Michael Young: There can be no soft-pedalling on data front

If everything went to plan at the weekend, I will have successfully run, ridden and kayaked across the Scottish Highlands in the annual Coast to Coast challenge with a couple of similarly dedicated and slightly deranged friends and associates from the business scene.
MBN founder and CEO Michael Young. Picture: Stewart AttwoodMBN founder and CEO Michael Young. Picture: Stewart Attwood
MBN founder and CEO Michael Young. Picture: Stewart Attwood

While on one level we’re mad for putting ourselves through the physical and mental torture again after last year, we’ve put in some good preparation across the three disciplines that should stand us in good stead. The big variable will be the weather and we’re collectively hoping the gods will be kind.

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Whatever the weather, the whole exercise has been a nice distraction from the day job and, like the other guys, I’ve found a way of training around the daily commitments of work and family. A weekly run into or home from work in central Glasgow, an early morning cycle in the Campsie hills near home before the kids up are up and ready for action at the weekend.

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Like so many of us these days, my mobile phone will remain fairly close to hand although my team know it’s not going to be the best time to get hold of me if something comes up. Having said that, we’ve got a busy few days coming up this week so I’ll be having an occasional peek at the inbox, no doubt.

On Wednesday we’re running a day-long event with The Data Lab in Edinburgh around the whole area of what we’ve got used to calling Data Scientist 2.0, an increasingly important role within every organisation and one that can really help to drive business growth and success. At Dynamic Earth on Wednesday, we are bringing together prominent figures from the commercial, public sector and academic sectors, including businesses like Channel 4, Morgan Stanley and Sainsbury’s Bank, to discuss the ever-increasing need for data science talent and how this trend presents opportunities and challenges in equal measure for the Scottish economy.

I was out with the founders of Aquila Insight last week, a few months on from the sale of the business to US marketing agency Merkle, and we got round to discussing how every business, no matter what shape or size, can unlock so much potential if they can get their data science function right.

The success of Aquila Insights is a shining example of the high standards of data science expertise we are able to develop in Scotland. It’s incredibly important we keep up the good work when you consider how data and the management of data are transforming the world as we know it on a daily basis.

In June, IBM’s CEO said: “If I had to pick one word that IBM’s reinventing around, it’s data”. IBM walks the talk when it comes to all things data, acquiring The Weather Company in 2016, pooling resources with Salesforce to refine its artificial intelligence program and, last year, opening a global internet of things headquarters in Munich.

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It is the up-and-coming generation of data scientists in Scotland that will make the greatest impact on our nation’s future economy and we have a lot of pride in the work we have done alongside The Data Lab, led by former IBM UK stalwart Gillian Docherty, to place around 50 The Data Lab-funded MSc data science students from seven Scottish universities across Scotland’s commercial and public sectors. We have organised weekly tech meet ups across Scotland for a number of years now, attended by CEOs mixing with developers, professors and students to discuss big data, data science, insight and analytics and blockchain technology – all of these areas are moving quickly up the corporate agenda. To pay them too little attention is to risk falling behind the competition.

However, this weekend at the Coast to Coast I’ll be thinking more about my bike chain than blockchain and the closest I’ll be getting to data analytics will be via my GPS sports watch.

Michael Young is the chief executive and founder of MBN