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June 18, 2019

Driving Miss Data: New program aims to help people manage information

PHOTO | File image District New Haven

A New Haven-based education incubator has launched a new program aimed at helping users understand data, so they’ll use it better to make decisions — at work or at home.

District New Haven, at 470 James Street, provides coworking space and other tools to help businesses launch and thrive. U of Next, the education component of District New Haven, announced this week it has launched a new education program that aims to improve state residents’ data literacy.

“Data Science is one of the fastest growing sectors across all industries and the demand for people with these skills is skyrocketing,” said David Salinas, founder and CEO of District. “We are trying to prepare people for this demand in our community and for the business community that needs them.”

Paul Myott, U of Next’s managing director, called it a “critical life skill” to be able to make sense of the data around us and make key decisions, both personal and professional, based on it.

“There is a high need for data scientists, which is a hot job in corporate America,” Myott said. “The problem is the supply of data scientists is not meeting the demand.”

“This is the first foray to try to build data literacy for all,” Myott added. “We want people to be comfortable curating data and pulling insights to ultimately make business decisions.”

Myott gave multiple examples of how increasing data understanding can be useful. For marketing, a company might collect data on where their customers tend to interact online. If it is a third-party website instead of the company’s website, this would warrant an analysis of what is attracting people to the third-party’s website. The company could then modify its own website accordingly, according to Myott.

Human-resources professionals might use data analysis to determine if employees in a particular age group are leaving at a high rate. With younger employees, for example, human resources could engage with those workers to understand why they are leaving, and then address the problem. Adding loyalty or recognition programs could reverse the trend, according to Myott.

“By looking at the data and analyzing it, the company can make better decisions about how to retain people,” Myott said.

Currently, many companies aren’t comfortable with doing their own data collection or analysis, so they hire outside professionals to do it, which can be expensive, according to Myott. Instead, they should be improving their existing staff’s skills, he said.

According to Myott, jobs in every profession require data literacy: “To be data-illiterate is to be unable to fully participate in the digital age.”

U of Next’s new three-week program, DSciD: Foundations, (pronounced “decide”) is aimed primarily at young adults, particularly college undergraduates, and older teens.

“I think teens who are digital natives are comfortable using devices, but even they aren’t skilled in working with data sets,” Myott said. “When it comes to gathering the right data, synthesizing it and pulling out insights, it is a deficiency across all age groups.”

Participants will learn about data science and how anyone can use data to make better decisions. Students will learn how to collect and analyze data, interpret results, make a decision, and present their findings. They will also explore some of society’s ideas which are actually the product of misunderstanding data.

In addition, U of Next is planning a broader “DSciD Academy,” which will be a year-long program. This will aim to develop deep mastery in data practice, use and interpretation for an array of professionals, in business, government and education. U of Next also wants to launch a part-time, six-month version of the program, Myott said.

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Contact Michelle Tuccitto Sullo at

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