Big Data Legends: Jake Porway

October 21, 2014
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I first came across Jake Porway on Twitter back in Dec 2012. At the time, I remember being very impressed and excited to learn of the work he was doing with his non-profit, DataKind. The organization seemed to be the perfect vehicle through which data professionals can contribute their skills for the betterment of humanity.

I first came across Jake Porway on Twitter back in Dec 2012. At the time, I remember being very impressed and excited to learn of the work he was doing with his non-profit, DataKind. The organization seemed to be the perfect vehicle through which data professionals can contribute their skills for the betterment of humanity. But, in those days, DataKind was just getting going. It’s truly been miraculous to watch the progress that Porway and DataKind have made over these past 2 years.

Back then there was only one DataKind chapter, the DataKind HQ that’s located in NYC. 2 years later, 6 chapters have been established in major cities all across the world – London, Bangalore, DC, Dublin, Singapore, and San Francisco. Recently, DataKind UK data scientists have been working hard to find 30,000 missing children, while NYC DataKind data scientists are doing things like using mobile technologies to help preserve vaccines in Africa and helping Amensity International predict and prevent international human rights abuses. What’s more, over the past few years, the non-profit organization has successfully earned the support of industry giants like Teradata, IBM, O’Reilly, Pop! Tech, and National Geographic.

What’s it all about?

As ground-breaking as DataKind’s work has been, this post isn’t about DataKind, it’s about the organization’s Founder, Jake Porway. Before going into the working world, Jake earned a M.S. in Computer Science from Columbia University and a PhD in Statistics from UCLA. Although that’s impressive in itself, it’s not what most impresses me. What I’ve always found most impressive about Jake Porway is that… well, here’s this brilliant man, with marketable skills that he could use to rake in heaps and heaps of cash and live a posh lifestyle in any one of the fanciest cities in the world… But, money and status are not Mr. Porway’s motivation. Instead, he’d rather use his time, talents, and data science skills to work towards making the world a better place for all of us!

The marvels of Jake Porway don’t stop there. Beyond his educational and professional achievements, he’s a very humble, kind, and approachable individual. He’s got a real talent for public speaking (as evidenced in his TedX Montreal talk, Big data in the service of humanity). His gregarious spirit shines through all forms of media – live talk, digital, and even television.

That’s right, TV!! In 2013, Jake Porway made his television debut as the world-famous host of the National Geographic series, The Numbers Game. In this series, Porway tackles some of the most perplexing topics known to man, and he explains the scientific and statistical concepts required to understand these topics.

What keeps Jake busy these days?

As the Founder and Executive Director of DataKind, Porway stays busy with operational requirements that are involved in running the non-profit. Much of that work is centered on placing the right data scientist with the right non-profit project. He also stays quite busy with his National Geographic television series, and with hosting events like the upcoming IBM Insights Conference next week in Las Vegas, Nevada.

If you’re interested in following the epic adventures of Jake Porway, you can do that by following him on Twitter here. If you want to know more about what he’s doing with DataKind, keep an eye on the DataKind blog.

Personal Note: The story of Jake Porway is so ironic, really. I mean, he set out to use his talents to make the world a better place. He went out on a limb with non-profit endeavors to do this. In the face of opportunities to earn tons of money and status, he deliberately chose to invest his time and talents in doing what he believed was right – “tackling the world’s biggest problems through data science.”  And in return for this dedication and personal integrity, Porway has received more public acclaim, achieved more good, and acquired more status than any other data scientist on the planet. He sought to fulfill his inner calling over the callings of the material world, and through this he received more material blessings and gifts than he probably would have otherwise.

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