Tricia Wang
Co-founder, Sudden Compass | Global Tech Ethnographer
Diversity & Inclusion
Women in Leadership
Science & Innovation
Artificial Intelligence
Big Data & Data Science
Global technology ethnographer Dr. Tricia Wang, helps companies innovate and grow by integrating big data — all that you know about your customers and your market — with thick data, the human element that is invisible to quantitative data analysis. Tricia is the cofounder of Sudden Compass, a firm that helps companies leverage data to move at the speed of their customers. Past clients they have worked with include Fortune 500 companies to tech start-ups such as Proctor and Gamble to Spotify. She also co-founded Magpie Kingdom, a consultancy that advises companies on how to build off of cultural innovation in China and publishing their popular newsletter on youth and internet culture. She is a recognized leading authority on digital transformation, operationalizing data science, customer experience, and ethics of personal data usage in artificial intelligence. In addition to her work in industry, Tricia has spent decades researching youth culture, social media, and Chinese internet culture.

On the platform, Tricia is a warm and natural speaker, a creative and expressive storyteller. Her work resonates with a wide audience, from C-Suite leaders to data scientists to designers to marketers and to university students.

There is no greater risk than being blind to the unknown.

Reimagine the boundaries of your markets. The categories that yield value from buckets of big data are not enough to guarantee growth. Real growth lies outside the boundaries of the known and not everything valuable is measurable. Tricia Wang helps firms reimagine the boundaries of their markets with tools that reveal how customers really behave. This thick data — their stories, emotions, and interactions — help you rescue the context lost from using big data.

Thick data grounds your business decisions in human questions.

Build new and necessary tools into your firm to operationalize and scale big data practices. How do you probe the social ecosystems that impact your customers’ decisions, especially those customers you’ve not yet engaged? With hands-on, practical tools like Data Framing© and understanding the Networked Customer©, Tricia helps your marketing, technology, design, and insights teams find the qualitative insights that big data quantitative tools can’t provide. And she helps you embed a framework throughout your firm that enables all your teams to work cross-functionally in service of the customer.

We need to invest in socialware just as much as we invest in hardware and software.


  • Tricia Wang combines more than 15 years experience working with technology designers, engineers, and scientists with unique fieldwork researching the cultural and behavioral side of technology use.
  • Tricia has worked with the following organizations: P&G, GE, IDEO, NASA, Clorox, Kickstarter, and Spotify
  • Her TED talk on big data and human insights has 1 million plus viewers
  • She started her career out at NASA as a filmmaker at Sally Ride’s Earthkam program with the International Space Station
  • She has special expertise in the Chinese consumer after spending ten-plus years researching and living in China
  • Tricia holds affiliate positions at Data & Society, Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet Studies, and New York University’s Interactive Telecommunication Program
  • She is a Fulbright Scholar and a National Science Foundation (NSF) fellow
  • She oversees Ethnography Matters, a site that publishes articles about applied ethnography and technology.
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Women's leadership — "From NASA to Nokia"
In this personal talk, Tricia shares her story of what she learned about leadership from Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut, as her boss when she worked at NASA. She goes on to share how she applied what she learned to her job a few years later at Nokia.
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China — How businesses can respond to innovation in China and understand the power of the Chinese consumer
Having spent 20+ years living, working, and researching in China, Tricia offered unprecedented insights into how companies can understand the Chinese consumer. Tricia goes beyond trend analysis to offer real access to understanding real people, since she lived with a wide swath of society and observed how they use the internet in their lives. She lived with migrant workers, spent years with Chinese university students, and was the first Western scholar to research at CNNIC, the equivalent of the USA’s Federal Communications Commission. She helps companies connect to the emotional lives of consumers and create products and business strategies to reach them.
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Decision Making — How organizations need to adapt and change to be successful in a digital era
So many enterprise innovation efforts fall short, not because innovation is bad, but because companies can be bad at making decisions and because the gap between insights and decision-makers in the enterprise can be very wide. Tricia explains why enterprises need a “Dept. of the Unknown” to bridge the gap and make sure insights from the ground can travel all the way up to decision-makers at the highest level. She outlines the central role that data, marketing, and design play in this work as the champions of the “unknown,” Tricia offers a new framework, Integrated Data Thinking©, that allows enterprises to create a shared language that aligns designers, data scientists, marketers, and researchers, and that enabling leaders to make the right decisions for the future of their business.
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Customer-centric Digital Transformation — Business Growth is Customer Growth
Every corporation wants to avoid missing something that could put them out of business. But why are some companies able to spot that “something” and some not? The most successful companies of the 21st Century are obsessed with their customers. Customer obsession is easier said than done. Tricia provides real world examples of how companies can become customer-centric and how they must understand the most important shift in marketing: the emergence of the Networked Customer — those who learn, grow, and make purchasing decisions along networks, the people, platforms, and communities that influence their day-to-day behaviors and decisions. It is impossible to reach the Networked Consumer using only mass-market advertising and traditional marketing communication tactics. Tricia outlines how companies must re-envision their digital marketing practices to meet the needs of the fast moving Networked Customer.
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Data-Driven Culture — operationalize data science
Finally we are able to operationalize data science. To avoid moving a company farther away from its customers, however, we need to pair our technical systems with human understanding. To facilitate this, Tricia Wang offers a framework for conceptualizing how the data revolution has evolved in three phases: Data 1.0: Tools, in which we developed the tools to process, house, store, and present the data. This is the era of traditional databases and old-school businesses. Data 2.0: Skills, in which we found, nurtured, and trained talent to gain the skills to use the tools, creating technical experts. This is the era of the data science “unicorn.” Data 3.0: Communication, in which we scaled data across the organization so that non-technical people can interact and execute with the tools and technical experts. This is the current era, in which we realize that tools alone don’t guarantee success and that unicorns aren’t real.
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Why do we mis-prize quantitative over qualitative data?
Where does our drive for privileging the quantifiable come from? In this talk, Tricia integrates the histories of electricity, computers, and algorithms to help companies understand why there is a bias towards the quantifiable, and how to undo the unprofitable status of the majority of big data projects. She offers specific steps from her consulting work that enable teams to extract actionable insights from their data.
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How to get the most out of Big Data
Why do so many companies make bad decisions, even with access to unprecedented amounts of data? With stories from Nokia to Netflix to the oracles of ancient Greece, Tricia Wang demystifies big data and identifies its pitfalls, suggesting that we focus instead on "thick data" — precious, unquantifiable insights from actual people — to make the right business decisions and thrive in the unknown. To effectively leverage big data, we need insights that come from both quantitative and qualitative data.
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Spatial Collapse: The value of design and data in a world where everything needs to be reimagined
For the first time in our lives we’re grappling with what Tricia Wang calls Spatial Collapse, a phenomenon in which mental models of how and where people physically and emotionally experience and organize their lives compress or splinter apart. The Spatial Collapse of our times initiated by the COVID pandemic collapsed people's lives online, aka rapid digitization. Sheltering in place and working from home meant that we not only spent more time in a single physical place, we also ended up interacting in exponentially more virtual spaces. Almost everything became digitally mediated, including many long-held analog holdouts: funerals, job interviews, weddings, depositions, medical checkups, and more...all from the same place. All this digitization from our modern Spatial Collapse means that companies, governments, and institutions now have more Big Data than ever about their customers, citizens, and stakeholders. But actually, they may know so much less about them if they are still using the same methods prior to the Spatial Collapse. Numbers can only get us so far in a Spatial Collapse when everything has a new context. To flourish in this new world, companies, governments, and institutions must prioritize a strategy around the implications of the Spatial Collapse on how people work, live, play, and identify. The Spatial Collapse is a clarion call for us to rethink how we design physical and digital products, gatherings, communities, cities, and more. Adapting our existing tools and processes will only take us so far. We need to be imagining, creating, and designing in real-time. Everything must be rethought. Everything must be reimagined.
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The human insights missing from big data | TED
Tricia Wang
Interview | Strata + Hadoop 2014
Tricia Wang
Using ‘thick data’ in marketing | TNW Conference 2018
Tricia Wang
The Cost of Missing Something | TEDxCambridge
Tricia Wang
Global Tech Ethnography | American Anthropological Association
Tricia Wang
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