Data for Change

Ground your data science project in existing government processes

I have listened to several versions of this conversation in recent years:

“We have the backend database pretty well built. It’s stable and flexible. I want to add some processing speed to ensure mobile access and pulls don’t slow us down, especially once we have the front end built”.

“What are we doing for the front end? What about a mobile app that people can use to pull whatever data they want?”

“I was thinking a series of interactive dashboards. Something people can manipulate based on what they are interested in.”

“I think what ever we build, we’ll just need…

What does service mean these days?

This day is always profound for me. Not for some profound memory or reason, but because I remember this day as a child because TV stations will fill the day with movies of war and heroes. This had a profound effect on me as a child, as I imagine it does on our society, they way we idealize war and warriors.

Not surprisingly, I too joined the military when I was 17. Escaping reality, but also running towards the visions of glory I fed myself growing up.

My time in the Army does not define me, but it shaped me…

Data Science versus Red Tape, a COVID-19 Story.

You’ve been home for two weeks, you are beginning to realize that your company is going to remain closed for a while. In fact, they just sent you a furlough notice.

You’re spending so much time helping the kids adjust to on-line school you barely have time to realize that your savings are almost gone, and your credit card balances are ticking up steadily.

A few weeks later and it's looking worse. You brave a trip to the store and are starting to search around for food donation options.

As the stress of it all mounts, you are relieved to…

I’ve always loved the quiet streets of the early mornings in the city. Before the majority of the crowds are awake, out of their houses, and scrambling to get to their places of business.

These quiet times, especially in the cold darkness of winter mornings envelopes me and gives me the peace I seek in life. Alone, usually with my thoughts, having just stepped off the train and dislodged myself from my morning’s reading.

I turn the thoughts and words over in my head, finding their meaning beyond what the author wrote, the meaning applied to me and my prism…

A strategy to create an ego-less and resilient team.

I’m fortunate that I get to conduct a lot of interviews in my job. We always seem to be hiring someone. To some people this probably sounds terrible, interviews can be uncomfortable for all parties. When they go bad, it can be really bad. But they can also be insightful.

Let me also say, that I don’t believe an interview is always a good way to select someone for a job, but its a great way to see an interesting cross-section of individuals. You can learn a lot from people by…

A simple way to improve your data science project.

“Each week, I run this code after updating it with the new dates. I compile it with historical data, disaggregate it based on the SOP, and then upload it into the dashboard template. Once I’ve checked for errors, I alert the distro-list that the updates are complete”

I sat there and listened — half in shock but the other half of me was beaming because I saw such an easy fix in front of me.

This was how one of our junior data scientists was describing a project, really a weekly update, that he worked on to the larger data…

How to measure your project’s impact.

A few weeks ago at a team meeting, I couldn’t help but notice how much some people focused on the specifics of project development and deployment. As they described what they were working on, they kept failing to explain how the project fit into the needs of the organization.

When I questioned one of them, they only had a vague sense of how the project was going to be used after they were done developing it.

This was a huge red flag for me — and something I spoke with the team lead directly afterward. My concern went well beyond…

Here comes big brother? Or finally our savior?

On January 13, 2020 the U.S. government published draft rules for the regulation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the United States. (NOTE: This draft is available for public comments until March 13, so there is still an opportunity to exercise your democratic voice!)


For those not familiar with the process, the federal government is often required to post for public review and comment new rules which will apply to individuals and entities in the U.S. This is all because of a law called the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). …

Can we know how the government is using our data?

Overview and Background

Unless you work in law or the government you may not be aware that most decisions that the U.S. government makes about citizens are fairly controlled and transparent. This is because of a few different laws, but one in particular requires that the government tell everyone what they are going to do, how they are going to do it, why they are going to do it that way, and how you can sue them if they don’t follow their own guidelines.

Oh, and the government also tells you this all in advance and asks for your opinion, which they are…

How I use my impostor syndrome to improve myself as a leader.

“Never compare yourself to others. Only compare the person you are today to the person you were the day before.”
Unknown Author

I was having a casual conversation with an former employee about her current position. In a round about way we ended up talking about leadership. What brought the common conversation to an almost cartoonist screeching double-take moment was when she told me that I was the best leader in our organization, she said there was some good ones, but I was the only “great one” she knew of.

Two thoughts immediately came to me. First this was…

Joel Nantais

Doctoral candidate, integrating Data Science in the public sector. Government executive, leader, life experimenter, creative tinkerer.

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