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Employee Spotlight: Rob Stewart-Ingersoll


Rob Stewart-Ingersoll

Date Published

Apr 16, 2023
7 minute read
Rob Stewart-Ingersoll

The world is awash in data. And as we’ve covered on this blog before, the biggest issue with all that data isn’t technological, it’s social. That’s because relying on technological tools such as AI and machine learning will only take an organization so far. The greatest advances in managing big data will be in creating human organizations that can think critically and creatively at every level, from entry-level analysts to CEOs.

That’s why we’re proud to introduce Rob Stewart-Ingersoll, The Clearing’s new Director of Data Analytics, Tools, and Methods. Rob’s deep experience with efficient and effective use of data will equip The Clearing and our clients to develop the human-centric approach required to thrive in an increasingly information-rich society. Today, we’ll get to know Rob and learn more about what he’s working on at The Clearing.


A Journey Fueled by Data

I have always been interested in data. However, I began to work with data in a thoughtful, informed way while attending graduate school. I studied political science and international relations and was particularly interested in how globalization was impacting human rights around the world. I enrolled in a program that was very quantitative in orientation. Along with our courses on international relations and political science, we studied statistics, different types of analysis, and various research methods. I learned how to ask questions effectively and discovered how the role of data could play in helping answer those questions. Notice I said “helping.” That’s because even the best dataset can’t answer questions for you – it takes human analysis to turn data into answers (more on that below).

I became skilled at pulling data from a variety of different sources and conducting analysis on large data sets. As my academic career advanced, I found more and more of my focus on data work where I was thinking in an empirical way. That empirical mindset – one that is focused on understanding questions and outcomes – is what led me to full-time work with data.

When I left academia, I moved on to work for a travel technology company- where I supported the development of their data practice. There, it became very clear to me (and it’s been reinforced a number of times since) that there’s something that happens when we start talking about data. Data becomes an entity in itself – either people glaze over and shut out of the conversation or they become hyper-engaged. However, I noticed the focus was often on languages, tools, or data itself and that’s understandable – it’s easy to go down that route. But as I alluded to earlier, data is only useful if there’s context and interpretation. Cutting-edge tools are certainly helpful, but the analysis is what gives data purpose in the work. That was a big lesson for me in that first post-academic experience.


It’s not about having the data and figuring out what to do with it, it’s about defining the question or goal and gathering the right data to answer or realize it.


Why The Clearing – and What Makes it Special

I’ve enjoyed every stop on my data journey, but the challenges The Clearing helps clients solve was a huge pull for me. The prospect of using my data capabilities to solve problems that have a ripple effect beyond just the agencies we work with was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Since I arrived, I’ve found The Clearing’s data ethos dovetail with mine. It’s all about data’s purpose, not data for data’s sake. And true to what it says on, that purpose is using data for people-first solutions.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in the tools we develop. Whether it’s understanding patterns of communication throughout organizations or analyzing organizational culture, we’re accomplishing innovative work on new assessment tools and methodologies that use data to dig deep into the issues that concern our clients and impact their people. Then, we’re deploying those tools and reporting back results that are scientifically and rigorously grounded that lead to concrete action items. We’re truly utilizing applied data science in service of better experiences.

The other great opportunity is using this data philosophy to help clients think about and develop their own data strategy. That covers everything from how data is collected to the technology used to facilitate and store it. Particularly in the Federal space, many organizations are using outdated technology which limits the efficient use of data. It’s rewarding to help government leaders turn the page and create a data ecosystem that meets modern customer needs, improves employee and customer experience, and enables them to better serve their mission.


Tips for Creating Your Own Data Mindset

As we covered earlier, using data successfully isn’t only about technology or tools. While those help, approaching the work with an empirical, open mindset is the key to making the best use of the data at your disposal.

Here are four tips I keep top of mind whenever I start a new engagement.

  • Set measurable goals. The first activity leaders should do is set measurable goals and start measuring at the outset. This is critical for telling an effective story or making the case for change using your organization’s data.
  • Start with “why.” When in doubt, go to why. As in, “why do I want to know this?” Thinking about how you answer that question is key to building a data strategy that actually answers it.
  • Automate for accuracy. Automate as many steps in the process of data collection as you can. Each step along the way opens the opportunity for unintentional human-error. So it’s better to limit human touchpoints as much as possible, acquire clean data, and analyze from there.
  • Be curious. Be curious about the insights that data can offer. With the right questions and analysis, you likely have access to a treasure trove of valuable information.

Speaking of being curious – if you’re wondering how well your data strategy is serving your organization or ready to revamp how your agency approaches data, I am always available to chat. Email me anytime at