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Maximizing Insights from 'Medium Data'
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
Aaron Kamholtz joined the country’s largest independent biotech company to make a difference by analyzing big data. They have a lot of it. Biogen develops, manufactures and markets innovative therapies for people living with serious neurological, autoimmune and rare diseases.
A recent shift to human resources immerses Kamholtz in what he calls “medium data.” The volume of information is large, but it’s used for more specific purposes — mainly, helping Biogen attract the best talent on the market and maximize the skills of more than 7,000 current employees.
“In HR, we do have data sets that go into millions of rows, but for the most part it’s not about the quantity of data,” he says. “It’s about marrying different sources together and binding together your view of the world. We use data on our people to help inform strategic decisions being made at the top of the organization.”
For example, Kamholtz’s team has identified “talent attractors.” These are managers who have hired a higher-than-usual share of high-performing employees.
The People Analytics team discovered that talent attractors receive more positive feedback than their peers, confirming their talent-building capabilities and effective management styles. Taking it a step further, by studying the career advancement of the people hired by talent attractors, Biogen is able to quantify the impact these critical hiring managers have on the company.
Read about other Bentley alumni using big data in their careers.
More from Aaron Kamholtz:
Why did you choose Bentley?
The degree combination of an MBA and MSIT, and the availability of some extracurricular things I wanted to do, namely Net Impact [a nonprofit that promotes social and environmental change]. I heard that they were looking to start a graduate school chapter, and so I was able to join that and partner on a few things.
What is your role at Biogen?
I work in the HR team called people analytics. I came over to this department from IT within Biogen. Sometimes it’s called HR analytics . . .we use data on our people in ways that can influence and help inform key strategic decisions being made at the top of organization. If they're debating issues that have an impact on our people, we have the skills to add a lot of context.
You’ve talked about working with “medium data.” How is that different from big data?
Big data is such a buzzword, and for the most part it has lost a lot of its meaning. People tend to think it just means data sitting in millions of rows. It’s true there are incredible amounts of information out there, and Biogen does have what most people would call big data. We've got people doing sequencing DNA and cranking out tons and tons of information. In the world of HR, mostly confined to Biogen employees, we do have data sets that go into millions of rows. But for the most part it's not about the quantity of data. It's about marrying different sources together and binding together your view of the world.
How did Bentley get you here?
My two degrees at Bentley [MBA and MSIT] added more branches [to my expertise]. I consider myself a hybrid. The education covers a very broad spectrum and the degrees did a great job of adding to my toolkit.
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