Tamr’s Andy Palmer on Diversity in Tech & A.I.’s Data Challenge

As 2017 comes to a close, we’re surveying business and technology leaders from around our network to get their perspectives on the year in tech—and what’s next.

Below are the highlights from our e-mail exchange with entrepreneur and investor Andy Palmer, the co-founder and CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Tamr, a “data unification” software company. (Palmer previously co-founded Vertica Systems, now part of HP.)

Xconomy: If you think public perception about the tech industry turned for the worse in 2017, what should the industry do to rebuild trust in 2018?

Andy Palmer: I think that increased awareness of gender equity issues and sexual harassment is the most positive change in our industry over the past 12-plus months. The first step in fixing a problem is awareness of that problem, and we’re in the first stages of everyone in tech (large companies as well as startups) realizing its breadth and scale. It will take a long time and tremendous effort to fix, but the sooner we start, the better. A key component of fixing this over the long term is to hire for and ensure diversity in all levels of [an] organization, something we’ve been super-focused on this year at Tamr.

X: What’s your boldest prediction about the tech industry in 2018?

AP: I believe that large companies who are aggressively pursuing applications of artificial intelligence will realize that even the best A.I. is useless without great, unified data. Large traditional companies will quickly appoint chief data officers and build data engineering into the core of their businesses to compete with digital-native Internet companies that are trying to consume traditional industries.

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