Olivia Duane Adams is chief customer officer and cofounder of Alteryx.
Olivia Duane Adams
In this exclusive interview, Adams speaks with TechNewsWorld about her passion for analytics, and the role of women in an analytics-driven future.
TechNewsWorld: Can you give me some background on Alteryx? What prompted you to start the company?
Olivia Duane Adams: We founded the company because we thought that analytics needed to be easier for people to understand and consume. Today, our technology is a leading platform for self-service analytics. Anybody in a company is able to use Alteryx to find data and analyze it, and they’re able to do it in a repeatable workflow.
A lot of times, analysts get asked the same questions, and repeatability saves them a lot of time. Data needs to be delivered at the time a question is asked. It’s got to be delivered in a matter of minutes, hours or days, and that’s what our technology allows our user community to do. It’s an exciting time to be in this analytic space.
TNW: Why do you have a passion for analytics?
Adams: It’s about having a sense of curiosity — the ability to look at data and say, ‘what is it telling me?’ I define analytics as ‘the ability to ingest any and all relevant sources of data that might help answer a question being asked.’
Analytics is the ability to use all the data you have to answer a question, or at least to drive insight to get to a better answer. Analytics is everywhere, and that’s because data is everywhere. When you think about data as an asset, that asset is going to drive answers, and hopefully action. That action could be to start doing, or to stop doing, or to modify what you’re already doing.
Analytics impacts every department in every company, and if they want to become smarter, all they have to do is become data-aware. If you think about the data you have, you’re able to move seamlessly forward in this world of analytics.
TNW: What challenges have you faced in your career as a woman in tech?
Adams: There is a perception that women are more approachable. This can be a challenge, because people will use me as a sounding board. What do you think? How would you handle this? What do you think? And so I always turn those into opportunities to help people understand where they’re coming from, and what change they want to make.
TNW: How can womens’ participation in STEM fields — and specifically analytics — be supported and promoted?
Adams: I see such huge opportunity, because I believe that women do think differently. We’ll always look at things differently, and that’s of huge value to the departments and teams and companies we work for, since it gives another perspective on how to approach a problem, how to solve a problem.
I see huge opportunities for women in STEM fields, and I would like to see more colleges and universities and K-12 grades motivating everyone, including women, to understand the opportunities and to demystify them for women. Sometimes there’s a disconnect, where undergraduate students think the real world is so far away. How do we help them see the reality of these careers, and how they can have an impact in them?
I’d love to see colleges and universities putting students in the real world, so they’re ready to take these jobs when they graduate. One program that we have is the Alteryx for Good program. We’re giving our technology to universities that want to teach analytics in their courses. It’s free for the university when it’s being taught in the classroom.
It puts the students in a position to use technology that’s very employable when they graduate, and it gives them a taste of what it’s like to use this technology in a real-world situation. It gives them a sense of what it feels like to be in the real world. Our passion is to make sure that those students are using state-of-the-art technology.
We hear great feedback about the technology, and they love using it in their courses. At one university, for instance, they’re using Alteryx in their journalism program, because when you’re a journalist, you need to be able to quote facts. Where do you find those facts? In the data that’s available.
TNW: What’s in the future for the field of analytics, and for Alteryx? How are things evolving?
Adams: As we talk to senior leaders from organizations around the world, we continuously hear them say that their companies need to be more analytic. Data is everywhere, and companies are becoming data-aware. As data continues to grow, organizations are asking tougher questions that they need to be able to answer in a timely manner.
Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists. Email Vivian.