2017: A year in review (and a preview of 2018)

2017: A year in review (and a preview of 2018)2017 was an interesting year for me.

I bought a new house in February after being homeless for about 4 months. In October 2016, my wife and I sold our house and spent the 2.5 months of 2016 and the first 1.5 months of 2017 traveling around the Southwest (we spent the time in Colorado and New Mexico). Our plan was to spend 6 months to a year traveling around the country but we both realized quickly that we need a ‘home base’ and weren’t cut out for living out of vacation rentals. Additionally, most of these vacation rental owners’ ideas of ‘high speed internet’ are not the same as mine (most places had low-end DSL…ugh).

Beyond the travel and new house purchase, I spent most of this year focused on helping organizations use their data better. Most of my time was spent helping companies (and people) understand the data, organize their data better, collect more diverse data-sets or help them understand whether they should dive into big data, machine learning and/or deep learning.

One thing I noticed that was a bit different in 2017 than in previous years: organizations are more ‘data smart’ than they used to be. This is a good thing. It saves me (and other consultants) from having to explain the basics of data management and focus more on the ‘sexy’ stuff around data. Don’t get me wrong – there are still plenty of companies that are still managing their multi-million dollar organization with excel spreadsheets and access databases (with no real clue what data quality / data management means) but these organizations now better understand the need to introduce more a sophisticated approach to their data.

Looking back on the types of projects I worked on over the year, I noticed a trend continuing that started in 2016. I’ve been spending more of my time in a ‘strategic’ role vs a tactical role. Sure, there are still some projects that saw me being very hands-on with data science, machine learning and deep learning initiatives, but about 60% of my time in 2017 was spent working with CxO level leaders in what I’ve come to call ‘data science strategic consulting’.

From a blogging / writing standpoint, I’ve written a bit in 2017 (but not as much as I want to or should be doing). A few of my favorite articles from the year are:

So…what does 2018 look like?

I’m not one of those people who puts together forecasts for the coming year. I have no idea how folks come up with their predictions. That said, I can tell you what 2018 looks like for me personally.

For one, I’m going to be a traveling more both personally and professionally. I’m going to make a point to get out to a few conferences this year so look for me at some of Big Data and MarTech conferences. Most of my client work is remote so I don’t do a lot of travel for work other than the occasional face-to-face meetings, but I’m hoping to get out a bit more regularly to meet with clients / potential clients – especially if there’s some good landscapes for my take photos of 🙂

Additionally, in my role as CIO at Sundial Capital Research (publishers of sentimentrader.com), I’ll be focused on continuing to make our operations more efficient as well as find new and innovative ways to use stock market market related data. I’ve found the financial world to be a fascinating one and more and more of my time is being spent focused on this role versus my own consulting practice. That said, I’m going to be a bit more focused on this role in 2018 while leaving about 50% of my time available for consulting.

On a personal level, I’m planning on getting out in the ‘wild’ more. I absolutely love to be out in nature with my camera and I’ve started blocking out time in my calendar to try to get out into nature more this year. I’ve got a portfolio that I need to continue filling out – and in order to do that, I need to be outside. Here’s a semi-gratuitous image that I recently made for your viewing pleasure:

2018 looks to be a good year for me and mine…here’s hoping it turns out that way for you.

Plantronics Savi W745 headset – a review

This is a product review of an item that I recently purchased from Amazon. The links below are Amazon Affiliate links. I have not been compensated for this review.

I spend a lot of time on the phone. I use three different phones during the day…my desk VOIP phone, Skype and my cell phone.

I’m a big fan of the ‘hands free’ approach to using the phone. I use a headset for my desk phone, another headset for my Skype phone and yet another headset for my cell phone.

The desk and Skype headsets have been wired while the cell phone headset used bluetooth.

So…imagine the tangle and the mess of 2 wired headsets and a bluetooth headset on my desk.  It wasn’t pretty.

Then…I ran across a new Plantronics device that promised to combine all three headsets into  one.  Oh the promise! 🙂

The device, the Plantronics Savi W745 (amazon affiliate link) (there are other models too…not sure of the differences) looked excellent…so I picked one up to try. I also picked up the APC-40 Savi Cisco Electronic Hookswitch Adapter (amazon affiliate link) so i didn’t have to use the mechanical lifter for my phone.

When I got the headset, I followed the instructions (yes…I read them…or more appropriately…I looked at the pictures in the instructions) and connected everything up.

I half-expected this thing not to work.  Every other time I’ve used a Plantronics wireless headset for a phone, I’ve ended up screaming obscenities at it and getting rid of it.  Not this time…thankfully.

The hookswitch adapter connects the headset to my VOIP phone. A USB cable connects the headset to to the computer/skype.  Bluetooth connects the headset to my cell phone.

Now…I have one wireless headset for all three phones…and it works perfectly.  I can use this headset and seamlessly switch between the desk phone, skype and my cell phone. In addition, when a call comes in on any device, the included Plantronics software will mute iTunes for your (if you tell it to) so you don’t have to fumble around to mute your music.   Also, This headset integrates with quite a few different software products if you use something other than Skype.

This headset is easy to setup and is crystal clear.  Highly highly recommended.

If you have multiple devices like I do, check this headset out…it is worth the money. More than worth the money.

Zinsser’s Writing to Learn

For those that caught my review of Zinsser’s On Writing Well, you may have noticed that I mentioned picking up Zinsser’s “Writing to Learn“.

This book is an easy read and is worth picking up if you’re interested in writing.  The book is less of a discussion of ‘how’ to ‘write to learn’ and more of an overview of ‘why’ you should ‘write to learn’.

The book is full of examples of good writing in many different topics.  The majority of the book is passages from authors in various fields surrounded by Zinsser’s commentary on why the passage is worth including.

I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this book like I did On Writing Well, but it is worth reading for those of you who are interested in the subject.

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