Gladys Kong is the CEO of UberMedia, a mobile location data company that is headquartered in Pasadena, California.
In this exclusive interview, Kong discusses the importance of making data actionable and the many opportunities available in the data science field, particularly those involving the use of mobile data.
TechNewsWorld: Could you briefly describe your career? How did you get where you are today?
Gladys Kong: My background is in tech. My degree is in computer science. I started out working in a research project at UCLA. Then in 1999, the Internet happened, and I started working at The Idea Lab, where I gained a lot of experience working with entrepreneurs.
I learned that I loved working with startups and building tech companies. I joined UberMedia as CTO in 2012, and I worked on building the technology and learned a lot about mobile. In 2015 I became CEO, and I really wanted to learn the business side of things.
Why do you have a passion for mobile technology and data solutions?
Kong: My first introduction to data solutions was working at UCLA when I was pursuing my master’s degree. I was working on a project to help the military find an easier, more human language to query a database. We were figuring out how to make it easier to get information into a pilot’s hands.
I saw that data could be a source of a lot of answers, and figuring out how to get information from data was very interesting to me. When I came to UberMedia, part of the discovery was how data in mobile apps can help in monetization and understanding consumers to give them a better experience.
We started looking into mobile data in general, and that involved a merging of my two passions in a fast-paced, innovative environment. Those two combined make it very compelling for me. I’ve been continuously learning and innovating, and keeping up with the fast-paced mobile world. I have a passion for learning, and you can never stop because so much is evolving all the time.
What does UberMedia do, exactly, and how is it unique in the industry?
Kong: UberMedia provides actionable locational intelligence to businesses in order to help them make better decisions. It could be something like where do I open a new store, or it could be that I just ran a marketing campaign — and did it drive traffic to my store?
We provide data so that companies can make better decisions. UberMedia is about high-quality data, and we also make it actionable. You can have a large amount of data, but the first question businesses ask is, how does it help me?
We help answer real business questions with data. We have built a lot of toolsets over the years to help businesses get the insights they want out of the data that we have.
You’re on the board of directors for Innovate Pasadena. Could you describe what that organization does and why you are committed to its work?
Kong: Innovate Pasadena is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting innovative communities and connecting them to people who call Pasadena home.
I’ve been here since I attended college, and I’ve lived here ever since then. My entire career has been built here, and my children have been raised here.
I like helping Innovative Pasadena build awareness and support for STEAM Education, and I also like bringing in new businesses, encouraging entrepreneurship, and connecting businesses to people who can help their careers.
What are some of the recent trends in mobile advertising and location-based marketing?
Kong: Mobile advertising and location-based marketing are getting more and more data-driven, both in targeting and analyzing results. Advertisers are trying to understand more about the consumer’s journey. They want any insights they can get their hands on in order to understand the consumer.
They also want to measure the results of their advertising dollars. Advertisers are trying to measure the effect of their advertising dollars on foot traffic.
Location measurement is becoming a much more important part of advertising, so a lot of our focus at UberMedia is to make data actionable in order to help businesses measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. Marketers are focused on finding the right customers, but they are also measuring and learning about the results of their campaigns.
What would you recommend to young people who want to get involved in this field? What should they study in college, and what kinds of jobs should they look for when they get out?
Kong: There is a huge demand for data scientists. There are a lot of majors that can lead to a career in data science, and there are even data science majors. In general, having a solid background in math and science is often helpful. Having programming skills is also a huge plus because then you can write scripts and input data on your own.
The key factor, though, is having a curious mind and strong analytical skills. The field is moving so fast, with so much innovation. Everything can change, but you still need to analyze and ask the right questions. It is vital to have a curious mind and an interest in learning because this is a field that is constantly evolving.
How is the relationship between mobile technologies and data science evolving? What’s in the future for this field?
Kong: Today, all consumers carry a supercomputer in their pockets in the form of a smartphone. I think that the demand for data will only grow as consumers spend more time on their mobile devices.
We are consuming more content on our mobile devices, and so much of our behavior has switched to mobile. Businesses will have to find a way to leverage data they can get from mobile devices, whether it comes in the form of location-based data or, in the future, voice apps or even robotic devices.
Data will be coming in, in some form, and companies that are data-driven and continuously evolving in the field will be most successful.