Working “in the Wild”: An Interview with Korean Air’s Dante Dionne
SPSP member Dante Dionne has worked in corporate America for 25 years, helping businesses grow by introducing new technologies and creating innovative solutions to provide new features, products, and capabilities to both organizations and consumers. Some highlights from the interview are below. For greater detail and additional questions, you can access the full interview.
SPSP: Could you tell us about how you’re working in an applied setting and any research you’re doing that ties into that?
Dante: In my role here at Korean Air, we’re part of a larger conglomerate in Korea that has academic universities, hospitals, hotels, shipping, trucking, air cargo, the passenger airline business, and also many other smaller subsidiary businesses that I have the chance to get involved with.
The cool thing about being able to do research in industry is that it’s live; it’s not secondary data. Universities have great opportunities to collect data and gain insights. I have a penchant for really understanding people “in the wild” and why they are doing these things. It’s extremely fulfilling, and I feel extremely honored and accomplished to be able to do my work.
SPSP: When you’re collecting data, what kind of data are you collecting, and what does that look like?
Dante: That leads into some of the advantages of working and doing data collection in a non-academic setting. I can pilot test my instrument – let’s say I’ve created a survey. I can send it out to a few people to test it, and then to a small team to pull that data, and refine it before I push it out to a larger community.
I have a fixed progression for creating the instruments and collecting the data. The data typically has to do with social interactions and the constraints or the purposes of why people interact the way they do. I did research on replacing two-way radios that almost all airports and airlines use. The infrastructure has been in place for almost 50 years, so it’s the known value.
I worked with several external hardware and software vendors to pull together equipment that I could hand out to personnel to research the effectiveness of replacing two-way radios with smartphones. I ran into the environmental factors of noise and loudspeakers.
Collecting data in this environment is challenging due to these environmental factors that may always be changing. There may be a plane at the gate that doesn’t have its jet engines on. That person can communicate using the smartphone and I can collect and analyze the interactivity data. But when the jet engine’s on, it’s going to cause some impediment, right? That’s an example of some data I collect.
There are also interviews, observations, my notes on my observations, and so forth. Data can be collected in numerous ways, and then I can go get secondary data, like sales data or customer call center data. Accessing all of this data is like a birthday party and you’ve got 15 presents – where do you start? So that causes challenges - knowing where to start, what to put first, what to put last, and so forth.
We’re looking for immediate benefit, whereas in academia, there may be more postulating; “Well, we know that companies could benefit from this.” The question that never really gets answered is, “Should they?”
For example, virtual reality is awesome and we know that people would love it, but is it mature enough now, when is the right time to do it, and does it make sense economically? Those kinds of questions add complexities that we look at through the studies I’m doing.
SPSP: What advice would you give to others who are considering working in a non-academic setting?
Dante: If you already have experience in a non-academic setting, you may have some ideas about how you can contribute or add value in either a public or private organization. Look for challenges in the environment, and design your experiments around ways to overcome those challenges.
There is so much opportunity for young scientists to come in, especially with new perspectives, on how we use and adopt new technologies. It may be as simple as how people come into the office or utilize equipment, but also how they communicate and share information.
Thank you to Dante for taking the time to share his insights with us.