What does our digital data tell about us, and how can we benefit from it?

Leen De Schaepdrijver


What was my dream when I was little?

When I was little, I was 200% certain that I would work with children, be it in day-care, as a teacher or as a paediatrician. As the oldest in a family of six, and with loads of younger nieces and nephews, I enjoyed nothing more than taking care of, and playing with, my younger siblings and family. I love kids and have always been fascinated by the way they look at the world. Their curiosity and urge to discover the world around them, without any prejudice, is something incredible.

Although I’m not working with kids in everyday life, I try to be around them quite often since I do believe that it broadens our view. Their fascination with the world and unbiased curiosity is something that I try to apply in my own research, although that often proves to be a challenging task.

What am I doing when I am not working on my PhD?

A good balance is extremely important to me, and I value my time with my family and friends more than anything. When I am not working on my PhD, I’m probably enjoying some good food (although I’m not too crazy about having to prepare it myself) and even better company. I’m always on the lookout for new experiences and I love to travel. Immersing yourself in other cultures and worlds teaches you more than any book will ever be able to. Moreover, escaping from everyday live and breaking away from routine every now and then, is just so refreshing to me. It always gives me new energy to put in my work and research.  

What is my PhD about?

My PhD is about how contextual intelligence (read: your digital footprint) can enable companies in offering more relevant experiences. As a consumer, we leave a trail of digital data behind, and many companies are looking for ways to use that data in order to improve the experiences with their brand. Especially now, when privacy concerns raise very highly, the challenge lies in offering better experiences that benefit the consumer in the first place, rather than only the company itself.

Why is this important for practice?

Having a better understanding of their customers is something that companies have been trying to do since the beginning of times. There has never been more data to do so, in real-time and on an individual level, than there is now. However, it is not because that data exists, that companies can just exploit and monetize it without restrictions. Today more than ever, consumers are very aware of their privacy in the online world and companies need a good answer to the question “What’s in it for us?” before getting access to consumer data. Knowing how to use consumer data in a way that benefits both the consumer and the company, is extremely relevant in a rapidly changing, digital-focused world.

How do I like to be remembered after my PhD?

I would love to be remembered as a researcher who is eager to solve questions that actually matter to businesses, with fresh ideas and an open mind. I’d be more than happy if people would think of me as someone who is meticulous in her research, while keeping a pragmatic approach. I don’t like to do research for the sake of research, so I do hope that the business world will find value in my work.

More importantly however, I hope my colleagues remember me as a joyful, enthusiastic person that wants to learn and improve continuously.

How do I see my future?

I would love to keep challenging myself, and hope to keep growing as a person both professionally and in my private life. I want to be in a job where I can surround myself with interesting people, have enriching interactions, and am challenged on a daily basis.

Want to know more about Leen?

Check out her cv page.

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