Soft Skills in Analytics

Joshua Hemann


Prescriptions for Effectively Communicating Data

Maintaining employment in statistical work is largely about being able to effectively use data to improve decisions. Sometimes the most challenging part of this work is not the math but the people. This talk will survey multiple aspects of communicating data, with an emphasis on visualization, which are easy to do poorly and ultimately undermine larger projects. Doing better in these areas helps build the trust necessary to get emotional animals to actually act on data.  Specifically, the following prescriptions will be covered:

  • Think inside the box
  • Don’t use defaults by default
  • People perceive: avoiding visualization styles that make perception harder
  • Increasing organizational data maturity by communicating about distributions, not averages
  • Don’t let the data speak for itself
  • Never show a plot without a statistic or a statistic without a plot
  • Beware of self-serve analytics
  • PowerPoint decks should be backed up by transparent and reproducible work


Josh Hemann is the Director of Analytic Services at Activision where his team builds data tools to support video game studios and embed analytics within the games they create. Prior to this his industry experience spanned diverse settings such as air pollution research, aerospace, retail marketing, and recommendation systems for grocers.  Josh has an MS in Applied Mathematics from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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Jim Holtman

Jim Holtman

The Kroger Co.

What is the problem you are trying to solve? …and other tough questions.

Sometimes this can be a tough question, but your company, your project and your job may depend on it. In this presentation, I will describe a process that is used to review both the architecture of a solution and project management of the people involved on the project to help answer that question. This process became the Best Current Practice in Bell Labs and has been used outside of that environment to review hundreds of projects saving millions of dollars. I will give examples of some of the results that were obtained. One of the interesting facts about this process is that it is based on one that is used by an architecture firm that builds buildings that we applied to the development of software, and the parallels, and contrasts, between these two industries is very interesting. Learn to how to ask the tough questions, understand the constraints, and help to improve the odds of a successful outcome of projects.


Mr. Holtman is one of the original members of the Operations Research group at Kroger. He has been responsible for laying out the design of the Kroger distribution centers to provide a better presentation to the stores, saving time in restocking the store. He also teaches several courses to help improve people’s understanding of the importance of “numbers” and training on R, an open source statistical and graphical analysis system that is the “lingua franca” of the OR group.

He previously worked at AT&T Bell Labs where he is a Bell Labs Fellow for creating the Current Best Practice for System Architecture reviews, and the contribution to the architecture of several operation support systems. In his 50 year IT career he has shot down missiles having written part of the real-time operating system for the Safeguard Antiballistic Missile system, and worked on the development of a number of on-line transaction systems for the telcos. His tagline is “what is the problem you are trying to solve.”

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Michael Kim

CNA Insurance

Translation of Quantitative Analysis for Evidence-Based Action: Tips and Case Studies from the Private Sector

In the private sector, the dissemination of quantitative analyses is a critical component in business processes that help drive actionable decision-making. Dissemination requires proficiencies in both verbal and visual communication towards a variety of stakeholders. At the center of this process is the translation of quantitative analysis that is easily understood for evidence-based action. This presentation will provide case examples demonstrating the translation of quantitative evidence in Property and Casualty Insurance. These case examples will illustrate universal themes to presenting quantitative information for a variety of stakeholders including internal business partners among different divisions and external customers.


Michael Kim is an analytics director within CNA’s Actuarial Department, where he contributes to the Strategic Research and Economic Modeling Group. Michael’s work focuses primarily on claim analytics related to medical liability and workers’ compensation.  Michael is also a CNA representative and expert panel member for the National Safety Council’s Prescription Drug Overdose Initiative. Michael received his B.A. in Biology and Master of Public Health from Brown University and he received his Ph.D. in Health Policy and Management from Johns Hopkins University.

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Dan Murray

InterWorks, Inc.

Data Visualization – The Last Mile of Business Analytics

Data visualization in the context of big data, privacy issues, and data governance.  This talk will discuss these in environments where analysts and less technical information consumers have greater access and freedom to create visual analytics and dashboards.  Empowerment with accountability.

Dan has over 30 years of business experience as a CFO/ CIO/ COO/ VP Planning/ VP Operations, and decided to join InterWorks to provide the best possible data visualization solutions available. He strives to give clients high value solutions that can be implemented quickly, incrementally and without significant risk. Drawing from his extensive experience, Dan wrote the acclaimed Tableau guidebook, “Tableau Your Data!” His contributions to the Tableau community have earned him the title of Tableau Zen Master. Outside of being a business intelligence guru, Dan’s hobbies include blogging, analyzing the Federal Budget and offering his opinion on solving any of the world’s major problems. He also enjoys mountain climbing, long wilderness treks and hanging out with his family. According to Dan, after all his life experiences, the most insightful question he’s ever been asked was by his daughter- “Daddy, are there any mommy long-leggers?” As you can see, Dan also benefits from a good sense of humor.

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Scott Nestler

Transitioning Army Officer; Co-Chair, INFORMS Analytics Certification Board

A Data-Driven and Value-Focused Thinking Approach to an Analytics Job Search

This presentation discusses the role of data and online tools throughout the author’s ongoing career transition and job search process. A supporting value hierarchy includes objectives focused on:

  • A satisfying nature of work
  • Advancement opportunities
  • Optimal travel requirements
  • A desirable geographical location
  • Compensation

With a variety of online, data-driven tools (LinkedIn,, Udemy, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glassdoor, Fiverr, Jobscan, Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNN Cost of Living Calculator, Trulia, Zillow, GreatSchools, Google Maps mashup) and some elicitation of preferences from all family members, a value-focused hierarchy and supporting documents are used to compare various alternatives.

This presentation is shared in the hope of assisting others with their career transitions and job search efforts. After all, this is one of the most important decision opportunities that each of us face at various points in our lives.

NOTE: Please bring your smartphone or tablet, with Internet access, to this session for a unique, interactive presentation.


Scott Nestler is an Operations Research Analyst retiring from the U.S. Army after 25 years of service. Most recently, he was the Force Strategy Division Chief at the Center for Army Analysis.  Previously, he taught at the Naval Postgraduate School and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He has served as an analyst and leader of analytic teams in a variety of locations, including the Pentagon and the U.S. Embassy – Baghdad, Iraq. Nestler has a PhD in Management Science from the University of Maryland – College Park, a Master’s in Strategic Studies from the Army War College, a MS in Applied Mathematics from the Naval Postgraduate School.

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