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Alumni Interview: Graham Henke

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Graham_Henke_InterviewPicGraham is a CUSP graduate from the Class of 2015. He is also a co-founder of ARGO (Advanced Research in Government Operations) Labs. Graham talked to us about his time and skills gained here at  CUSP, and the the road ahead in urban science for him and New York City.

Go back to your first week at CUSP – what excited you the most about joining the program?

The potential to leverage new technologies to address city problems, and to acquire new or complementary skills was attractive as someone with a Computer Science background.

Which course made the biggest impact on you during your time as a CUSP student?

A combination of Civic Technology Management, and a course with ITP (Interactive Telecommunications Program) called The Quantified Self About Town. The two courses complemented each other, marrying sensors in urban contexts and civic technology. The new company that a few of us CUSP graduates founded, Advanced Research in Government Operations (ARGO) was built on these lessons, and it’s essentially where our flagship product, SQUID (Street Quality Identification Device) came from.

Which skill acquired during your time at CUSP has proven most valuable in the workplace?

I learned to holistically manage a project from concept to delivery. It’s more of a soft skill – how to move an idea through the tools, workflow and users, to see what needs to be built.

Change comes in many shapes and sizes — how are you changing the world after CUSP?

I’m continuing to develop affordable solutions for cities and addressing their operations challenges at ARGO, focused on the efficient delivery of a few research products. I’m also with CUSP still, as ARGO helps architect CUSP’s data facility to best operate for future students.

What did you wish people knew about NYC? Have you gained any unique perspectives on NYC?

The fact that not everyone has a smartphone. There are important demographics that aren’t so easily served, or reached with data. Addressing the city’s challenges is more than just writing the next killer app.

Favorite current city project?

LinkNYC. I’m excited about the idea of blanketing the city in gigabit internet. It will enable lots of work with sensors that can constantly stream data.

New York’s biggest challenge?

Affordable housing.

The best way to see NYC?

To physically go out on the streets and see them. Go walk through the neighborhoods you’re studying. You learn about the people, and might find little gems for yourself.

Where was your favorite place in New York City for study breaks?

I enjoyed walking around Brooklyn Bridge Park. It was close, but still far enough to get away from the work. And then there are the incredible views of Manhattan where you can really get a big picture.

Favorite piece of data science wisdom?

Data is just a representation of the problem you’re studying. It’s not a complete picture. It’s something we learned in Data Governance class: learning a dataset that describes a problem can create a bias.

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