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Alter Everything

A podcast about data science and analytics culture.
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Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Guest host and Alteryx ACE Kenda Sanderson, is joined by colleague Veronica Brown to chat about parents teaching data literacy to kids and challenges in protecting their family’s data.








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Episode Transcription

MADDIE: 00:02

Welcome to Alter Everything, a podcast about data science and analytics culture. I'm Maddie Johannsen, and today, I passed my hosting mike to one of our ACEs, Kenda Sanderson. Our ACE program is our Alteryx superuser program. So you know you're in good hands having Kenda as your host for this episode.

KENDA: 00:20

Yeah, I could definitely say that I've tried to brag about my work close to my husband, but I don't know that he's as proud of them as I am, so.

MADDIE: 00:30

Kenda invited one of her colleagues, Veronica Brown, to be her guest, and they're both actuarial analysts at MedPro Group.


I've known Kenda as long as I've known Alteryx.

KENDA: 00:40

There you go.


Oh, really. Yeah.

KENDA: 00:42

Maybe a little correlated.



MADDIE: 00:45

Veronica and Kenda chat about the intersection of data and parenting and interesting ways to get kids excited about STEM. Let's get started. Okay, awesome. Well, I will go on mute and then Kenda, I'll let you take it away.

KENDA: 01:05

Okay, sounds good. Thank you. Hi, everyone, my name is Kenda Sanderson, I'm one of the Alteryx Aces, and I'll be taking over today as guest host for Maddie. I work in the insurance industry, and I've been using Alteryx for a little over five years. I'm so excited because I have a good friend of mine with me who is going to share her knowledge and experiences regarding the intersection of data and parenting. Although this topic has become increasingly relevant in our day-to-day lives, especially during the past year with many parents working, parenting, and teaching from home, I think it's important to take a step back and think about the impact that this all has on the next generation. I don't have children of my own, but I love kids, and I'm sure many of you listening will be able to relate to some of our discussion today. Before we dive in, let's get to know Veronica. Welcome. Thank you for joining me. Could you please give us a quick introduction on yourself and tell us a little bit about your family?


Yeah, thanks, Kenda. So a little bit about myself. I'm Veronica Brown. I also work in the insurance industry and I've been using Alteryx for about four years, I think. My family includes my marvelous husband, Joe, my three children, Adelaide who's five, Jasper is three, and Atticus is one, as well as my ever-fluctuating number of free-range chickens in our backyard. I would like to preface everything I say today with the caveat that I don't consider myself an expert in anything except maybe my own children, and even they keep me guessing most of the time.

KENDA: 02:44

Absolutely. I feel the same way as a dog parent, so I [always got to think that's right?]. Awesome. Well, thank you. So the first question I wanted to ask relates to change. Although you're still quite young yourself, I'm sure that you have seen many changes just in the time since you were a kid. And thinking about how data and parenting intersect, how would you say this has changed over time?


Well, first I want to say something that hasn't changed. It struck me that from the instant that a baby is born, everyone asks a basic list of questions, "How much did they weigh? What time were they born? How long was labor? What color is their hair? Do they look like their mom or dad?" and all of these are data points. And it's these basic pieces of information that interested everyone. It gives people a reference point for the person who has just entered the world. For example, I didn't know when he was born that Jasper would love garbage trucks above all things, but I did know that he charted at the 90th percentile for height and he stayed there. And so it's just something like that that-- we've always had this information, but what has changed is that this information is not just sent in birth announcements or etched in commemorative wooden blocks on my windowsill, the information is the start of your child's data profile, and that data becomes powerful when it's aggregated and studied and compared. And to a degree probably not imagined by the generations before us, parents today can be just more equipped with information. We talk about the tools and resources that we have and so many of those come from data. Advice is not just given from mother-in-laws, warranted or unwarranted, each piece of information, it's a building block to every aspect of our world including parenting. And when I think of data and parenting, a big one is health and safety. So a few years ago, my husband and Adelaide, as a baby, were in a car accident. It totaled our car, the airbags went off, but both of them were unharmed, and that's because Adelaide was in a car seat.


Well, think back to maybe our parents' times, or grandparents' time when they were growing up, they didn't even have to have seat belts let alone safety-inspected car seats, and car seats are a result of studies, and those studies are fueled by data. And so something like that is a direct impact of the data that has been collected. People took it, studied it, and said, "You know what, I think we can make the world better if everybody has to be in car seats up to a certain age," and that goes to so many other points: the effects of smoking during pregnancy, the risk of SIDS and babies, and so many things that we worry about as parents, data has helped produce better outcomes. And for those of us that are fascinated by data, the aggregation and availability of this information is wonderful. And when you think back to a generation ago, astounding.

KENDA: 05:58

That's awesome. I love that. You bring up so many really good points throughout the whole thing. And I know, knowing you, you're such a positive and happy person, so hearing those answers makes total sense, and they revolve around the benefits of having more data, not only in your household but in aggregate for society as a whole. So if you could, are there any difficulties with raising children in a data world?


Oh, absolutely. I'd say one of the first struggles of parenting in a data world is the same thing that we as adults struggle with, it's protecting our children's data. Not only do we have to protect them from eating food off of the ground or running in parking lots, but now we have to protect them from identity theft and teach them how to protect themselves as they get older. it's not just being in a digital age and worrying about the effects of screen time and having the computers all around them, but we need to protect their data specifically. And the average parent is not able to ensure the data integrity of findings when they're looking for online parenting advice. This is, I think, a big thing in our day and age is that even when data is sound and studies are thorough, there is a multitude of parenting advice that can be supported by data. And these theories and studies are about every facet of parenting, from pregnancy to when you have your baby, through toddlers to teenage years, from what you feed your baby to what toys your toddler plays with, and this data can just lead to an information overload and a feeling of more pressure to get it right and more data points to compare yourself to, and, "Is your baby measuring up? Is your other developing?" it can be very stressful for parents, especially when you consider too-- I looked up one fact that in the 1970s, compared to now, there were five times more parenting books available, and that doesn't even include all of the blogs and organization websites on the Internet.


So I think one of the biggest negative impacts of data is just the amount of it. And what do we as individuals and specifically as parents do with that amount of data? I consider myself a fairly laid-back person, especially when it comes to parenting, but I can't tell you how many hours I spend trying to figure out if I'm making the right decisions. Should I move my kids out of a crib at two years old or earlier? Is it okay if my two-year-old has taken up a pacifier? Will my daughter be behind in her education if we skip preschool? How much screen time is too much? So many of these things-- I could type the question into Google and I'll be able to get data on it immediately, and I will be able to hit the Back button and go to a different site that's going to give me the exact opposite answer. So really, the amount of data is a big thing that we have to deal with as parents.

KENDA: 09:23

Absolutely. Everyone wants to be the best parent that they can, and so going to a data source to look up what other parents have done seems like a great idea. But it sounds like it just becomes a balancing act, like many things in life, I guess. Parents should utilize what is available, all the data that's out there, but maybe be wary of some of the drawbacks that you mentioned.



KENDA: 09:47

So - cool - bringing children, directly into the picture now. So what would you say are some ways that parents can teach data literacy to their kids at an early age?


I love this, and I love thinking about how kids learn. It's one of the most exciting things about being a parent is watching your child learn, when they go from not knowing something to understanding it. It's very exciting. So I love talking about this and exploring the subject myself. And with so many things, you can't start too early. While toddlers might not yet grasp the art of data cleansing or know the power of predictive modeling, there's a lot that they can learn even at a very young age. And our children have the benefit of growing up in the age of STEM, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, so both in and out of school, there's a focus on that curriculum which, would lead to a career in data science maybe or in any of the other STEM careers. And my own children are not yet in school, but they already have opportunities to learn. There's so many learning programs for children of every age. We in particular are big fans of PBS programming. A lot of it is just fun, entertaining stuff, but they do have content geared towards mathematics, and not just shows but they now have games so the kids can participate in and practice skills like math. I can say that when it comes to shows for little kids, I know a lot of parents will complain about Mickey Mouse clubhouse playing all the time in the background, but I absolutely and genuinely love when Peg + Cat is on.


Peg + Cat, there's two characters, and they're always solving these big problems. But not only is it this charming and funny show, but it's all math-focused. These big problems that they're working on, they have to work on sorting things and counting chickens-- maybe I've got a soft spot because many of their problems become counting all the chickens that get loose, but it's just one example of all of the content that is available for children that can be math- or data-focused. But even if you want to limit or eliminate screen time, kids love books, and there are more and more topics in books related to data science for young children. We have one book. It's one of Atticus's favorites. It's Baby Loves Coding. And yes, he probably does enjoy the trains in bright colors more than the logical steps the character in the book takes, but it's all about starting that foundation of learning. And we have TV, we have computers, we have books, but kids can learn about data in just everyday play, whether they're playing inside or outside in the living room or kitchen, because data, and if you think about Alteryx, all of our different tools, what are we doing? We're sorting things. We're looking for patterns. We're producing outputs. That's exactly what children love to do in their play. They sort their toys from biggest to smallest. That's a type of data. They sort their garbage trucks, green versus blue. Kids are already dealing with data subjects, whether we realize it or not.


But even when we're not giving them these constructive play and things to do, one of my favorite recommendations for parents, if you want your children to be interested in something like data literacy, let them see what you do. Up to a certain age, teenagers, kids want to do what you do, they want to get excited about what you're excited about even if they have no idea what you're talking about. My daughter is five years old, and she thinks that she wants to study because that's what I spend my evenings doing, and so she gets out a calculator and a desk and she thinks she's studying. And so I would say take advantage of that excitement, get them involved. If you're working on something, especially now that we're working, that so many parents are working from home, and so many children are at home from school as well, I would say try pulling up a chair or sitting them on your lap and just let them see the exciting world of data through your eyes.

KENDA: 14:34

That's so cool. I love that. Parents are obviously such big role models for their kids, like you said, maybe up to a certain age. But incorporating them in things maybe typically considered more grown-up may help them not only become more accustomed to data, but it could also help them decide maybe they do or maybe don't want to pursue something similar down the road, so just that exposure is such a really good idea. So I wanted to wrap up here with one kind of more fun question and challenge you to see if you can maybe tell me, how are children like Alteryx?


Oh, man, I love just comparing kids to things. Kenda, you know this. I love comparing babies and toddlers to dogs. There are a lot of--

KENDA: 15:18

So many similarities.


Oh, so many similarities. So I accept your challenge. So I think that one way that kids can be compared to Alteryx, if you don't have any experience with kids or Alteryx, they're going to seem pretty daunting. I mean, kids, what is going on? You got tantrums, feeding schedules, they won't go to sleep, and then Alteryx, what are all these lines connecting these colorful shapes of symbols? It would be a lot to take on if you don't have the experience. I'd say another thing that babies particularly have similar with all tricks, they start as blank slates. There are infinite possibilities, "Let's see, next, data processing." As I said, I love watching kids learn. They are processing data. I mean, they are taking this all in, using all of their senses, whether it's a baby, putting things to their mouth to your kid while sitting down with you and watching you build a workflow, they're just taking in this data. And with both, you often produce something that the world has never seen before. So I think that's a pretty cool comparison between the two. And the last one I would say, that children are like Alteryx, you are immensely proud of them and will brag about them to anyone who will listen.

KENDA: 16:53

That's awesome. Yeah, I could definitely say that. I've tried to brag about my workflows to my husband, but I don't know that he's as proud of them as I am, so.


As I said, anyone that will listen, and I probably show pictures of my children to people at work as much as I show workflows to my husband at home, so yes, I know how that [crosstalk].

KENDA: 17:18

There you go. Challenge accepted indeed. Good job, Veronica. Well, thank you so much for joining me and sharing all of your interesting insights and perspectives. That was above and beyond anything I could have done. So thank you so much. And I'm sure the whole data community will appreciate it as well.


Well, thank you so much for inviting me to participate. I thought this was a very fun endeavor, and I'm glad I got to be a part of it.

MADDIE: 17:50

Thanks for listening. Join us at where you can leave a comment to share your favorite way to engage your kids in their learning journeys. You can also check out our Data in the Sandbox podcast mini-series featuring short episodes specifically written for kids. You can find it on the show notes page or by searching data in the sandbox on your favorite podcast app. Catch you next time.

This episode of Alter Everything was produced by Maddie Johannsen (@MaddieJ).
Special thanks to @andyuttley for the theme music track, and @TaraM for our album artwork.