The most inspiring list, with our Top 21 Influencers in Data for 2021
This annual list, comprised of pioneers, entrepreneurs, and rising stars, recognizes emerging talent in the fields of data and analytics for 2021.
They come from all over the world and the most diverse industries and backgrounds: from NGOs and academia to exceptional talent within some of the world’s biggest tech companies. Their passion for data is contagious, and this list is a tribute to the work they do every day to ignite change that inspires us to understand and use data in new ways.
If you’d like to stay on top of the next best thing in the data space through the industry’s most brilliant minds, I recommend you follow these superstars across their respective platforms, and keep a close eye on their posts, ideas, articles, and activity. Please see full list below in alphabetical order.
1. Benjamin Arnulf
Senior Director, Product Strategy, Analytics at Oracle
Benjamin is a data powerhouse, an AI, Data and Analytics strategy leader with 15+ years of international experience in Europe and USA implementing top-level analytics, strategic & innovative technology solutions, as well as tactics that drive efficiency, cost savings, and revenue for Fortune 500 companies.
He is on a mission to simplify and unify Oracle Analytics, AI, and Machine Learning, as well as advising the top global analytics leaders. To do this, he isn’t only versed in Oracle Analytics but also Power BI, Tableau Server, Google BigQuery, Domo, IBM Cognos, Essbase, Birst, Qlik, SAP Business Object, SQL Server, Fusion Analytics, Google Cloud, OCI, AWS & Azure.
It’s no coincidence that Benjamin was awarded #1 Global leader in data warehouse & big data for the Oracle excellence award. Prior to joining Oracle, he spent 15 years at Hertz in various senior BI and Analytics roles. Expect big things to come from Oracle!
2. Afua Bruce
Chief Program Officer, DataKind
Afua is the Chief Program Officer at DataKind, a global nonprofit that harnesses the power of data science and AI in the service of humanity. Named one of Fast Company’s top 10 innovative nonprofits, DataKind helps mission-driven organizations unlock their data science potential ethically and responsibly.
Afua is the former Director of Engineering for New America’s Public Interest Technology program. Prior to that, she spent several years working in senior science and technology positions within the Federal government—at the White House and at the FBI.
During the Obama Administration, Afua served as the Executive Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s National Science and Technology Council at the White House. While at the FBI, she led work on data challenges, technical project management, process improvement, and strategic change for the Bureau’s engineering, lab, and financial programs.
3. Boaz Farkash
Boaz is currently the Chief Product Officer at Firebolt, the next-gen data warehouse built to deliver extreme speed and elasticity, enabling organizations to solve their impossible data challenges. Firebolt is based on the latest developments and research in the field of big data analytics, which enabled them to create the world’s most powerful cloud data warehouse and offer it as a service.
Boaz is a seasoned product leader with vast experience in data engineering and real-time analytics. Prior to Firebolt, Boaz was one of the first team members at Sisense, a software analytics unicorn, and contributed to its high growth for over a decade serving as its VP Product. Boaz launched The Data Engineering Show with his brother Eldad, a podcast for data engineering and BI practitioners to go beyond theory, and learn from the biggest influencers in tech about their practical day to day data challenges and solutions in a casual and fun setting. Their guilty pleasures include analyzing data pipelines and beating each other in endless query performance battles.
Want to see Boaz in action? This Firebolt demo on YouTube shows a first-time query executing in roughly 1.3 seconds on an 8 node cluster against over 20 terabytes and 42 billion rows of data.
4. Carla Gentry
Senior Data Scientist, Analytical Solution
Upon graduating from UTC with a double major, Applied Mathematics and Economics, Carla moved to the Chicago area to start a career in analytics. During the past 19+ years, she has worked with Fortune 100 and 500 companies including but not limited to, Discover Financial Services, J&J, Hershey, Kraft, Kellogg’s, SCJ, McNeil and Firestone.
Back in 2011, Carla funded Analytical Solution, a consultancy to leverage her experience, bringing everything she learned about data, software and other analytical tools as well as predictive models, algorithms, data structure and language in order to make the best insights available for business decisions. Acting as a liaison between the IT department and the Executive staff, she takes huge complicated databases, deciphers business needs and comes back with intelligence that quantifies spending, profit, and trends.
5. Vincent Granville
Founder & Publisher, DataShaping
Vincent is a post-doc from Cambridge University with 20 years of corporate experience (Microsoft, Visa, eBay, Wells Fargo, NBC). He founded and publishes DataShaping.com, a digital library with eBooks, articles and tutorials covering original, off-the-beaten-path content in machine learning, operations research, statistics, dynamical systems, mathematics and related topics.
The emphasis on DataShaping is on applications, the style is compact, and many illustrations are provided, including source code and Excel spreadsheets. Concepts are explained in simple English, avoiding jargon and arcane theories.
Prior to DataShaping, Vince was Executive Data Scientist, Co-Founder, and Managing Partner at Data Science Central, an industry leading online resource and community for data practitioners, covering Machine Learning, AI, Data Science – which was acquired by Tech Target in 2020.
6. Kent Graziano
Chief Technical Evangelist, Snowflake
Kent is an internationally recognized industry expert in Cloud and Agile Data Warehousing as well an award winning author and speaker in the areas of data modeling, data warehousing, and data architecture.
He is a certified Data Vault Master, Data Vault 2.0 Practitioner (CDVP2), Knight of the Oaktable Network, and Oracle ACE Director (Alumni) with over 35 years of experience, including more than two decades designing data warehousing and business intelligence solutions (in multiple industries).
In addition to writing dozens of articles on data management, he co-authored multiple books related to data modeling including “The Data Model Resource Book”, “The Business of Data Vault Modeling”, and “Super Charge Your Data Warehouse”, the technical book about Data Vault Modeling.
7. Vini Jaiswal
Sr. Developer Advocate, Databricks
Vini is fascinated by how Machine Learning and AI can improve people’s lives, connect the world, bring advancements in healthcare, agriculture, the environment, communities, and more. Professionally, she works across various industry verticals to consult on Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Analytics use cases.
Prior to Databricks, Vini was Citi’s VP Engineering Lead for Data Science, where she drove the product engineering efforts to architect a highly scalable Data Science Platform, microservice architecture on Global cloud deployment spanning 50 Hadoop clusters, Apache spark, with ~7500 servers across 10 Citi data centers hosting ~36 PB data and ~97PB of storage!
In addition, during the Covid-19 pandemic she volunteered as a technical advisor for DS4C (Data Science for Covid-19), a non-profit organization founded by data analysts and machine learning researchers (PhDs) who wanted to contribute to fighting COVID-19.
8. Andreas Kretz
CEO, Learn Data Engineering
Andreas has been recognized by LinkedIn as a Top Voice in Data Science & Analytics in 2018 and 2019. His company Learn Data Engineering has courses and tools to help people get into data engineering. At Learn Data Engineering, they help anyone learn through courses and coaching in their academy, as well as free content on YouTube, GitHub, podcasts and more.
He is helping any curious mind to learn the essentials data engineering, the plumbing of data science: building up big data platforms, figuring out how to ingest, process and store data to enable Data Scientists to do awesome stuff for customers, and how to use tools like, Hadoop, Spark and Kafka.
His goal is to provide all the resources needed to learn data engineering and also to provide a platform for collaboration. Ready to learn more? Check out Andrea’s Data Engineering Cookbook and his YouTube channel.
9. Ben Lorica
Principal, Gradient Flow Research
Formerly O’Reilly Media’s, Ben is a Data Scientist with unparalleled experience. He has been an advisor to some of the fastest-growing companies in the data space including Databricks, Anodot, Matroid, Pathmind, and Metaphor Data.
Ben has applied Business Intelligence, Machine Learning and Statistical Analysis in a variety of domains including Financial Engineering, Direct Marketing, Consumer and Market Research, Targeted Advertising, Search Marketing, Web Analytics, and Text Mining. He was previously Program Chair of Strata, the A.I. Conference, and TensorFlow World.
In 2019, Ben launched The Gradient Flow, a website that provides a rich array of valuable content on data and technology, with a focus on data, machine learning and AI. In addition, he produces The Data Exchange podcast, an independent podcast focused on data, machine learning and AI.
10. Dave Massage
Director, Data & Analytics – Strategy, Growth & Digital, KPMG
Dave is an analytical, hands-on business leader with 20 years of experience in a variety of data analytics, strategy, & transformation roles across a number of sectors including banking, finance, telecommunications, public sector and professional services.
He leverages data and technology to solve complex business problems that inform business decisions, leading to significant step changes for businesses. Dave’s passion lies in bridging the gap between data analytics and business strategy, empowering organizations to build trust and create value out of data through the effective management of data assets and leveraging the right data analytics to accelerate trusted answers to complex questions to unlock, protect, and enhance organizational value.
Earlier this year, Dave was recognized as one of the Top 25 Data & Analytics leaders in Australia by the Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia (IAPA).
11. Zandra Moore
CEO and Co-Founder Panintelligence
UK-based Zandra, co-founded Panintelligence, a SaaS data analytics platform that provides dashboards, reporting, and predictive analytics, in a single no-code solution built for cloud deployment.
In addition, she founded the No Code Lab, a community connecting like-minded enthusiasts, opening up the conversation around no and low code. She is also a Founder of the Lean in Leeds Circle in Leeds, one of the largest Lean In circles in the UK with a membership of 800+ and growing.
Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, and Zandra has been recognized as one of the Top 50 most ambitious business leaders 2020 by LDC. She won the Northern Power Women mentor of the year 2020 and received the IoD Director of the Year Innovation Award in 2020.
12. Jordan Morrow
Head Of Data, Design and Management Skills, Pluralsight
Few people have led the efforts towards data literacy at scale like Jordan. His energy and talent is helping organizations close the data skills gap and establish a data-centric culture, through the upskilling of individuals and workforces.
As the Head of Data and Design/Management Skills at Pluralsight, the premier technology skills learning platform, he helps individuals and organizations realize their potential. Pluralsight’s program is designed to help people learn and improve their data capabilities and gain an understanding of how to effectively use these skills and prepare them to work with the large amounts of data found in modern organizations.
Prior to Pluralsight, Jordan led and developed the world’s first and premier data literacy program at Qlik, winning numerous awards, both internal (President’s Award) and external. Before that, he was involved in the development of the Business Intelligence group for the United States Consumer Card group at American Express.
13. Steve Nouri
Head of Data Science & AI, Australian Computer Society
Steve is a data science leader who has evolved the way people look at AI and innovations. An author, academic, and technical leader by profession, he aims to inspire people through the latest technology trends and projects and empowers prospective data scientists through high-quality education and learning materials.
He is a member of the Forbes Technology Council, ICT Professional of the Year Gold Disruptor, and an accomplished influencer on LinkedIn. From humble beginnings as a junior software engineer, he has worked in different IT roles before joining the Australian Computer Society as the Head of Data Science & AI. As an AI evangelist, he has spoken at countless international conferences run by IBM, JP Morgan, CSIRO, AWS, Tie Con and DataScienceGO.
He currently lives in Sydney, Australia, and spends his time sharing technical knowledge with prospective students and advising public policy towards a more sustainable and beneficial understanding of AI and deep tech.
14. Amanda Obidike
Founding Curator of the WEF Global Shapers, Executive Director of STEMi Makers Africa
Amanda is a certified professional in STEM by the Open University, United Kingdom and Team lead of The Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Innovation Makers of Africa (STEMi Makers Africa). Amanda has created sustainable and implementable projects in over 75 under-served communities across 17 Sub-Saharan countries. She focuses on preparing the next generation of innovators with technology emerging tools, real-world problem-solving skills needed to excel in lucrative fields, and how to become more experienced for Africa’s workforce by 2030.
Amanda’s expertise spans from Project management and Operations, Education and Community building, to Technology and Data Science. Her volunteer experiences are as rich and diverse as any. She has been a mentor at the New York Academy of Sciences, Cherie Blair’s Foundation for Women, The Global Thinkers Forum, 1 Million Women to Tech and has even volunteered at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
15. Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro
Data Scientist, KDnuggets President
Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro, Ph.D., is the president of KDnuggets™ a leading site on AI, Analytics, Big Data, Data Mining, Data Science, and Machine Learning. Gregory is a well-known expert in Business Analytics, Data Mining, and Data Science and is a top influencer in the field. He was no. 1 on LinkedIn Top Voices in 2018 on Data Science and Analytics.
Gregory is the co-founder of KDD (Knowledge Discovery and Data mining conferences) and co-founder and past chair of SIGKDD, a professional organization for Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining. He has over 60 publications and has edited several books and collections on data mining and knowledge discovery. In 1991, Piatetsky and William (Bud) Frawley edited their first book Knowledge Discovery in Databases. He also helped launch and co-edit the Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery journal.
Gregory’s body of work has been awarded throughout four decades. In 1984, he received NYU’s Award for Best Dissertation in Computer Sciences, PhD Thesis: “A Self-Organizing Database System – A Different Approach to Query Optimization”. In 2007, he received the IEEE ICDM Outstanding Service Award, for major contributions to the data mining field. These are just a few examples of Gregory’s contributions and recognitions – he continues to push the envelope in the industry!
16. Joe Reis
CEO, Ternary Data
Joe is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ternary Data, a company made up of veteran data engineers and “recovering data scientists” who have firsthand experience with the challenges of succeeding with data. Ternary Data helps companies get more value from their data by focusing on the three pillars of a solid data foundation – data architecture, data engineering, and DataOps.
Joe is a self-confessed data nerd, and loves discussing the latest trends and tools in data science, data architecture, and data engineering. In fact, he is the co-host of the Monday Morning Data Chat podcast. Every Monday morning (clue in the title!), Joe has candid and unscripted chats about data alongside his co-host Matt Housley – plus some great guests!.
In addition, Joe launched the Data Nerd Herd YouTube Show, a fantastic forum with interviews and group discussions with top minds in data. There are plenty of ways to make the most of Joe’s wide reach through his shows and podcasts, so you can also succeed with data.
17. Benjamin Rogojan
Data Engineer at Facebook & Seattle Data Guy
Benjamin is a Seattle-based Data Scientist & Engineer with extensive experience designing ETL pipelines, databases, websites, and other software products for startups and enterprises. Benjamin is currently a Data Engineer at Facebook.
In addition, he runs the successful brand “Seattle Data Guy” – a website and blog designed as a resource to provide industrial-strength data science for businesses of all sizes. Their guiding compass and belief is simple: data provides the bricks we build all our conclusions on in business and life. Benjamin’s goal is to help create strategies and cultures that revolve around data.
18. Natalie Schibell
Senior Analyst, Forrester
Natalie is a Senior Analyst at Forrester serving healthcare leaders. Her research helps healthcare organizations leverage digital technologies to improve workflows and healthcare outcomes.
Prior to that, she served as a public health analyst at the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. She deployed with the Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force, where she spearheaded digital transformation and operations coordination for the National Wastewater Surveillance System, a $19 billion data surveillance project mitigating COVID-19.
She previously served ten years in the US Navy’s Medical Service Corps, leading large-scale multidisciplinary teams to winning performance as a director of public health and then as a director of operations for healthcare talent acquisition. She is presently serving as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy Reserve.
19. Kate Strachnyi
Data Visualization Specialist & Founder of DATAcated
Kate is an all-round superstar and that’s why she made our list for a second consecutive year. Her brainchild, DATAcated, helps companies reach their audience. She specializes in LinkedIn content strategy for companies focused on innovation in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and data science. The DATAcated Academy offers on-demand and live training on data visualization and storytelling. In addition, the DATAcated Conference brings together the data community and provides fun and informational sessions to her audience in a live and interactive format.
In addition to the plethora of DATAcated initiatives, Kate is currently building over a dozen Data to Dashboard courses that can take you from looking at ‘data’ to designing a ‘dashboard’ using several tools: Tableau Public, Power BI, Qlik Sense, DOMO, Sisense, Excel, Datawrapper, Google Data Studio, Looker, Python (Plotly | Dash), R (Shiny), Chartio, Thoughtspot, etc. If you’re looking for advice on which dashboard or visualization tool to use… you should follow Kate!
20. Sadie St. Lawrence
Founder & CEO WomenInData.org
Sadie is the Founder and CEO of Women in Data, an international nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in technology and get more women in the C-Suite. She was the first female data science teacher to teach on the Coursera platform and has trained over 300,000 people in data science. Her work has been featured in USA Today, Dataversity, and she is the recipient of the Outstanding Service award from UC Davis.
Women in Data has been rated as the #1 Community for Women in AI and Tech, and is leading the movement to get more women into relevant tech jobs, and support them on their journey to the C-Suite. Currently, Women in Data is in 15 countries with over 45 chapters, and has a community of over 20,000 individuals.
Sadie is a courageous, visionary, and compassionate leader who believes in putting people and outcomes first. In addition, she serves on multiple start-up boards, is the host of the Data Bytes podcast, is a highly requested speaker, and an artist.
21. Kevin Tran
Senior Data Scientist, Stanford University
Kevin has over seven years of progressive data science and machine learning expertise, having spearheaded a myriad of data analyses from the ground up across numerous organizations, most notably spanning the following industries: law, financial technology, insurance technology, and education.
Kevin’s pioneering applications of data science are remarkable. For example, he helped lawyers at Ogletree Deakins in estimating total liability exposure for clients associated with several multi-million dollar, class-action lawsuits. He also invented proprietary Monte Carlo simulations to predict the settlement value of multi-million dollar, class-action lawsuits – a first in the legal profession, which led to a Data Driven Award in 2018.
Recently, Kevin worked alongside LoanHero’s Chief Risk Officer, developing credit and risk models that were responsible for LoanHero’s risk and fraud management, accounting for over $100 million in collective transactions. In addition, as the first data scientist on the Robo-Advisor team at Credit Sesame, he spearheaded multiple data science initiatives within the organization.
A Little About Rivery
Rivery is an end-to-end DataOps platform that gives organizations control over their data through data ingestion, transformation, orchestration and management.
Moving beyond the traditional ETL platform, Rivery speeds up the entire DataOps workflow with automation and process simplification in a single SaaS platform. The world’s leading companies, including Bayer, Mars, and American Cancer Society, trust Rivery with their data.