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Woman entrepreneur makes data analytics come alive in Germany
Meet Katharina Schueller, founder, strategist, board member, data analytics/statistics evangelist, and university instructor, most recently at the Technical University Munich (EMBA Leadership and Strategic Management) and the Deggendorf Institute of Technology (Risk & Compliance Management master’s program).
It’s an impressive resume accumulated by a woman who has been fascinated with the potential applications of statistics and data analytics from even her younger years. She recalls discovering the impact these skills could have on large-scale societal issues such as wealth, discrimination, and even ethics. This has been a driving force in her life and a central focus in the way she advocates and teaches students the importance of understanding, structuring, and drawing conclusions from data.
Although she has pursued these topics almost naturally, she realizes not everyone is equally motivated: “When I started teaching data analytics at universities, students wondered why they needed it!” Thankfully she persisted, and now inspires many to learn stats and data skills.
Finding ways to make data analytics more relatable
First, she relies heavily on real-world examples, drawing on customer projects from her own business, “STAT-UP,” an AI/Data Science consulting company in Munich that now employs about 20 consultants. Weaving in these business challenges allows her to show how the concepts play out in a concrete way, using actual details. This helps bring the ideas to life and bridges the gap for students who may not immediately grasp the diverse usefulness.
Second, she spent 5 years hosting a short radio program where she would lead a 5-minute discussion around statistics and data analytics. Most of her listeners were new to the topic, and might have had a hard time without visuals. This pushed Katharina to be especially creative, using events and cultural trends to engage a whole new audience, to spark curiosity for a new generation of data scientists, strategists, and analysts.
As a woman, teacher, company founder, and podcast host, she hopes to encourage others who wonder if they can get the skills needed to break into this industry. In her words, “This is a perfect time for women (and everyone) to work in data analytics and AI, and even become entrepreneurs.”
Finally, she advocates for the integration of other subjects, including literature, history, biology, and all sciences, when teaching data analytics, particularly with secondary students. “I often use the example of determining the age of the dinosaur skeleton or finding out if a certain poem was written by Shakespeare.” She has found that this makes the idea of mathematics less scary and more relatable. Post-secondary students in Germany who are studying data analytics, statistics and mathematics are given one semester to intern at a company, which gives the students more exposure to potential applications of what they are learning.
Katharina has advice for students thinking about enrolling in a course: “The world is full of data, and it will continue to increase. Decisions are data-driven. And even if you don’t want to be a data scientist, knowing how and where we learn from data is essential for everyone. You should at least take a basic data analytics class to get the fundamentals.”
Adding the right tools to the equation
Alteryx technology = the icing on the cake, with its code-free and code-friendly dashboard, making data analytics accessible and relevant to all knowledge workers. Katharina first used Alteryx software with an especially complicated customer project:
“We had the chance to work for a large global company, developing a 10-year forecast for the European market. Our goal was to build an integrated system that included all of the statistics and forecasting methods, across multiple regions, countries, manufacturers, and products. Bringing all the data together would enable front end planning, and after we developed the BI tool, statistics, and the underlying code, we ended up using Alteryx to combine everything for the data flow.”
That project opened her eyes to what was possible. “I was surprised by how much we could do with Alteryx platform, and so we now use it with other clients too.”
While Katharina has seen success as an entrepreneur and instructor, her desire for positive change is stronger than ever. She points out the importance of ethical design for automated systems and data algorithms. “At least in data analytics, math and computer science, we are good at teaching students to be experts using specific methods, but we need to strengthen their learning around the risks and responsibilities that arise.”
She is referring to things like data quality, data limitations, and algorithmic bias. “We don’t discuss this enough in today’s world. We need to create an awareness that this is happening and why it needs to be addressed.” She hopes more instructors and professionals will join with her in closely examining all automated systems that may cause bias, and flip them around to help detect and prevent bias, which will have a huge impact on innovations in diversity, equality, and inclusion.
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