Volunteer Spotlight: Lorenzo Rubio

Lorenzo Rubio is a data engineer in Madrid, Spain, and has been working with DataKind as a volunteer for the last several years. He’s one of our star volunteers! He’s made a huge impact on a range of projects related to improving data quality in frontline healthcare. He’s one of the main contributors to the Data Observation Toolkit and continues to help maintain the repo. Learn more about Lorenzo and his DataKind journey below.

How did you first get involved with DataKind?

I was aware of DataKind’s work for a long time. It just made so much sense to me to use Data for Good, and when DataKind first started ten years ago, that was a new idea and it was very exciting. So I was interested for a few years before I got involved, but just couldn’t find the right moment to get involved, partly because I’m in Madrid and not connected to a volunteer Chapter. So I had to find the right project that I could work on remotely. Now, of course, since the pandemic there are many more ways to get involved with DataKind remotely, which has been great for me.

The first challenge I participated in was the Google Challenge, where we worked with Google to manage the applications for their AI for social impact grants. That was my first experience with DataKind, helping sort applications and finding the best ways for Google to support this work. 

What about that experience made you want to continue volunteering? 

I originally worked as a software engineer for years, and when I switched over to data work, I was amazed at the friendly and intelligent community involved and wanted to meet more people doing this work globally. Working with DataKind, not only was the work interesting, I learned so much about the many data resources available. It felt like I found my calling to “give back to the people” by using data and my skills to give more tools to these organizations doing such essential work. 

Conversations around Data for Good have changed a lot in the last years, and they’re constantly changing. I would compare the moment we’re in now with data to when people started using cars. At first, it’s just exciting, but soon people realize that they need seat belts, stop signs, and speed regulations. Data is kind of like that to me, and it’s really important that we understand it and put the right regulations in place to protect people. I felt compelled to work with DataKind because it was really clear that they understood that and are on the right side of this issue.

Which DataKind projects have stood out to you most?

The Medic Data Quality Program stood out to me the most. The part of the project I worked on was focused on an area of rural Kenya where there’s insufficient healthcare access. Local volunteers went around neighborhoods and checked in on people, sort of like neighbors would, asked questions about health and offered services and support when needed. The data from these surveys was used to answer some big questions about the need in these communities, which led to finding ways to improve not only healthcare access but quality of living overall. It’s such a great feeling to be able to give these community organizations access to the insights of data, which could really change the way they work. It really felt like I was contributing to something big and important.

How would you approach someone about joining DataKind? How would you advise someone wanting to volunteer at DataKind?

I would say that it’s really a great place to learn, especially for younger people in the data field. It does require commitment, especially if you’re not connected to a Chapter – to make a real contribution you’d need to be involved beyond just the occasional weekend DataDive event. However, it’s worth doing because it matters. Your time and your skills are valuable, and it’s great to experience that – and DataKind is able to take what you can give. For example, this year my regular job is taking more of my time, so I am unable to participate in all the DataKind projects I would like to, but I do what I can and when my situation changes, I’d get more involved. There’s always some way you can get involved that can fit into your schedule, and the staff are really amazing people to work with.

Other than data science, what are you passionate about?

Well, I am one of those people who are lucky enough to have work that’s also my passion, and contributing to DataKind is an extension of that. But I am also passionate about history and culture, specifically ancient Greece – the language and culture and all the myths around it are just fascinating to me. 

About Volunteer Spotlights

Our volunteers are the lifeblood of our mission. They’ve inspired people to use their skills in ways they never dreamed of. They’ve slayed misconceptions. They’ve shown organizations trying to make the world a more humane place how data science and AI can change the game. We’re honored (and thrilled) to feature their stories in DataKind’s Volunteer Spotlight series. Follow this series to learn about their impeccable skill sets, their work with our brilliant project partners, and what inspires them to give their time, resources, and energy to causes that matter. 

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