From the beginning of my career, I have been involved in data analytics. I started on Wall Street as an analyst in a fixed-income investment banking group. I grew up loving math and science, and I was fortunate as a high school student to be able to do neurochemistry research at OSU. This led me to make a tough choice: Did I want to pursue the science that I loved so much and go to med school, or did I want to break away and go to Wall Street and solve problems in the business community? It was something that I really struggled with. After a journey with friends and family, listening to finance professionals tell stories about their careers, I was drawn to the Street.
Many people have asked me if I’m ever going to stop working and get an MBA. Definitely not! I have learned so much doing deals, becoming a young partner at one of the country’s oldest investment banks, interacting with clients, crawling inside of government entities and different businesses, and understanding and solving problems. That is how I learned the business but also figured out my passion. And, this is ultimately what led to the creation of FactGem! In other words, I believe in learning by doing. There is no replacement for real-world experience.
Much of my inspiration comes from my husband, partner, and best friend, who reminds me daily that giving up the fear of failure is what leads to success. I’m also greatly inspired by our children. Children approach the world mostly free of fear and without the idea of limitation. There is no, “It can’t be done.” They try anything. Why we try to stifle that instinct is another matter, and I hope it is something that will change in our education system. Seeing our daughter get up in front of her father’s venture capital company at five years old and present her idea for a company, or watching our three-and-a-half-year-old son figure out the principals of physics with his monster trucks, or even seeing the determination in our seven-month-old’s eyes as she tried (and succeeded) to crawl to get closer to me this morning, and the joy they get when they figure these things out, shows me that they are masters of the possible.
To me, life is about creating balance. I work out every day. I like adventures with my husband. We spend a lot of time at the auto race track, which we love – not just the racing but really seeing the world – it reminds me that there’s a human element. I like to study people, and observation does matter, but so does looking at all the data. Too often analysts and political pollsters believe they are looking at all the data and the right data. However, inevitably for every “Black Swan” event in economics, politics, or climate, there’s likely data available that is screaming a warning. I am always looking for the data I need to bring my observations into context. I like building, changing, and improving things. This involves not only things that exist today, but things that are yet to be discovered. That is my passion. Lastly, there’s nothing that finds more inspiring than helping others to unlock and pursue their own joys.
There’s a great deal of work involved in building, growing, and leading my company, FactGem, which develops and markets software that connects data for superior insights. However, I believe it’s critical that I take a continuous improvement approach to my own understanding of our customers and their challenges. For example, I am getting my “nanodegree” in data analytics from Udacity. I like to hang out with my friend and FactGem CTO, who spends his days coding. I have never coded in my life but decided I would learn. It is fun! Another fun fact about me is that I created a gin that was launched about a year ago and is going to be popping up in many more states this year.
I love this quote from a friend and someone I really admire, Sebastian Thrun, creator of Google Glass, father of autonomous vehicles, Google X Labs, and Udacity. “Question every assumption and go towards the problem, like the way they flew to the moon,” he says. “We should have more moon shots and flights to the moon in areas of societal importance.” There is so much we can do to shape and help better the lives of human beings with technology.
Analytics and data-driven decision making has the potential to improve so much for everyone, but particularly those of us who are most at risk. What’s starting to happen with data analytics, AI, and machine learning in industry and government organizations will translate into highly personalized healthcare and social services delivery. The intersection of these enhanced and personalized services, along with autonomous vehicles, will extend the productive lives of the elderly and disabled. The world is changing so quickly, and education and technology will empower smart people to keep innovating to make the world a better place.
Meet Megan Kvamme: Data lover, Whiskey Maker, and Adventurer.