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Data Is More Than Just Numbers, According to This Data Boss

Numbers and empathy go hand-in-hand.
IMAGE SHUTTERSTOCK
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Data defines almost every business nowadays, and none more than tech startups like Filipino superapp Kumu. When dealing with social media, companies trust data to act as their compass and guide them to make the best decisions. But it can’t be all about numbers, according to Kumu’s business intelligence head Jay Caluag.

“In general, I would always argue to people that everyone can work with data,” says Caluag. “Everyone can be an analyst. Why? [Because] the true, core skill for an analyst, or someone who works in data, is not really the technical skills, but the ‘soft skills.’” 

One could argue that numbers, patterns, and formulas only scratch the surface when it comes to data. Underneath the complicated math of it all, data is just another language that tries to make sense of audience behavior. And like any other language, it requires you to master both the technical aspect as well as the social elements—i.e. communication and empathy. These are the two skills that leaders of the most successful social apps have mastered, and it’s what the livestreaming app Kumu aims to achieve.

“I always believe that analysts should first and foremost be logical,” shares Caluag. “But at the same time, they must create that empathy, the art of communication to their stakeholders. Technical skills are a requirement. But soft skills are the clincher.”

Photo by Kumu.
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Describing data analysis as a “mix of art and science,” data analysts should learn how to humanize information so the internet is not reduced to ones and zeroes. Steve Jobs, for instance, is the prime example of a businessman who combined science and emotions to build Apple into what it is today.

“I’ve realized that as you go up the ladder (in analytical positions), it becomes less and less technical,” says Caluag. “By the time you get into a data-driven start-up like Kumu, you’d have an understanding of how data works. Then, having empathy and clear communication to stakeholders will help rally everyone else in the same direction.” 

But that’s not to say that data knowledge should be reserved for data analysts. Caluag believes that everyone in any company should know how to make decisions using data. It creates a better informed and effective team. At Kumu, his vision is to see everyone “speak the same language” when it comes to analyzing data—but still be guided by what he calls an “ecosystem of empathy.

Data can be daunting for those without data analytic backgrounds, but in the world of tech, whether they're a content writer or a UI/UX designer, data is the backbone of everything they do. It can create solutions and develop innovations. The technical side—reading charts, numbers, and the like—can be learned, but the soft skills—empathy, communication, connection—is innate.

“So, what’s stopping you from trying data?” challenges Caluag.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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