Jesse Anderson: Mr. Big Data on Data Engineering, Creativity, and Nontraditional education (002)

Mr. Big Data, Jesse Anderson (

If you’ve ever heard the words “Big Data” and wondered what exactly that means, this is the episode for you.

Jesse Anderson is the person Fortune 100’s go to when they realize they are ill-equipped to handle the challenges of big data. He is a totally self-taught genius who is currently defining a new field of computer science call Data Engineering. In fact, he literally wrote the book on it.

Jesse’s work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, CNN, NPR, Wired, TechCrunch; just about everywhere.

His insights into the future of information technology and data were fascinating to explore. We also discuss his approach to learning and parenting and teaching creativity.

Listen to our discussion here:

Here are the notes from my talk with Jesse Anderson:

[2.00] Why we are motivated better by negative feedback than positive feedback

  • Fear of loss is a great motivator

[5.00] Jesse’s general thesis of creativity – it is a muscle that needs to be exercised

[8.30] At its core, entrepreneurship is ideas but it doesn’t have to be creating something “new”

  • Ideate around an existing solution to a problem and create a better product within an existing category

[10.40] Jesse discusses self education and philosophy on learning

  • Discerning between “education for fun” and “education for profit”
  • College does not teach you how to learn
  • You must understand what motivates you to learn and “learn how to learn”
  • Considerable gap between the real world and academia (e.g. Agile isn’t taught at university even though it is a commonly adopted business practice)

[18.30] Jesse stresses creativity in his children’s education from a very early age.

  • Creativity, problem solving and interpersonal skills will take you further than rote learning
  • Differentiation between schooling and education: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education” – Mark Twain

[22.00] Jesse teaches companies to deal with Big Data on the levels that companies like Google and Facebook do

[25.00] Big data opportunities begin with “can’t” conversations

  • Remove technical barriers with big data

[27.00] Ask yourselves these questions as a startup.

  1. Do I currently have big data?
  2. Will I have big data? This is especially important because systems that handle small data problems most definitely won’t be able to handle big data problems (e.g. train wreck analogy)
  3. You need expertise to handle big data – you can’t just get a web developer to write big data code

[30.30] The dangers of hiding technical debt

[32.30] Where can someone learn the basics of big data?

[35.10] How should businesses use big data? Jesse encourages CXO’s should follow this framework:

  1. Ideate (figure out something you want to do)
  2. Establish a business value on this outcome. If you could do this analytic you could make $x more by better understanding “Y”.

iii. Make a decision based on ROI projection

  • If you can’t understand your customers because of the sheer scale of your data, you have a problem
  • Storing data is cheap, the “value in the data is the perception of the value in the data” – e.g. the analytics required to better understand customers
  • Develop a culture of data empowerment
  • There is a substantial shift towards being able to leverage data in real time. If companies cannot access and make decisions to be able to execute in close to real time, they need to look into big data solutions.

[38.30] Discusses personal big data million monkeys project –

[43.00] Developing a company culture of data augmentation (is the company responsive enough to be able to leverage its data)

[44.30] Google cloud vs Amazon Web Services (AWS)

[48.30] Jesse discusses the biggest threats to his career as a big data expert

  • Focus on thought leadership and stay at the “cutting edge”
  • We need to move to a framework which doesn’t distinguish between small and big data – it will all be data
  • There will always be a need for learning

[52.30] Jesse discusses how living in Nevada allows him to compete at a global level whilst living the life he wants to live.

[54.50] On future predictions in big data:

  • There will be no distinction between small and big data
  • Jesse actively sought out the solution to this prediction and is working to bring about this paradigm shift in the way we manage data
  • “You have to be part of making your own reality and creating the future, otherwise you will probably fall behind”

[1.07.00] The importance of diversity in teams

[1.16.50] Important points on data engineering for SMEs/SMBs

  • A data engineering team is a multi disciplinary team, not a data warehousing team.

[1.20.00] Why technologists should be given a substantial equity in company formation

  • Technical problems don’t just manifest in technical debt they materialise all over the business.
  • There is a compounding effect to these problems as they continue to not get addressed

[1.24.30] Discussion on the global talent pool in data engineering

[1.26.30] Projects Jesse would like to see actualised:

  • Creativity themed workshops for engineers
  • Contributing to open sourced projects such as Apache beam to form more mutually beneficial communities and innovation

[1.30.15] What questions would Jesse want to know from a B2B sales expert?

  • What worked best with B2B sales?
  • How do I get in front of the right people in the organisation?
  • What is the best way to close sales?
  • How do you choose the best price point (pricing models)?

[1.32.00] Jesse adds to Justus’ top tier list for interviewees:

  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Co-Founders of Google
  • Sundar Pichai, CEO Google

[1.35.00] We have to identify what a person’s selfish gain is in order to motivate them to do something

[1.35.30] Jesse’s book recommendations (he suggests audiobooks):

[1.41.00] How you can contact Jesse


If you enjoyed today’s episode, please subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review or reach out to Jesse and thanking him for me.

One thought on “Jesse Anderson: Mr. Big Data on Data Engineering, Creativity, and Nontraditional education (002)

  1. Pingback: In-depth Interview | Jesse Anderson

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