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Exclusive - Datapreneur Lillian Pierson Talks Data Science and Traveling the World

Lillian Pierson is an internationally recognized influencer in Big Data and has just published "Data Science for Dummies," the how-to guide to Data Science. She explains the complexities of Data Science in analytics speak and in plain English as to appeal to anyone within the analytics industry or someone just wanting to know more about this exploding space. Lillian is also the Founder of Data-Mania, an information services start-up that works with clients in data science, data visualization, ecommerce and growth hacking.

Lillian is not only a talented Data Scientist and big voice in our space but she’s also a constant traveler…that’s where the ‘Datapreneur’ title comes into play. She recently chatted with icrunchdata News about her new book, being a ‘Nomadic Datapreneur’ and the inspiration behind striking out on her own and living the life that she’s now living.

Lillian, thanks for joining us today and I can’t wait to get started…so let’s go.

You recently published "Data Science for Dummies" that is written for experienced Data Scientists, professionals that are new to the data world and Business Managers and Decision Makers that don’t have advanced skills in data science. I’m a marketing and business guy without direct training in analytics but I love the Big Data space. What should I expect to learn from your book?

Well, in this case, you’re in luck. I wrote two chapters specifically to address the interests of business and marketing folks.

In Chapter 3, “Applying Data Science to Business and Industry”, I explain the core differences between Data Science and Business Intelligence. I help readers understand how data science is different and how data science can be incorporated to create value in the modern business organization. I finish the chapter discussing the challenges in implementing business-centric data science, and how those challenges can be overcome.

In Chapter 20, “Data-Driven Marketing”, I cover the glories of data-driven digital marketing, or growth hacking analytics as some people like to call it. In this chapter, you’ll get a solid overview on how data analytics are deeply useful in optimizing growth of the modern ecommerce business. Topics in this chapter include A/B testing, growth forecasting, segmentation analysis, funnel analytics, and how to overcome some of the more common problems that are experienced when deploying a data-driven marketing initiative.

What about a seasoned data scientist with 20 years of experience, what should they expect to get out of the book?

For experienced data scientists, the book is best treated as an overview or survey tool. The practice of data science can be applied to an almost limitless number of fields or disciplines. So a specialist that has deep experience in using data science to optimize the growth of an ecommerce business likely knows little or nothing about how data science could be used to solve developmental and environmental problems in underdeveloped nations.

I tried to overview each of the core areas that comprise the practice of data science. I followed that by including four chapters on how data science is being used in specific focus areas; namely how it is being used in journalism, in environmental studies, in marketing, and in crime analysis.

Where was the first book store that you saw your book on the shelf and what went through your mind?

Haha, I saw it at Barnes and Noble in Orlando, Florida… A place where I often studied while I was in engineering school. I went there with my brother, sister-in-law, and little nephews. I got a real thrill from the experience. I remember thinking about how strange and unexpected life can be. I also remember feeling really special that I could be there with my family to experience that moment. My little nephews said all sorts of nice things and helped me set up the shelf so we could take a photo of the experience. Being there with my family was the best part of seeing my book on the shelf for the first time.

What’s been the best compliment or review that you’ve received so far?

My gosh, that’s a difficult question to answer. That’s like asking “which of your best friends is your best friend?” I have been so thrilled to read some of the nice comments that readers have added to the Amazon listing. Several review copies went out about a month ago and I am really looking forward to getting feedback from people with who I have been interacting online over the last several years. This whole journey has truly been a labor of love.

You are a self-described ‘Nomadic Datapreneur’. What do you mean by this?

Funny question… Primarily, I mean that I built a business in the data science space. Now that I own my own ecommerce business, I am able to work from anywhere in the world. I say nomadic because I have lived in 4 cities, in 3 countries, on two continents since December of 2013. Work also keeps me moving though. When I break it down, I have been living overseas for 17 months, and in that time I have been to 4 continents (sometimes several times), 10 countries, and 19 cities. That’s why I consider myself to be a nomadic entrepreneur in the data space.

One caveat however, I managed to find myself a nice little house right on the beach on the island of Koh Samui in the southern seas of Thailand. The quality of my life here exceeds what were my hopes and dreams, so I signed a year lease and decided to make it my home base for at least the next 12 months.

When you travel to a new country, are you in constant motion staying in different places or do you dig in and stay in one place?

I definitely like to stay in one place and get settled because moving too often is no good for productivity. One odd thing that I have experienced since I made this transition… Well, I travel all the time, but there is always some reason for me to travel and I am always working wherever I go. It doesn’t feel much like travel anymore, it’s more like living amidst a scenery that never stops changing. People ask where I live and I could easily answer, “Wherever I am is where I live.”

What’s the best city outside of the US to find strong, free Wifi?

Chiang Mai and Koh Samui Thailand have been excellent. Free, good strong wifi everywhere!! It’s even better than in the states. There is more wifi availability here, and at solid quality, than anywhere I have been in the States. The entire country of Peru was problematic. Penang, Malaysia – same. Bali… the wifi is an issue there. Even wifi in Sydney, Australia was frustrating. My best experience has been in Thailand.

Who are two people that would love to meet and have lunch with but haven’t yet?

Chris Guillebeau is one of them. He really inspired me to get up enough nerve to go out on my own as an entrepreneur and begin living the life that I really wanted. Also, I’d really like to pick the brain of Tim Ferris.

Lillian, thanks so much for discussing your passion for data science, your thirst for travel and your path to becoming a Datapreneur. Inspiring and really cool.

Article published by Todd Nevins
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