The Viz: An Interview with Arunabh Arora
We sat down with Arunabh Arora, Senior Solutions Architect at Velir to talk about designing systems from the ground up.
In this episode, you will learn:
- The hardest part of being a senior solutions architect (0:53)
- How to work with really large scales of data (3:58)
- The key to effective data visualizations (5:13)
"One of the most important things in data visualization is to understand your data... to understand the story you’re trying to tell."
Video Transcript (Edited for Clarity)
[Public Interface Intro]
Mark Stiles: Welcome to Public Interface, I'm Mark! Joining me today is Arunabh Arora, colloquially known as A2, the Senior Solutions Architect at Velir. Today we're going to be talking about designing systems. A2…
Arunabh Arora (A2): Hi guys!
Mark: Thanks for joining me!
A2: Thanks for having me!
Mark: The most important thing I really want to know, is what are you doing on a daily basis? What kind of problems are you solving?
A2: I work with a lot of clients that start their system from the ground up. They come to us with like a clean sheet—they want to build their Sitecore tree, and they come up with the requirements, but I think I think the hardest problem of all that I solve on a daily basis is integrating with a lot of different marketing technologies. Each client has a different mix of what their search engine is going to look like, what their video platform is, what kind of marketing tools they are using like Marketo, Salesforce, AddThis—there plenty. One of the challenges that I face on a daily basis is that I need to understand the details of how these marketing technologies actually work—how does the CMS work, and what's the business case I'm solving for. The idea is that you want to marry the main CMS system and your marketing technology so that to an extent your content author has the cleanest, most efficient way to do what he needs to get done.
Mark: And with this—not that any of this is easy—but what is the hardest problem that you really try to work on?
A2: I think I think the hardest problem is keeping up with the updates—keeping up with what's going on what's new. And it's not only just keeping up with the same kind of software because each client has a different mix of these technologies—somebody asked Coveo, somebody has Solr, and somebody could be just using Lucene. There are so many variations on what could be going on in a solution so it's just it's just hard to keep up with what a client has, what do they want in terms of solutions, what's a business case this business case they're solving for—and so I think I think keeping myself up to date with all the software and technologies is kind of the hardest part.
Mark: What are the clients doing with the systems that you’re building?
A2: There are lots of different things they’re doing. One of them, for example, is that Marketo sends email campaigns out to their clients, so our customers send them to their clients. You can create the emails from Sitecore, keep the user segmentation in Marketo, and keep the user profile data in Salesforce. And once integrations are done all three of these talk to each other and the email is sent out almost on a daily basis. So that's one of the things that they do. One of the other things that I work with very often with clients is data visualization. They come with like a lot of data—they have this huge Excel spreadsheet that contains a lot of data that let's say for example needs to be represented on a choropleth map—just so just everyone knows what choropleth map is—it's basically a thematic map that has shaded regions or pattern regions all across the map to represent a variable that is our data. So, for exampl,e population density or per capita income things like that can be plotted on a United States map to show the differences between what per capita income is in California and compared to Massachusetts so on and so forth.
Mark: Working with data is so difficult right? Because you have so much data. How do you end up working with really large scales of data?
A2: So, one example of really large scale of data that I dealt with the same component—once it was built the client came back to me and said, “You know, this is great but what we want to show is a varied range of data.” So basically what that means is if you're trying to plot something like earthquake magnitude or pH of a solution—pH value—so what happens is that there are a lot of gradients. The data starts from 0 to 10 and then from 10 to let's say 10,000 there's nothing and then it goes from 10,000 to a million—how do you plot that? How do you put that on a scale? It’s hard. So, the solution there is a logarithmic scale. There's more variation so you see the whole map, more varied more colored, and you're able to tell the difference between the data there.
Mark: For a potential client that would want to do something with data visualization what kind of things from your experience should they know about?
A2: Data visualization is a tough thing to work with. There are a lot of tools out there. There are a lot of different kinds of visualizations that you can use to map your data. So, one of the most important things in data visualization is to understand your data to understand the story you're trying to tell. All of these numbers are actually just telling you a story. You could use a bar graph, a line graph, a bubble chart, a choropleth map, a heat map—there are so many different variations like pie charts that you can use to represent your data so the idea is that you should understand your data and should know what the right tool is to represent it. Once you do that, I think it automatically tells the right story.
Mark: My last question is when you really have to concentrate and really get down and chew on a problem what do you do?
A2: I hop on my bike and go on for a bike ride. The longest I've gone so far 75 miles…
Mark: That’s some problem…
A2: [Laughs] It just gives me time—I'm on my bike I'm going down this trail and I'm thinking about solutions, or I don't know—thinking about a lot of things. So, it helps me get my thoughts together and get me focused.
Mark: All right thank you for sitting and talking with me.
A2: Thank you for having me.
Mark: So that's our show. Follow us on Twitter (@Velir)—let us know your thoughts in the comments, and as always watch us next time as we implement another episode of Public Interface.
[Outro Music and Closing Credits]
Today’s Guest: Arunabh Arora
Produced By: Velir
Director: Mark Stiles
Assistant Director: Chris Brady
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