Pablo Maldonado: to make good business decisions, you need to...

Pablo Maldonado is an applied mathematician and data scientist. Originally from Mexico, he’s lived in the Czech Republic for the past nine years, working both in academia and as a consultant to the private sector. At NEWTON, he teaches mathematics and statistics. Here, he explains why a good grounding in these subjects is necessary for everyone in business — unless they’re happy to lose a lot of money…

Tell us a bit about NEWTON’s approach to teaching mathematics and statistics.

Our philosophy at NEWTON is to provide students with tools that they can use in practice, and that they can really leverage in their careers as business leaders. In mathematics, there is a core curriculum that has to be covered, but our focus is really on the usable parts of maths and statistics within a business context. We therefore focus on case studies, on applications, and on using calculations in Excel – we believe it’s far more important that students develop the ability to understand and tackle problems using all of the tools that will be available to them in the real world than that they memorise formulas for an exam. 

And how does this tie in with the overall GBM programme, and the goals of the students on it?

I tell my students to think about mathematics and statistics as what push ups are to sports — when you go skiing, or play soccer, no one counts how many push ups you can do, but it’s one of the things that gives you the strength to do those other activities. And it’s the same with business — logical reasoning is a really core part of business, because you have to make decisions under uncertainty, and that’s basically the whole point of statistics. And you have to analyse situations, taking into account different possible outcomes – that’s the maths part.

So, maths and statistics are the building blocks of good decision making in business?

Yes. I have worked in the private sector as a consultant and one thing I’ve noticed is that there is often a huge gap in understanding between the people who look after the mathematical side of a business, (finances, etc.) and the people who have to make the business decisions — and it’s a shame, because it causes misunderstandings, which lead to bad decisions, which then cost a lot of money.

And how are you feeling about the new term? Is there anything you’re particularly excited about?

I’m excited by this year’s cohort of students – they seem very motivated and participative. Some of them are a little bit shy when speaking English at the moment, but that is already getting better. It’s also great that the programme is growing, both in terms of students and faculty — it’s becoming a big international community, and that’s great to be a part of! 

Are you involved in anything else at NEWTON?

I’m going to be mentoring this term – I don’t yet know who I’ll be working with, but I’m looking forward to meeting them and getting started on that. 

What is your current research focus?

I’m interested in developing ways to prevent the spread of misinformation using technology. At the moment, the majority of my research is focused on signal processing. I’m working with a student from Ukraine on methods for detecting fake audio, also known as audio spoofing. Similarly to deep fakes in video, these are becoming a big problem, so we’re cooperating with a private sector company to look at ways to address this.