Over the course of my journey, I have mastered the lost art of pizza making, earned three PhDs in the technical domain, survived cancer, established myself as a techpreneur, and done thousands of miles on my motorcycles.
Speaking of my professional life, I worked on the technology side designing and building databases for data. I earned over 25 certifications building up my technical skillset with the belief that I was doing what I truly loved. Database design, database engineering, and database administration were my passion. I spent quite a bit of time working around data but not with data. Then I stumbled into a problem that involved a data quality issue. And what I found while working the problem was that the challenges were in the data, not in the technology.
I thought solving technical issues was a major challenge. And what I discovered about data made me realize that the technical problems were more like bumps in the road. Addressing data challenges was more of a journey. So, I jumped into the data like it was the deep end of the swimming pool and began a journey that led me towards data science and data analytics. And I have not looked back ever since.
What I love about the analytics journey is that it’s a continuous wave that I can surf towards the horizon with the option to go in any direction I desire.
Data science, data analytics, data visualization, machine learning, cognitive computing, and artificial intelligence are just a few of the ingredients that make up my personal recipe. I learned to leverage my vast technical background to bring a technical perspective into data-specific challenges. My expertise helps me determine the correct technology stack to wrap the data within and the correct data science approach to applying to this data considering this wrapper as its boundary.
Something that astounds even me to this day is when I was asked by a reporter for the Wall Street Journal to do a story on my career while I was still in my early years. To be told that I was doing significant things at such an early stage in my career was a game changer for me. This allowed me to develop into a thought leader and look at my career as a canvas of possibilities and not just a wake of past experience.
These developments inspired me to write a book that shares my approach to career development and building a track record that can lead you where you want to go rather than having life take you in directions that may be undesirable.
Outside of my technical life, I am an author, a social influencer, and a mentor. I choose to mentor three to four people a year to bring more people into the technology arena in a variety of capacities. I share career advice, life lessons, and some good old fashion wisdom. I work on my social media blog posts in my spare time and during my travels. But what I enjoy the most is hopping on my motorcycles to escape the Internet and my mobile devices for some uninterrupted fun. Being an avid motorcyclist, I love to ride with other riders, in groups, or on the track.
Motorcycle riding changed my life in several ways. In fact, I believe it saved my life.
I started riding motorcycles at 16 years old. I was drawn to the speed and the danger. I often tried to perform tricks but realized the cost of success. Crashed bikes were expensive to fix, and at 16 years I was not exactly earning that much as a pizza maker in a local deli. Yes, I can make a great cheese pizza from scratch. Like most things in life, with experience comes wisdom. Motorcycle riding allowed me to conquer certain fears. Once I was no longer afraid of falling, I was willing to take a chance and try something new. Although falling was always a possibility, I always had to consider this in my thinking. At a young age, I had found, for me, the correct ratio of Risk to Benefit.
Taking chances also helped me overcome my battle with cancer. I had a two-year fight with pancreatic cancer just as I reached the prime of my life. There were many days that I just needed something else to think about. I would at times, against my doctor’s advice, jump on my bike and just go cruising around. My doctors overreacted and thought that this must be a sign of depression, maybe even a sign that I was suicidal. This, of course, was a doctor that had never ridden a motorcycle before.
Many riders, me included, worry more about their bike than themselves. Your bike becomes a member of your family. I used motorcycle riding to take my mind off the pain and the constant reminders that I may not survive. My muscle memory would kick in, and I would ride and feel a freedom from the issues and, for a short time, just focus on riding one more mile. My motorcycle journeys helped me beat my illness, and I would like to reiterate, with all honesty, that my motorcycle saved my life.
As an avid rider, I teach new riders how to find the balance between taking risks and being safe. I help them create good habits and teach them how to avoid dangers and have a great experience each time they ride. I taught my sons to ride and currently own four motorcycles which I ride as often as I can when I am not ingesting multi-terabyte streams of data into data lakes.
Many have asked me how I stay positive and determined through all the highs and lows, the trials and tribulations. And I always think of one person – my father.
My father was my biggest inspiration which I believe has shaped me into the man that I am today. His work ethic lives deep inside me, and I take enormous pride in my work, just as he did. He was an overachiever and defined success through overcoming obstacles. He was raised during an extremely difficult period for African American men. He raised me to see past the barriers, both professional and personal, and always take the high road which is not easy at all.
I also owe a lot to a non-profit organization called BDPA (http://www.bdps.org/). This organization’s help placed me on a path within technology that allowed me to learn what the right tracks in technology I was best suited for.
Being an influencer in the rapidly growing field of big data and analytics, aspirants often ask me if there is a secret sauce for success. And I tell them that data analytics is on the frontier of the digital transformation wave. Currently, there are quite a few transformations happening from within the data analytics circle. Innovation around data analytics and data science tools are being released on a regular basis. It’s important to familiarize oneself with as many tools and the associated use cases as much as possible.
Becoming familiar with various use cases will arm aspiring data analytics professionals with knowledge when experience is not yet available. I also advise aspirants to get extremely familiar with the Hadoop Ecosystem. The use cases that involve data analytics directly on Hadoop may be decreasing, but many of the most popular toolsets for data analytics are part of the Hadoop Ecosystem. So, this familiarity would help out tremendously if acquired early.
It is an imperative to adapt to the constantly changing analytics landscape. The data analytics profession is still evolving, and therefore the people that make up this profession should also continuously evolve so as not to be left behind.
I truly believe that data analytics has boundless potential. I would like to see the innovations in data and related technologies one day solve big problems like world hunger and eliminate poverty. I want to help bring technology to as many emerging markets and disadvantaged people as possible. I think this is where the real wins are made and where technology can help improve the quality of life whenever possible. This is my mission.
Meet Craig Brown: Technology Maven, Analytics Influencer, Avid Rider