Data Diaries: How “useless data” can change industries

The shipping and trading industry was changed by a man who’d had his dreams of a Naval career paralyzed in a transportation accident. Nothing could keep him from walking his way into history. Matthew Maury used oceanography and meteorology data from sailing logs to plot 1.2 million data points. In 1855, his research led him to publish what is now called “the first textbook of modern oceanography.”

Maury saw value in the data from crates full of logbooks from past voyages that no one else did. He used that data to plot more efficient routes. This made him a pioneer of early datafication, and he became known as the “Pathfinder of the Seas.”

Maury inspires me because his curiosity found a better way. To me, this is the obsession of every person who has changed the world.

In my job, I’m constantly asking myself the question, “how could this be done differently?” It helps me to look at campaigns like a story, with the customers being characters, and the data being their journeys. How can we piece together from various sources what brought them here, what made them stay, and what caused them to buy?

As an analytics lead at IBM in the campaign planning practice, it’s my job to help marketers understand these granular elements of their buyers’ journey. These journeys tell us the true story of what it takes to generate a successful ending.

I’m inspired by the idea that Matthew Maury used something that was considered useless. It forces me to ask the question, in this modern age where data is everywhere, what are the “dusty old ship logs” in other industries that could change them forever?

Data did that.


Close-up on Joshua:

Joshua sold his first company at 16, applied for his first patent at 20, and now at 23, is the analytics lead for a team driving campaign planning innovation for over 4000 marketers. When people ask him what he does, he tells them, “I’m a Problem-solver.” The core of what he does is ask questions, explore problems, and discover solutions. Whether it was analyzing sports statistics at ESPN to predict player performance, interpreting web data from the “Priceless” campaign at MasterCard, or now investigating campaign metrics to optimize their performance at IBM, his young career has taught him innovation is founded in curiosity, powered by leadership, and accomplished through collaboration.

Fun fact: Joshua was homeschooled and credits his progressive, self-led educational structure for his curiosity and creativity.

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