How Data Changed My Life

December 2, 2016

My life has recently been changed by an app, so much so that it has fundamentally changed my view on the world. Big call, and you might not agree but give me a minute to explain.

I turned 40 this year and had promised myself a number of things would have happen, or would happen by that age. One of them was to actually act a little more grown up and to start looking after my health and fitness a bit more seriously. My friend recommended an app called MyFitnessPal, you may have used it yourselves, where you enter in the food and drink that you eat and it gives you a snapshot of the macro nutrients that you consume and how that tracks against an ideal daily goal of calories (or kilojoules) you need for your body. Unlike other apps, this is made easier as you can scan the barcodes of the foods you consume and it enters it for you – quite an addictive element too, I love scanning food, does that make me weird? Anyway, after using the app for a week I’d lost 0.5kg, not a huge amount but I hadn’t actually done anything differently other than enter my food. I was a little bit sold, I started to actually think about how to eat a more balanced diet (rather than the calorie and fat heavy diet of yore) and I started feeling so much better about myself. I had more energy and every week I was slowly losing body fat. It also made me reduce the amount of wine I drink in the week – so many calories in one glass!

This isn’t an advert for MyFitnessPal, although I highly recommend it if you want to eat a more balanced diet and are trying to lose a little weight, it was the start to me getting a little obsessed with data. I’ve always had a love of data, and in my sales & marketing career data has been my best friend, but this took it to a new level.

After MyFitnessPal, came Sleep Cycle where I could monitor my sleep, then Life Cycle, where I could monitor where I spent my time, then Record where I monitored my workouts, then the Apple Watch, so data could constantly be collected from me. You get the picture; I have become data obsessed.

I have a few friends that are very anti-establishment and hugely concerned with privacy, specifically privacy with their data, and so I contemplated this for a while. These apps would have such data rich information on human behaviour some companies would pay millions to access it, or (in a scary world situation) the government could access it and know lots about you. Is this a bad thing? What are your thoughts? I have come to the conclusion that everyone is welcome to my data. In fact, the more data people have on me the better. Data will show what I support, what I like, where I travel, and would then hopefully be used by enterprising entrepreneurs to create better world solutions for me. So I concluded that data will create a better world. Now you may be thinking I’m a nerd (rightly so) and a complete optimist (I can be, sprinkled with realism), and that if data got into the wrong hands it would be disastrous. However, what if it got into the right hands, what if it was used as a tool for good; a tool of change.

What has this got to do with me and my business Sam? You may ask. Well, I want to ask you a question. How much data do you have to help inform your business? How do you use data to help you create a better world experience for your customers? Data doesn’t just have to be quantitative; it can be qualitative (by speaking to people). In our modern world even the smallest of businesses need to be collecting data. Customer surveys, Google Analytics, email marketing analytics, sales analytics. You may have been collecting it without even knowing. The trick to continued business success is knowing how to collect it, what to do when you have, and then how to apply it to help grow your business. It may just change your life.


by Samantha Hurley

Samantha Hurley

Written by Samantha Hurley

Sam co-founded Marketing Entourage after spending 18 years in senior sales & marketing positions for companies such as Lonely Planet and The Press Association in Melbourne, New York and London. Sam started out in a design agency and used design thinking to help develop a product that went on to revolutionise the media industry in 2002. Sam also teaches Digital Marketing and Data Driven Marketing at General Assembly. The daughter of an engineer and a designer, she learned to code and design at a young age. She feels she has the mind of a scientist and the heart of an artist and likes to sit in the space where creativity, technology and business converge.

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