Joining The Data Guild

I am happy to announce that recently I’ve joined forces with The Data Guild!

What is — who are — The Data Guild? Their website says:

The Data Guild brings together deeply experienced data scientists, social scientists, designers and engineers from diverse industry backgrounds to tackle important problems and challenges.

This new relationship doesn’t encroach on any of the benefits and freedoms that I enjoy by working independently, and that was an important consideration. And there are great practical reasons to work with a team. But what really attracted my interest in The Data Guild, and the reasons why I want to work with them, are less tangible than these.

Cross-pollination

When I visited universities in India a few years ago, I had noticed a strong resistance to the sharing of knowledge that leads to creative thinking and unique ideas. The system in which those schools lived seemed severely limited in this regard. But by working as an independent consultant, I am constantly fighting a similar battle.

It costs me a great deal of energy to continually expose myself to new ideas and projects, to find inter-disciplinary collaboration. And I am rarely able to bounce ideas around with someone who understands the nuances of what I am talking about; I also lack intra-disciplinary collaboration.

By being part of a community like The Data Guild, I am hopeful to find frequent opportunities for such cross-pollination of ideas.

But that’s not the best part.

Impact

It has been two years since I started working independently as a consultant, and I have been naturally in a mood of self-assessment. I had quit my job back then because I was not satisfied in just earning a good salary. I had wanted to work on problems that I found more interesting and challenging. I feel good about what my progress on this front. But I had also wanted to work on projects that had some positive impact in a way that mattered to me. In that, I have far to go.

So it was perfect timing when, last month, I met with the founders of The Data Guild — Chris Diehl, Dave Gutelius and Cameron Turner. They talked about their vision of assembling a team of experts that were passionate about doing something significant with their efforts.

There is plenty of money to be made forming a company or working for one in the “big data” world. In this nascent industry, the “low-hanging fruit” — the business models that are immediately profitable — are ones that I do not find to be satisfying. Developing a new non-relational database, or optimizing bidding strategies for advertising — these projects are often technically impressive and have good business justification. But I do not find them compelling.

I would like to spend my time working on problems that are interesting not just for their own sake, but for the impact that they have on our world. On their first blog post, The Data Guild writes:

TheDataGuild

“We shouldn’t have been surprised; the best and brightest people we know want a chance to make a difference in the world, and to work creatively on teams where they can reach their full potential.  We wanted to create a space where these incredible teams could tackle the most significant global challenges we face – but also make a living doing it.  We wanted to challenge the idea that there’s a necessary tradeoff between making a difference and making a living.”

People who think like this are people I can be proud to work with. That is the reason I’m excited about working The Data Guild.


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