly Python and a little bit of Javascript.  Every week I go to a programming class where I’m learning Python on a Raspberry Pi (a desktop computing source that is about the size of two iPhone 5’s stacked on top of each other).

At the symposium, I listened to Ms. Margaret Escobar present a talk called “Visualize the Customer Journey.”  In Ms. Escobar’s presentation I learned how people who run online businesses should listen to customer data instead of listening to the CEO or management.  If the customer asks for something, and the company listens to her, the product may become successful.  However, if the customer requests something and the company ignores her, the product may not be successful.  Instead the customer may purchase from a different company, or make what she wants herself.  Some ways the company can gather these data are how many pages the customer visits on the company’s website, where the customer clicks first, and, after the sale, how delighted the customer is with the product.

Similarly, in my life, when my parents won’t give me what I want, I build it myself.  I join my siblings, gather what tools or resources we have access to, and then we build what we want.  Once we’ve assembled our limited tools and resources we either work together to come up with a reasonable design or we start with a rough idea of how we’re going to build, and then work our way along.

Our family moved around quite a lot for our dad’s work.  In 2012 we moved to a new house in Louisiana.  In our past two houses, we had swings – in our side yard in Illinois, and our backyard in North Carolina.  In this house which was new to us, we had no swing, so we asked our parents for a swing.  My dad did build us one – a single-rope swing close to a couple trees.  After that we decided to give up on asking our parents for a swing, and instead to build our own.  One day my older sister, my younger brother and I decided to build our own swing.  We gathered up our materials: two ropes permanently tied together, a jump rope I got as a prize at the dentist’s office, a bungee cord, and a few sticks.  At first we had little success.  The sticks broke and the bungee cord wasn’t comfortable as a seat.  After some time, my sister found a board behind the hedge in the backyard, and we decided to try to use that as a seat for our swing.  It turned out to be rather comfortable, and we were satisfied with our swing.  Unless the new homeowners have taken it down, it may still hang today.

If a kid is dissatisfied with his parent’s answer about a swing, he may build his own.  Like the example of the swing, if a customer is dissatisfied with a company’s products, he may find another solution - or go to a rival supplier – and the company will lose the opportunity to serve him.

Sometimes companies treat customers the same way parents treat their kids – like the company knows best (insert song from Tangled soundtrack, “Mother Knows Best”).  While that may be the right things for parents and kids, when companies do it they create a massive risk.  The risk is that customers will flee the company that tells them, “This is how you’re supposed to do it,” and instead seek out the offerings of other companies that do listen.

What I learned at the conference helped me make a connection between how I relate to adults and how a leader interacts with data.  Companies should act based on customer data.  Leaders should not treat their customers like their kids.  As I listened to Sig Mejdal deliver the talk “Things I Wish I Knew When I Started: A Sports Analytics Perspective” I heard him say something that summarizes everything above: “Trust your brain, not your gut.”