Big-data driven can help bring real diversity to the workplace


“Looking at where you went to school is a proxy; you assume because someone went to a good school, they therefore must have the qualities you desire even though that’s not actually really true.” So says Dr. Vivienne Ming, Neuroscientist, Chief Scientist at Gild and co-founder of Socos during our nearly hour-long and wide-ranging chat about what big data can do. Dr. Ming is not saying is that education doesn’t matter. Rather, she is saying it is only one, and not the best, predictor of the success one will have in any given field. “It can be totally swamped out by other qualities like cultural factors, personality factors that we gather from the data, which is backed up by the research that Google has recently released that shows that after someone has been at the company for a year, their grades, the school they went to, the places they’ve worked, turn out not to be very informative anymore and instead it’s more these abstract qualities, qualities that I would call metacognitive or more commonly known as emotional intelligence. If we can identify those, and when someone possesses those qualities if you give them a chance, you give them the training and the right context to succeed, they will succeed.”

Dr. Ming’s assertion is not just some abstract research theory from a Silicon Valley intellectual. Rather, it is the first wave of a practical use of big-data-driven algorithms to uncover systematically excluded talented people from technology to retail, and match them to companies that can benefit from their skills and knowledge. Dr. Ming’s interest in addressing exclusion and finding ways to foster meaningful inclusion of hidden and ignored talent is both personal and professional. Dr. Ming began life as Evan Smith – a brilliant but unhappy young man who knew that who and what the world saw him as was not who he was. After meeting the love of his life, Norma Ming, and then undergoing gender re-assignment surgery, Evan became Vivienne and unleashed the latent human potential that had been inside her all along. Dr. Ming says she went from being unhappy and unable to focus or celebrate her successes to a person who can now say: “I am a better person, and I feel the world is better by me being who I am now. I think if you look at what I’ve done with my life since then and today I’m a happy person, you know, I can appreciate what I’ve done.” And what she’s done is fundamentally changed how the tech industry assesses, finds and cultivates talent and now she’s poised to bring that process to the entire workforce. more…

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