Andrew C. Madson, Sr. Director of Data Analytics, Arizona State University

Andrew Madson is a data leader with 18 years’ experience. Andrew has presented to multiple boards of directors for Fortune 100 companies. As a graduate program professor in data analytics and data science, Andrew focuses on empowering the next generation of data professionals.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Andrew shared the top 3 priorities for innovative data leaders in 2024, insights on the impact of AI on data science, his professional journey, current roles and responsibilities as Sr. Director of Data Analytics at Arizona State University, significant career milestone, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

According to you, what are the top 3 priorities for innovative data leaders in 2024?

The first priority is to reevaluate the job that data is meant to serve within the organization. Identify key stakeholders and personals and rate how well the current data strategy is meeting their needs. The second priority is to review the data stack. With rising costs and an explosion of technology, many tools have become overlapping which results in a disjointed data strategy. The last priority is to take this information and identify where new technology can give the enterprise a competitive advantage. For instance, developing an LLM to democratize data analytics or to facilitate a wiki search on proprietary information may result in a significant increase in productivity.

Do you think that data science is perceived to be more important than ever before? And what has been the impact of AI on data science?

Data science is beginning to mature in many organizations. Data science used to be a hot and hype profession. Now teams have hit their stride and are moving from 100% innovation to a more balanced 50% maintenance 50% growth model. AI will impact the bleeding edge and leading companies who have more capacity and appetite for R&D. I believe that most companies are not in a condition where they can effectively take advantage of AI. They need to further develop their data fundamentals.

What can higher education leaders and administrators do to promote a data driven decision-making culture in their universities and colleges to stay ahead of the curve?

A culture of data-based decisions begins with executive support for workforce data literacy. A framework for empowering the average workforce member to interact with, and utilize data is essential for cultural change at scale.

Andrew, can you describe your background and areas of interest?

I have a background focused on international financial compliance and regulation. This experience was a great training ground for data. Understanding critical thinking, complex relationships, and change management made my transition into data a natural move. Now as a data leader, I develop data analytics strategies to drive student success.

Please brief us about your roles and responsibilities as Sr. Director of Data Analytics at Arizona State University.

I work in the Dean’s office and lead teams of data analysts who are responsible for enrollment projections, capacity management, student success research, and data science initiatives.

You are also a Data Science and Analytics Professor at several esteemed universities such as Grand Canyon University, Western Governors University, and Southern New Hampshire University. How do you make the learning experience engaging and effective for your students?

My courses are online. I engage deeply in discussions and work through coding problems 1:1 with my graduate students. I include current events and relate them to learning outcomes.

Your teaching philosophy is deeply rooted in the practical application of theoretical concepts, bridging the gap between classroom knowledge and real-world problem-solving. Why do you think learning theories concepts and practical application are essential in today’s digital era?

Understanding the “How” gets you a job. Understanding the “Why” gets you promoted. If you understand the underlying mechanisms behind data science or analytics models, then you are empowered to automate the easy tasks and innovate on larger processes. If you don’t understand these concepts, then you may be automated out of the job.

What has been your most career-defining moment that you are proud of?

I led a successful initiative to build two complex software applications to comply with global compliance legislation under a very tight deadline.

Who is the one person you look up to and why?

Zach Wilson the data engineer. Zach innovates quickly and drives his own success. He is incredibly transparent and always willing to help.

Where would you like to be in the next 5 years?


What advice would you give to aspiring data scientists?

Learn through doing. Find interesting projects to apply your skills and share your results.

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