5 Mins With: Olivia Duane Adams (Libby)
Tell us about your current role and responsibilities
I’m the chief advocacy officer (CAO) and co-founder of Alteryx, we provide a single, unified platform for analytics and data science for companies needing to harness the flood of complex data and make critical timely decisions. I’m responsible for strengthening the upskilling and reskilling efforts for Alteryx customers to enable a culture of analytics - scaling the presence of Alteryx in academia through the recently launched SparkED education program and furthering diversity and inclusion in the technology space.
As Alteryx’s former Chief Customer Officer, I recognised early on that creating a customer-centric culture went beyond delivering a successful product experience and set out to enable a global community, where Alteryx users can solve more together. Today, I work closely with Alteryx users and the global analytics community on key initiatives to diversify their workforces, upskill their people and deliver meaningful outcomes and insights in our ever-changing business world.
What were some career highlights before your current role?
My career has been a rewarding journey. Upon entering university, I knew I wanted to major in business and learned very quickly that accounting was not my strength when I couldn’t get my balance sheets to balance! Marketing 101 was the light I needed to see my path with passion to understand how people think, and what drives purchasing behaviours while improving and impacting someone’s life.
My first job after graduating college was in customer support for a technology company in New York City that gave me experience working with media and advertising leaders. That career path led me to a sales role along with a promotion to a sales role in Southern California. I was a leading sales representative for the media, advertising, telecommunications and automotive industries at Strategic Mapping, a provider of spatial analytics and mapping software. I was selling early renditions of desktop-based geographic business intelligence solutions before the internet emerged as the most effective tool for deployment.
Being with technology companies led to the idea of starting Alteryx alongside my founding counterparts Dean Stoecker, our Executive Chairman, and Ned Harding, the company’s retired CTO.
How do you see your role evolving over time?
We launched the Altertyx SparkED program earlier this year with the goal to help expand data literacy and analytics skills among all learners so that they can use this skill set to solve real-world problems. While data is everywhere and the need for data analytics skills continues to soar, we are facing a skills drought. Businesses need to fast-track employee upskilling programs to gain competitive insights and value from their data if they want to keep pace with their market. To ensure future success, we must continue to bring awareness to data literacy and data analytics skills for all and help brings the next generation of data analytics into the classroom by replacing curriculum rooted in spreadsheets with modern data analytics technology for users of all skill sets.
What initially drew you to work for the business?
I recognised early on in my career that innovation will always be powered by technology. During my time in my first job, the world was integrating into the desktop. Eventually, the laptop became mainstream, allowing insights to be delivered directly to users through software. I have always been passionate about the power and impact technology has in our lives including the impact it has on our work life, allowing us to function more efficient.
Before founding Alteryx, my previous career paths all had a similar source of frustration – the slow pace of the business and/or the employer losing our edge to the competition because we were unable to move fast enough to meet market demand.
Along with my co-founders, Dean Stoecker and Ned Harding, I knew we could make a difference in the strategic analytics sector by combining software and data to match business requirements with easier to use, faster to deploy and more affordable agile business intelligence.
Today, Alteryx unifies analytics, data science and business process automation in one, fast, effortless end-to-end platform designed for data artisans and business leaders to accelerate digital transformation. It aggregates data from 80+ data sources (including spreadsheets, documents, cloud sources, Snowflake, and RPA bots) and harnesses all that data complexity with intelligent analytics automation across every type and step of analytics processes from diagnostic to predictive to deep discoveries to provide the market insight, location analysis, and business intelligence today’s market requires in order to succeed.
Can you highlight a couple of achievements you're most proud of since you joined?
Firstly, I’m one of only a handful of female founders to take a technology company public, along with my founding partners. Building the company up since 1997 has been a challenge and involved a lot of learning, but it’s also been immensely rewarding. Being a part of the Alteryx team where we are impacting people’s lives with passion to enable their success makes me very proud. Those moments when an Alteryx user shares with us that ‘Alteryx has changed my life’ because, with our technology, they are empowered to solve, brings a tear to my eye every time.
Secondly, I’m very proud of how we’re helping to train and guide the next generation of talented data workers. I lead the Alteryx SparkED programme, which provides free software and learning paths with free certifications to learners of all skill levels is one way to develop the analytics skills of the future. SparkED is empowering thousands of students and job seekers with in-demand certifications that will set them up for success in their careers and beyond.
What trends are you seeing in the industry right now that are having the most impact?
In today’s business environment, data-driven insights are the main driver in every major decision. Data is truly the key to success, and businesses need to leverage this important asset. However, over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day, and IDC estimates that by 2025 we’ll have created more than 175 zettabytes globally. Harnessing and analysing this mountain of data continues to be a challenge, due to the on-going shortage of data science skills in the labour market.
Businesses are forced to fast-track employee upskilling programs. While many businesses are talking about ways to upskill their employees and equip them with the tools they need to deliver analytics for business impact, a recent Alteryx survey found that the majority of workers believe more training in data work would result in better (75%) and faster (69%) decisions. As businesses seek to gain competitive insights and value from their data, they will need to quickly address upskilling needs if they want to keep pace with the market.
I see upskilling as a major investment trend for 2022. Every company is a data company. Upskilling all employees with data literacy skills is one of the most powerful strategies at the disposal of every business adjusting to the new realities of operating in the 21st Century. Building and utilising data-first strategies is essential for better understanding customer actions and businesses that enable data driven insights well are streets ahead of the competition.
Another trend we’ve spotted, and one that is more concerning, is around the issue of data ethics training. Findings from our survey of data workers earlier this year showed that almost half of UK employees (42%) believe that data ethics is “irrelevant” to their role. This is a major issue as the lack of data ethics could create unintentional data biases and lead to perpetuating discriminatory practices, as well as inaccurate, incorrect, and inconsistent AI models. It also poses a serious challenge to the UK government, which is investing £65bn into the country’s artificial intelligence sector.
What motivates and drives you each day in your role - and do you have any mentors?
What continues to motivate me is that data analytics is no longer just a ‘nice to have’, it has become a requirement for leaders across enterprises of all sizes – from small businesses to Global 2000 corporations. As the Chief Advocacy Officer, I continue to think about what our users will want - and will need - to stay ahead through self-service analytics.
These ideals continue to bring value to the company and our customers. The passion we have for what we do makes a difference in the lives of the people we work with, employees and customers. If I wasn’t passionate about Alteryx, its message, and the way our technology impacts customers, I would not be where I am today as the co-founder of a successful public tech company.
I’m also grateful for the support of my co-founders, Dean Stoecker and Ned Harding. The three of us started a company with no prior experience in building and scaling a business. None of us, by ourselves or with another person or people, founded a company before Alteryx. It’s all we know. We stayed focused, helped each other, and worked really hard to achieve success because we shared a common love for what we do, respect for each other and the people we work with.