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Maribel Lopez on reskilling and the value of a well-tagged dataset

Maribel Lopez, an industry analyst, speaker, and business adviser, shares her thoughts about the vision needed to push through plateaus and how to make the most of your data.

This Q&A series spotlights people who have done something extraordinary in their career and have pushed the envelope in their field. It provides a glimpse into their motivations and inspirations.

Maribel Lopez, founder and principal analyst at Lopez Research, starts her day with a long walk and a focus on gratitude.

That focus is apparent in her work, which includes founding the Data for Betterment Foundation, a charitable trust that supports causes that train people―especially women―in technologies such as big data processing, predictive analytics, machine learning, and cognitive computing for professional development.

Lopez has been recognized as a top voice in IoT by IoT World Today, Insight.tech, and Onalytica. She's the author of "Right-Time Experiences" and co-founder of the Emerging Technology Research Council.

In this one-on-one, Lopez discusses the importance of reskilling, focusing on the user experience, and the value of a well-tagged dataset.

What project are you most passionate about?

Technology continues to dramatically change people's professional and personal lives. Yet, it's hard to keep pace with relentless technology evolution. I'm passionate about people reskilling for the new tech-driven economy. I founded a nonprofit called Data for Betterment to help individuals understand how technology will change their lives and how they can learn new skills to be productive, happy members of society.

 

What's your No. 1 tip for pushing through plateaus?

The only way to push through a plateau is to have a vision of where you are going. You then have to break the goal into tasks and just focus on taking the next action to get there. Don't focus on how far away you are, but focus on what you can do next to get just a bit closer. If you run into a roadblock, which is inevitable, you have to acknowledge it and just work on removing it. It's also important to remember that the current state is temporary. As Audrey Hepburn said, "Nothing is impossible; the word itself says 'I'm possible!'"

What are three things businesses can do to more effectively use mobility, big data, and analytics?

I could speak about the merits of each technology and how to select the right technology, but I believe there is a step before that. It's important to remember that mobility, big data, and analytics are just tools―a means to an end.

In order to really make the most of your data, you need to first define what are the most important questions to answer. This will help you select the right tools for the job. Also, the greatest challenge most companies face is that they have data but question the data's integrity. A company should focus on building a clean, accurate, well-tagged dataset. It's the classic issue of garbage in, garbage out. Even a small, well-tagged dataset can create enormous value for an organization.

Second, don't get hung up on creating the most complex amazing machine learning model. Complexity is the enemy in many things. Third, realize it's a journey. You'll need to continue to iterate, evolve, and refine. Additionally, a focus on user experience, from display to performance to security, is key. One of the great things about mobility is that it forces you to focus on the UX and what is the most important item to surface to a user.

Who or what inspires you?

I'm inspired by many people from the past and the present. I'm going to give an example of a figure from the past. I'm amazed and inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. Of course, it's clear that he was brilliant. However, what inspires me about da Vinci is his willingness to always learn new skills. He was an excellent collaborator and calculated risk-taker who changed with the times. I believe these skills are vital for success and happiness in your career and in life.

In slightly more modern times, Hedy Lamarr showcases how a person can excel at multiple skills. Lamarr was an actress, inventor (she co-invented an early version of frequency-hopping spread spectrum), and film producer―not to mention simply stunning. I'm sure she would've been a fascinating person to share a coffee with.

Do you have a personal motto?

Not a motto per se. I mentioned Hepburn's quote. Yet, I'm inspired by a Benjamin Franklin quote that says, "What good will I do today?" I believe you should focus on being your best self. Then, of course, there is always Yoda from "Star Wars": "Do. Or do not. There is no try."

What motivates you?

First, I'm generally a positive and optimistic person. Hence, I'm more easily motivated and inspired. That said, I made a few changes to my morning routine that really help keep me motivated. I drink a cup of coffee while I answer three questions in my five-minute journal app: 1) What am I grateful for today? 2) What will I do to make today great? and 3) Fill in the daily affirmation section "I am ... ."

I've found that focusing on creating a list of positive things (gratitudes) sets a positive tone for the day. Instead of reading emails and the news on my smartphone first thing in the morning, I focus instead on creating a list of what needs to be done in Todoist or Things. Third, I take a long morning walk.

How do you take a break and recharge?

As I mentioned earlier, I take long walks every morning and some evenings. I find it clears my head. I've started meditating, but it's still a struggle. I spend a great deal of time reading about technology and using technology. To take a break, I choose to do something that is entirely different, such as cooking. I want to learn to play the piano, but cooking is easier.

What question are you surprised people never or rarely ask?

How did you know you wanted to be an industry analyst? Truth is, I didn't. I didn't know it existed. A friend gave me a job clipping and said it looked like it matched many of the things I said I liked or wanted to do. We all start out with some vision of what we want to do, but sometimes we're on the wrong path. What this taught me is that you should be open to exploring and shifting directions. Your original plan is a direction, not necessarily the destination. It's not a hard rule that has to be followed. We should always be open to change.

What are you reading, watching, and listening to that you'd recommend?

Cal Newport's "Deep Work" reminded me that focus is crucial for success. I'm also reading "Never Split the Difference," which is a whole new way of looking at negotiating. I follow the Tim Ferriss "5-Bullet Friday" emails. He always questions the status quo and brings new insight.

What's something you're looking forward to?

In the summer, I'll be working on a stream of research for Lopez Research on how companies are improving their workplace with AI, digital workspaces, and cloud computing. Additionally, I've signed up for a few courses on data science and machine learning. I'm taking my own advice and learning new skills.

Other one-on-ones:

Sally Eaves on building the future with ethical tech

ROKiT Venturi Racing's Susie Wolff: Calculated risks, a racing career reset, and finding the right balance

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.