Heart for Data Analytics

There are many reasons as to why I am passionate about data analytics.

But one of the reasons that have kept my interest going is as explained by Bill Gates in his recent post – Here’s one great way to use your tech skills. While I’m not the coder like the William guy he mentioned, I certainly know the endless possibilities that data analytics could do to solve social problems. And if there’s one problem that I could apply to solve, it is the education.

Imagine if we are able to collect the data about students’ activities and behaviour in schools which includes the time they get into school, the number of times they are on MC, miss class, their grades, their responsiveness in class, their areas of interest, we can identify trends and root causes of why some students perform (or not) and understand the drivers behind it to help us come up with a more customized solution to help the students excel.

Of course it’s easier said than done. Coming up with the analysis is the easy part. The difficult part is to get good data. We need to encourage the teachers to start collecting the data from the students, they probably have but only pockets of it and not in structured manner. If you are interested with this problem, do let me know!

Purpose of reading books

I had a brief conversation with my colleague a few days ago, who just became a mom end of last year. She had a list of books that she plans to read but not sure if she would have time to do it in between being a mom of an infant, having a full-time job and part-time baking. I could totally relate to her. But because we love reading and we want to inculcate the reading habits in our kids, we will try our best to find the time to read.

Our conversation then led her to conclude that our purpose of reading is different and she believes that there are 3 types of people – (1) read to learn and better ourselves, (2) read to escape reality and (3) read because they are being forced to because they hate reading. I fall in the first category while she falls in the 2nd category. To add to that, I like to read books that paint me a glimpse of the future, one that gives me hope, that inspires me, and that makes me dream of what I want to achieve in the future and learn how to get there.

One of the recent interview questions I had to answer is “Which book do you think every investment professional should read?”. An excerpt of my response was as follows (can’t show all given that the interview will only be displayed only in the next few months or so):

Nothing specific because the books we read should also evolve as the industry evolves, more frequently than we expected. In fact we should read all the books recommended by the successful billionaires from the likes of Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates to understand how they think and do. One thing is for sure, they read a lot every day!

I guess that testifies my purpose of reading.

What’s yours?

 

AI for everyone on Coursera

Early last month I mentioned about “AI for Everyone” course on Coursera, taught by Andrew Ng. I advocated to do it, but I myself haven’t signed up since, until today. So I just did.

After I signed up, this message appeared (see bottom right of the picture below):

aiforeveryone

What a clever way to get me started immediately. So I watched the first video, i.e. the introduction. To my surprise, Coursera platform has improved tremendously, the last time I took a course on Coursera was a few years ago (didn’t finish it and I can’t even remember the name of the course). Here’s what I found extremely useful, so far:

  1. Transcript of each video is readily available, below each video. So if you miss some of the words the lecturer said, you can just read the transcript, instead of replaying the video multiple times.
  2. You can also easily save any parts of the video as part of note taking. And you can easily replay the saved parts and the transcript is automatically downloaded as well. So you can choose to replay or read the transcript. All you need to do is just press the “SAVE NOTE” button. See below.

savenote

The notes will appear as below:

Notes

See how Coursera has made our lives easy just to encourage us to learn (and use their platform)?

 

The Danish way of parenting

I was at Kinokuniya on Tuesday looking for new books for my son. Then I decided to get one for myself on parenting. It’s been awhile since I last read from a hard copy book eversince I read the soft copy version through Kindle app on my iPhone. The only downside is I couldn’t read in front of my son because then he would think I am using my phone continuously when I am trying to reduce significantly his screen time. I don’t want him to think that if Mummy can use gadgets, why can’t I?

So anyway, I picked up “The Danish Way of Parenting” book by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl. The former is an American mom married to a Dane while the latter is a Danish psychotherapist, also a mom. I chose the book because (1) it’s located in the best-seller section so it should be good and (2) just by flipping the pages I saw that the book relates to how the brain works which is something that I have always wanted to understand so that I can make informed decisions on what’s best for my son rather than just relying on what other mothers do.

I’m only halfway through the book but a lot of the things the authors said reminds me of how my parents brought me up. They are not Danish nor they are wealthy, but they have raised me successfully to be resilient and always positive, or as the book defined – a realistic optimist. These are the core characteristics that the Danes would instill in their children.

They don’t use praise as a default response when the kids achieve something but instead focus on the process or effort the children put in. By doing so, they believe that the children will understand that it’s the perseverance that matters most, not the innate ability. Too much praise will give the children the wrong motivation to be successful – i.e. to yearn for acknowledgement and praise, not because they willingly want to be successful. The idea is to mould the children’s inner drive so that they know that they are in control of their lives when shit happens. Of course in reality you can’t run away from being affected by external factors such as environment or fate, but those are beyond your control.  But when shit happens, we know that only we can help ourselves and steer back our lives to the right directions.

As I reflect back, I remember, when I was young, my parents never forced me to study hard. I remember, they didn’t tell me which degree course I should take. I did it willingly, and I always found myself happy studying. When I didn’t get an A like I always do (not bragging but trying to paint the picture here), I remember my late dad always said, “It’s okay, I know you will get it the next time, even if you don’t get it the next time, I know you will try harder and not give up until you get it”. Not just when I was young but also when I’ve started working and doing my CFA exams. I wasn’t among the ones who pass all CFA exams at one go, so when I failed the 2nd level for the first time, I remember my late dad said just before I opened my results, “It’s okay, I know you will pass, even if you don’t pass, I know you will keep trying and eventually pass”. And that’s all that matters to me and I eventually earned my CFA charter. I passed the 2nd level the second time I sat for the exam. Failed the 3rd and final level the first time too but passed the second time.

So I never felt the pressure from them, any pressure that I have all comes from within, which is not necessarily a good thing too but it is something that I have learned over time, to set realistic expectations. One thing to note is that, every willingness comes from a driving force. Something must have fire you to be willingly, to be wanting the success. For me, when I was young, while it wasn’t my parents forcing directly, it was the environment that I was living in that shaped my desires. My mom was the bread winner and she worked tirelessly, she was an adopted child who never got the chance to study, she could only hide under the table to do her homework when she can. Had she was given the opportunity, she may have earned a degree or even got the chance to study overseas, like me and her life may have been different. So ever since young, I vowed to work hard, to be successful, especially when I was given all the opportunities to study, unlike my mom and most importantly to always bounce back from whatever life throws at you.

I hope I could instill this upbringing to all my children (when I have more). I hope the kiasu in me will not drive them crazy, something that I must be mindful of. I shouldn’t set any expectations, but I should inspire them instead. They must earn their own driving force.

 

 

 

Learning as a way to avoid expertise trap

I don’t know how many times I’ve stressed the importance of learning continuously in my blog. You can type “knowledge” or “learning” or “education” in the search box or read this post – Self-learning Mindset. However, I’ve kept it opened for everyone, be it students, teachers, bosses, workers, parents, rich and poor, young and old etc and even for myself as a reminder. Learning is a must for everybody and it is a lifelong pursuit.

Today, I want to reiterate the importance of learning to people who are already in the workforce. In the recent HBR issue, there’s an article that emphasized the need to “rededicate ourselves to learning and growth” to avoid falling into the expertise trap. I would highly recommend you to read the full article here. When you think you are an expert in an area and you don’t keep an open-mind to other people’s ideas and views, the risk of you overlooking the blind spots is high, which can then lead to poor execution and subpar results, as highlighted in the article.

Here’s an excerpt from the article that describes vividly the impact of falling into the expertise trap:

When we begin to identify as experts, our outlook can narrow, both in daily work and in times of crisis. We become reluctant to admit mistakes and failings, thus hindering our development. We distance ourselves from those “beneath” us, making it harder to earn their affection and trust. And as the dynamics of our businesses change, we risk being bypassed or replaced by colleagues on the rise, outsiders adept at learning new things, or artificial intelligence algorithms that can perform rote tasks faster and better than we can. Over time the very expertise that led to our success can leave us feeling unhappy, unsatisfied, and stuck.

Hope this will encourage you to learn more to stay current in the area of your expertise or even learn new skills. It’s not easy to carve out time for this especially when you are drowned with day-to-day work, meetings, emails, presentations, and by the time you are done for the day you are just mentally tired.

But there is no shortcut to this. I personally find that the only way is to force yourself everyday and intermittently if you have to. If you wait for the right time to do it, wait until you apply for a leave to spend the time learning, something else props up and you will forever lose the time and stuck in the expertise trap.

 

Supermom Today

I decided to take a day off today to do a research on preschools for my son. I’m thinking of sending him soon as he is turning 18 months old tomorrow so that he has early exposure to other kids, creative and fun learning to stimulate his brain and curiosity.

I have to say that I’m really glad my husband and I chose Ara Damansara as the area to live. There are just so many schools for kids and they are all within 5km radius! Yesterday alone I went to 5 different schools and I realized I have 3 more schools that I haven’t checked out. Don’t think I am able to take another day off to do this mainly because my mind is fixated with this one school.

Anyway, will share my thoughts on this later as I am now fully knackered. Felt like a supermom today!

 

Why I Will Not Choose Homeschooling Even with Advancement in Technology

Fred Wilson shared this on his blog a couple of days ago:

Apparently, homeschooling has been increasing rapidly in the US mainly because of parents’ concerns on the quality of the schools available, environment, academic instructions, syllabus etc. Of course in absolute terms it is still small relative to the total number of students (2m over 50m), but within the homeschooling space itself, back in 1990 it was only below 300k as shown by the chart above. Fred, who is an advocate in hacking education for the future thinks the growth is just going to accelerate further especially with the advancement and accessibility in technology. With VR for example, you can imagine studying about another country or state without the need to be physically there even.

As a mother, will I opt to homeschool my kids? The answer is no. My husband had a thought of it, he thinks he is better of teaching our son judging from the quality of teachers now and syllabus which will not prepare him the sort of survival, adaptability, critical thinking skills that are highly important as the implementation of AI grows significantly in the 10-15 years time.

But, because of AI, more so I think I want my son to go to school (currently inclining more towards private school than public) so that he does not lose track of human connection which you can only get by being part of the society. Because of AI, more so I want my son to be have excellent communication, persuasion, leadership skills which can only be acquired by mixing with other students.

As what Kai-Fu Lee, the AI expert said, we need to encourage our children to develop skills in areas where AI is weak especially when it comes to human connection. AI will never have feelings, will never understand compassion/empathy.

And for that reason, I will not choose to homeschool my kids.

Malaysia Membaca

Our current PM has always preached for us to become a successful nation, even during his old days as our 4th PM and during his tenure of a normal citizen, ie not a PM, basically all his life because he himself is someone who reads a lot and constantly, like he said, chasing knowledge. He is already 93 and yet he is still chasing knowledge. If there’s one thing that the youth need to learn from him, is his tenacity and curiosity to chase knowledge, continuously. It shouldn’t stop after you finish school, or after you graduate from uni. If you stop learning, you will fail miserably at work.

I like the hashtag #malaysiamembaca. Let’s all use it whenever you post on social media about the books you read or just about anything, it doesn’t need to be just books. In conjunction to World Book Day, this book below arrived on my kindle as i pre-ordered the book last week. Can’t wait to read it!

A call for a more educated society

I had written quite a long post earlier about how social media has caused a wrong perception about someone I know very well. But I decided to pause and continue later today or tomorrow. It may be timely to do today but I felt that my emotions were driving my write up. I want to write when I can put aside my emotions and write rationally.

Relating to that, I stumbled upon this tweet:

The last tweet speaks it all and I couldn’t agree more.

I get very annoyed and to a certain extent disappointed with the level of mindshare of the society in my country. People rely a lot on social media to find information. If that information gets a lot of likes or retweets, it’s as if there is a flux of confirmation to that piece of information, more than rejection. And just like that, people are already biased. It’s called the confirmation bias. And people tend to talk about the wrong information more than the right information.

It just shows the level of education of our people, and sometimes the so called influencers even. And by education I don’t mean you need the highest level of degree or the sophisticated/technical degree but a basic level of thinking to decipher for yourself which information is right and wrong. It’s more of logical sense to be honest.

We need a more educated society. We need our people to form their own opinion based on the information available. We also need an environment where it is ok for people to correct the wrong information and perceptions whereby it doesn’t look like they are being defensive or even worse – people view as “tunjuk pandai, just because you have a degree yadayadayada”. Why don’t they understand that people with degree don’t look down on people without. It’s just that we want to educate and correct your thinking so that we all become better.

It’s ego I tell you.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to explain, once people are fixated with their ego and that they think they are right, there is just no point of correcting them. The energy to correct can easily being blown by the energy to condemn. Why is that always the case?

Education in city vs. rural areas

I was playing with some Malaysians data from data.gov.my, a public sector open data portal which aims to provide quality data on the citizens. Currently there are over 12,000 datasets in a variety of clusters ranging from education, agriculture, environment, health etc. Here’s a snapshot.

datagov.PNG
source: data.gov.my

I browsed through the education datasets (currently has 1,382) and downloaded one of the datasets since it’s the most recent one which is on number of students enrolled in government’s primary public schools as at June 2017 in city and rural areas. The data is not split by states, so I can only assess the number of students enrolled in the city vs. rural.

Anyway, interestingly, the proportion of students enrolled in the city and rural is balanced, i.e. close to 50:50. I always thought that we have more students in the rural areas than the city. But I guess it also depends on what they constitute as city (i.e. bandar) and there may be others that are not part of the equation, i.e. kids that do not go to schools. I’m going to refer to City as Bandar and Rural as Luar Bandar as defined by the data available. 

2nd interesting fact is that the proportion of students enrolled in Kebangsaan schools vs. Kebangsaan Chinese in Bandar vs. Luar Bandar. As the chart below shows, out of the total students that go to Kebangsaan schools, 60% of them are in Luar Bandar while only 29% of students that go to Kebangsaan Chinese schools are in Luar Bandar. I’m ignoring Kebangsaan Tamil schools for now as the story is similar in both Bandar and Luar Bandar.

datagov2.PNG
data source: http://www.data.gov.my/data/en_US/dataset/enrolmen-rendah-malaysia

Why do we always encounter the perception the income level of Chinese is higher than the rest of Malaysians? Not just in business, but also in education. Or it seems to be a fact given that 70% of B40 are the bumiputeras. I know I may be generalizing as the kids who go to Kebangsaan schools are of multi-racial but I can bet you that Malays dominate them.

Can we have more data from the Kebangsaan schools please?

 

Self-learning Mindset

Someone painted me the picture of the schools in rural area and asked what would I change to improve the state of education in our country. Honestly speaking, the list of problems is long and it is not something that can be solved overnight. I will start with just 3 critical requirements first.

Firstly, we have to make sure that the schools are clean as the environment to study has to be conducive for the students. When the schools are clean, psychologically you will have a fresh and absorbent mind. Your mood will be uplifted and you will have a good health too. This is very elementary to be honest. But it takes a collective effort – teachers, students and parents as this basic habit starts from home. You must have the mindset of wanting to be clean and keep things clean. Maybe people should start applying Marie Kondo concept in schools.

Secondly, we need to inculcate the self-learning mindset. The students need to be intellectually curious, always wanting to learn and know more, always asking the question why and how. To me this is critical because we can’t rely only on the teachers and tools. True we need more quality teachers and provide the right tools such as computers and library of books. But the students themselves must be interested to learn and take their own initiatives to ask, learn and apply. Nowadays, access to information is easy and fast provided you have the internet connection but it defeats the purpose if you don’t have the desire to learn. I guess it is our role also to show how important education is. As Andrew Ng, the founder of Coursera said in the recent Coursera Annual Partners Conference 2019:

Education is on of the best tools we have for moving the world forward

Coursera is one of the great online learning platforms that offers online courses in a variety of subjects for everyone to learn. There are tonnes out there to help students around to world to have easy access to education. Most of them are free so you need to have a strong determination and discipline to finish through the courses.

Hence thirdly, the students need motivators and mentors. They need someone to push them to learn, to tell them that they are on the right track, to inspire them to dream, to challenge them to think about solving problems. This is the role that teachers should play. Not just merely to teach.

Among all the 3 requirements I mentioned above, I think having a self-learning mindset is the most critical one. Bill Gates is one of the great examples of having self-learning mindset. Something that he takes pride of. In fact he thinks there’s someone else who has taken self-learning to the next level, beyond him. It’s Tara Westover, the author of best-selling book, Educated (this one is next on my list!). She couldn’t go to school until the age of 17. So she’s been on a self-taught trajectory since young and managed to get into Cambridge University to earn a doctorate in intellectual history. It’s really inspiring. You can read more about it here.

Let’s spread the self-learning behaviour until it becomes addictive especially among the youth, shall we?

Reactions on stock-taking posts

Last night I decided to do a stock-take on all the topics I’ve written so far because I wanted to clean up the categories into broader groups so that I only have less than 10 categories. It’s cleaner and focused for my readers, I hope. It’s also a good way to recognize what my interests are because I don’t consciously plan the topics, at least not everyday. Thanks to my husband for grouping it for me.

So this is what it looks like:

Categories

First reaction: Ok it’s quite balanced across all categories (except education). I purposely dim weekly reflections from Reflection category because that is the weekly posts so no doubt Reflection will have the most number of posts. I didn’t realize that I’ve done other random posts which my husband thinks it should be categorised under Reflection such as My Blogging Progress, Benefits of Public Transport, 2019 Resolution (Part 1 to 4), Mindshare etc. In fact I’ll consider today’s post as a reflection too.

Second reaction: Career (which consists of topics such as leadership, self-improvement, how to deal with corporate life etc), Investing and Technology are the next highest. So that shows that I’m working in the right industry, by right I mean that is where my heart is. Investing and Technology are both closely associated and I love exploring the intersection of both.

Third reaction: You know how they say “Title” is key for any article. Over time, I realised I spent more time thinking about the right “Title” for each post so I can actually see improvements in the titles. In other words, looking at my earlier posts, my titles were so lame.

Fourth reaction: I have always loved the topic of education. Like I mentioned in my About section, “good education is one of the key ingredients that got me to where I am today. Hence, I firmly vouch for #equaleducationopportunity for everyone”. But, I have only written 2 posts so far. Something is not quite right there. I would like to think that it is because I am not anywhere close to the industry, i.e. I am busy with my corporate life, my son and nephews are all still very young (the eldest just entered pre-school). The most frequent conversations I have about education, is when my best friend talks about her son’s life in public school. Yes I read and heard about the issues we have in our education system but I’m not fully aware in terms of the stats etc. I’m a data driven person and I learn a lot by doing/experience. I guess I will need to do more on my part. I will consciously keep myself close to this topic.

I’ll start by getting my hands dirty on the data posted in Malaysia Youth Data Bank System. I never knew it existed until my friend shared this to me. They even use Tableau to draw the charts, I must say I am impressed. I have used Tableau and I think it’s a great tool for analytics.

Secondly, let’s learn something from the best – China and US. I have tasted the US education system and it’s great, albeit there are some flaws in the schools too, but the system will make the younger generation more agile and flexible. China is super fast in leveraging technology to improve all their walks of life and that includes education. Of course, not to forget Singapore, Korea and Finland. Here’s some recent interesting articles:

1. Chinese university uses AI to check class attendance rates and find the reasons behind absenteeism

2. On the right track in Chicago

So there you go. A periodic review or stock-take of your work is actually a healthy exercise to ensure that you are on the right track and do not sway much from your vision.

Do let me know if you have any interesting topics that you would like me to talk about!