Attend Conferences to Expand Your Network in Data and Analytics

Attend Conferences to Expand Your Network in Data and Analytics
Image by Erikona/ Canva

Are you looking to expand your network in the data and analytics field?
Do you want to connect with people who can inspire, teach and help you grow?

Over the past few years, this has been something I've been working on. I mentioned two strategies I used to expand my network, one is by following industry leaders on LinkedIn, and the second is to join online communities in this area. Another great way to achieve this is by attending conferences. In this blog, I will share my recent experience. I will cover the following:

  • Leave your comfort zone
  • Themes that emerged
  • Standout presentations

Leave Your Comfort Zone

This week, I attended the OpsWorld conference hosted by Data Futurology. Most attendees were executives and chief data and analytics leaders, so I couldn't help but feel intimidated. On top of that, I was one of the few women in the room. As a newcomer to the field without much experience or tenure, I felt like an imposter and had the urge to run away and observe from a distance. However, I recognized that this was an opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone and learn from those around me.

I went to all the sponsor stalls and conversed with the company representatives. They were patient and generous with their time, educating me on their products and concepts like Site Reliability Engineering, Observability Platforms, and different types of data pipelines. I also connected with people sitting next to me, and we exchanged ideas and discussed the topics presented.

As the conference progressed, I found myself becoming more comfortable. I started asking questions during the sessions and participated in the discussions. I even shared some of my thinking and approaches in data analytics and pitched a potential business idea to the founder of the hosting company. The conference turned into an incredible experience, and I learned a lot.

I know feeling fear and inadequacy in situations like these are natural, but overcoming those feelings is important. I learn that If you allow them to hold you back, you'll miss out on valuable knowledge and connections that can lead to meaningful opportunities. So, remember to push yourself out of your comfort zone and embrace new experiences, even if it initially feels daunting.

Themes that Emerged

The two-day conference covered a diverse range of topics centred around data, machine learning and artificial intelligence:

  • Encouraging a culture that values data, and using agile and self-service data practices.
  • Breaking down organizational barriers and promoting collaboration between teams.
  • Establishing process frameworks and rules to maximize efficiency and performance using automation tools.
  • Scaling existing practices to enhance the entire data value chain.
  • Measuring improvements, efficiency, and agility in data operations.
  • Keeping up-to-date with trends and best practices for managing data pipelines and data-intensive workloads.
  • Continually maintaining and monitoring KPIs to ensure effectiveness.

While the topics are diverse and presenters are from various industries, I note three common themes that were present in their talks:

Lack of Talent Available: One of the biggest challenges in data and analytics is the shortage of skilled professionals. With the explosion of data in recent years, there has been a surge in demand for professionals with data expertise. However, a limited pool of such talent is available, leading to fierce competition among organizations for these professionals. Many organizations are upskilling their internal hires to fill the talent gap.

Data Governance: As organizations collect and store more data, it becomes increasingly important to establish clear policies and procedures around data management. Data governance refers to the set of practices and processes that ensure that data is managed consistently, securely, and compliant across the organization. Lack of data governance can lead to data breaches, inaccurate data, and regulatory non-compliance. Establishing effective data governance practices is therefore critical for organizations to maximize the value of their data while mitigating the associated risks.

Integration of Growing Numbers of Systems: With the proliferation of software systems and platforms, organizations often struggle with integrating data from disparate sources. Gone are those days, when it's just Oracle and IBM! The more systems an organization has, the more complex it becomes to ensure that data is integrated seamlessly and accurately. This can result in data silos, duplication, and inconsistencies. Organizations need to implement effective data integration strategies to ensure that they can leverage data from multiple sources to drive insights and decision-making. This is probably the driver behind the rise of observability platforms.

Despite these challenges, I think this field presents exciting opportunities for growth and innovation. I think it's an exciting time to be in data and analytics

Standout Presentations

Many of the presentations at the conference were insightful and informative, but three stood out to me as particularly noteworthy.

The first presentation was about graph technology by Emil Pastor, a System Architect from Neo4J, and how it can help businesses make sense of the huge amounts of data being generated. I was impressed by how efficient, flexible, and scalable graph databases are. They can even help machine learning models uncover hidden relationships and patterns across billions of data connections, which is really cool!

The second presentation was by Ben Taylor from the ATO, who spoke about the use of machine learning to prevent GST fraud. He talked about Operation Protego, which stopped billions of dollars in fraudulent refunds from being paid out. It's inspiring to see how machine learning is being used to catch criminals and prevent fraud.

Lastly, Gavin Cohen's presentation on AIOps and observability was fascinating. Gavin is from Science Logic. He showcased how businesses can leverage observability technologies powered by AI to detect and resolve problems quickly and efficiently. He did a live demo of how Scientific Logic detects the problem that brought down a website and fixes it automatically. This would have usually taken a few hours or a day if humans were involved in reviewing logs. Guess how long it took the application? 15 minutes!

These three presentations showed me the incredible potential of data and analytics to drive business success. The technologies and approaches presented are transforming the way we think about data and make decisions.

I hope you enjoyed the read. If you want to gain knowledge, expand networks, and gain inspiration, attend conferences even if you think you don't quite belong as I did. I want to leave you with a picture of the fantastic merchandise I collected. These items will remind me of my amazing time at the conference.