DJ Patil, former first Chief Data Scientist of the United States, closed this year’s Data Symposium with a reminder for our audience: “We live in a truly remarkable time.” Technology, he explained, is improving our lives in ways that would have been unfathomable just ten years ago. Consider online shopping, or the ability to map a route on your phone, or to take pictures with it! These capabilities only recently became a reality, yet it’s difficult to imagine life without them. Every one of us is living through a digital revolution—and Cisco is in the center of it.

The two-day Data Symposium, hosted by Cisco’s Data & Analytics organization, flew by in a flurry of panels, breakout sessions, and technical demos. It was broadcast at watch parties around the world, and altogether, a record-breaking 1721 employees attended live, myself included! I arrived ready to grow my analytical skills and connect to the analytics community. What I didn’t expect was what turned out to be the most valuable: a reminder from DJ that the true goal of data and analytics is to make the world better for everyone.

Chief Data Evangelist Jennifer Redmon, DJ Patil, and Chief Data Officer Shanthi Iyer

We know that Cisco is a champion of this idea already. Programs like the Be The Bridge campaign and Time To Give allow employees to partner with the Cisco Foundation to give to more than 1900 organizations worldwide. But where does data fit into this picture? At the end of every analysis, affected by every algorithm, there’s a real person.

In the world of analytics, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers: raise shareholder value, lower risk, drive customer satisfaction up and error down. As we move forward, it is Cisco’s responsibility to ensure that our work benefits everyone: the unconnected in developing countries, the systematically disadvantaged in our own, or those whose troubles are simply under the radar among thousands of competing priorities.

The Data Symposium is an example of Cisco’s dedication to its employees and their skills. Even more importantly, it showed me the dedication of Cisco employees to the world we live in. Analytics is a massive accelerator for positive change if wielded correctly and mindfully, and in the weeks since the Data Symposium, Cisco employees everywhere have been stepping up to the challenge: attending events, improving their skills through training, and connecting the unconnected through the power of data. I can’t wait to see what we’ve accomplished by the 2019 Data Symposium—and with any luck, we’ll be able to extend the invitation to the rest of the industry as well.


Tori Hall

Data Science Evangelist

Data & Analytics