Big Data as the New Currency

The holy grail of Big Data lies in the ability of identifying the right set of data and thereupon properly using it for greater insights. Asking for such capabilities may have been difficult in the past years, but the recent flood of applications and softwares have made such tasks much easier (if not trivial). It is suffice to say that we are entering into an era where the power of predicting things seems to be within grasp.

Data Value

The moment we have a tangible use (such as predictability and decision insights) associated with the data, it becomes valuable; equally valuable to companies, individuals and the bad guys. Back in 2013, the most popular trend among hackers was to steal credit card information and to sell that info to third parties internationally. Now that trend is shifting towards stealing personal data. From PHI (personal health information) to things like emails, the possibilities are endless. Look no further than what happened to Sony in the recent breach.

Data Breaches

The sad part is that it will still take some time for us to take data security seriously. There is a risk of additional breaches, hacks and leaks in 2015 which will give the governments and companies the "push" they need to make data security reforms.

Looking back at some of the breaches in 2014 we can see a trend starting to appear. It will only get worse if nothing is done about the security.

Data Breaches in 2014

Onsite Health Diagnostics

When: January  2014

Number affected: 60 thousand

Data Type: patient names, DOB, addresses, emails, phone numbers and gender

Method used: Unknown party inappropriately accessed online scheduler system

Michaels Store Chain

When: January 2014

Number affected: 3 million

Data Type: customer debit and credit information

Method used: Payment system was breached by hackers

Los Angeles County Department of Health Services

When: February 2014

Number affected: 170 thousand

Data Type: patient names, SSN, DOB, billing information and medical history

Method used: Eight computers containing the data were stolen from the billing company (Sutherland Healthcare Solutions)

American Express

When: March 2014

Number affected: 76 thousand

Data Type: California customer names, accounts numbers, expiration dates and four-digit CVS codes

Method used: Hacktivist group The Anonymous

Living Social

When: April 2014

Number affected: 50 million

Data Type: Customer names, emails, DOB and encrypted passwords

Method used: Hackers attacked the website

Community Health Systems, Inc.

When: April 2014

Number affected: 4.5 million

Data Type: patient names, addresses, DOB and SSN

Method used: Chinese hackers were believed to be behind the attack

Aventura Hospital and Medical Center

When: September 2014

Number affected: 82 thousand

Data Type: patient name, DOB and SSN

Method used: Vendor's employee stole the data

Home Depot

When: September 2014

Number affected: 56 million

Data Type: customer credit card information

Method used: Malware was installed on payment systems by a hacker group

New Jersey Doctor (Dr. Nisar A. Quraishi)

When: October 2014

Number affected: 40 thousand

Data Type: patient names, SSN, DOB and medical history

Method used: Break-in at the storage facility

JP Morgan Chase

When: October 2014

Number affected: 76 million

Data Type: patient phone numbers, DOB, addresses and SSN

Method used: Hackers gained root access to the secure servers

Bottom Line

Our discovery of the powers that data holds is turning it into a tradable commodity. We are entering into a world where stealing data is as lucrative (if not more) as stealing credit card information. Hackers have successfully demonstrated they can compromise governments, companies and law enforcement agencies. The large number of data breaches that occurred in 2014 proves the aforementioned points and demands that we pay equal attention to the security of the data.


Healthcare Cost Transparency is inevitable

Historically the healthcare model in the United States has been such that the total cost of care is generally not known until after the medical services have been rendered. Aside from having no knowledge of the cost, the insurance plans are looked upon as a primary source responsible for paying the healthcare bills. Although this model has been the status quo, the new healthcare trends are about to change everything.


How to become a Freemason

Freemasonry, just like any other institution, has its laws, rules and regulations. While it is open to all men, irregardless of their race or religion, certain restrictions do apply. And since I am frequently asked about the process of getting into Masonry I decided to write a post about it. Here I have tried to put them in easier to read format and hope this helps anyone looking into Freemasons.


HBO's Silicon Valley Episode 1 is out

When Ludicorp launched the game Neverending, they had no idea that it would turn into the image app giant today known as "Flickr". All they wanted was to build a massive multiplayer game on a web platform which never took off (in a viral sense). Eventually they spotted this "image sharing" capability hidden within their app and spun it separately as FlickrLive. FlickrLive was a chat room application with a real-time photo exchange functionality.


Predictive Analytics and Big Data in Real World

In 2012, national retailer Target sent some customers pregnancy coupons and one of the recipients was an 18 year old teenage girl. Her father received the coupons and arguably was angered. He contacted Target's management and rebuked them for sending the money saving offers to his daughter especially when she was not pregnant.


Should I pursue an MBA?

A friend of mine sent me a link to an MBA and asked me whether it would be worthwhile for her to pursue it. We went back and forth with series of questions until I could say anything about the degree being fit for her. Since this was about fourth time someone had approached me for advice in regards to their educational endeavors, I think it would be a good idea to assemble my thoughts in a post.

Find out exactly why you want to do it

Going after a degree with no goal in mind is a pure waste of money. Even Ivy League institutions can’t provide a career boost if there is a void in planning. From a practical point of view I can think of the following reasons that one would intend to move further in professional education:
  1. For fun and personal knowledge
  2. For vita enhancement (resume upgrade for career potential at other companies)
  3. For more money (degree will result in higher income)
  4. For career progression at current job
Let’s go through the above points one by one.

The love for the Education

Education for personal gain and interest is always a good idea and has no limits. So go ahead without hesitation if this makes you happy. I myself am a student at distant universities and at Coursera because I love to learn about various topics.

Career potential at other companies

I am a stern believer in the fact that employers never provide any kind of job security but we create them for ourselves. We all carry our own brands and it is our duty to keep our brand highly marketable. The more competitive, passionate and diligent we are the higher the job security we will create.

If the degree you are considering will add to your brand, then you should go for it. A rule of thumb is to do a hypothetical job search as if you were looking for new ventures and take note of the requirements for the kind of job you want. Use this info to come up with what sub-specialization you like to do in your degree work.

Degree will bring more money

Going after a new degree because it may increase your pay is very risky move. You should do a thorough analysis and ensure that your work performance and behavior are not the reason your career is stuck. The reason being the degrees never change your behavior or work performance but you have to do it yourself.

I have never hired anyone who has claimed that he or she is applying for a job because of more money. During interviews I look for passion, knowledge and attitudes, since these are the habits that will create your job security which will translate into higher income.

Bottom line: think twice before pursuing a degree just so that you may get more money.

Career progression at current job

Getting a degree for career progression at the current job depends on several factors.
The most important one is the career perception disconnect between employees and the management. Employees believe that they will have a better chance at proving themselves if their boss gives them a new role, position or promotion. On the other hand, Management believes that the employees who want it all will show motivation by taking initiative on their own and prove that they are ready for career upgrade by taking new responsibilities and doing things that are not even part of their current job.

So the crux of promotion is changing one’s daily activities for the job one wants and not limiting one’s work to the current job requirements.

The Target Job Requirements

You will need to talk to your manager in scenarios where you are not sure what additional responsibilities you can take on. Every good manager knows the answer to “what one has to do to advance in one’s career.” In most cases there is additional knowledge, responsibilities and work that are desired by the manager. The bottom line is that the manager should be able to give an idea of this “list” of things that he/she values the most and considers sufficient for career growth.

The Degree Decision

Once you have determined your target job requirements by either talking to your manager or by yourself, put all the information you gathered in the form of a list. Test your current skills against that list and check how many of them you currently have or don’t have.

You should go forward with furthering your education to fill in the knowledge gap if you find yourself lacking most of the skills.

You don’t need a new degree if you already have all the required skills. You only need to start using them and working hard.

Bottom Line

Pursuing new degree is never a bad idea as long as we do it for the right reasons. MBAs can easily cost us $50-$60k and that level of debt demands thorough investigation. It is also worthwhile to examine ourselves to check if there is something wrong with our aptitude, attitude, will and skill. Degrees are meaningless if the problem lies within!