Skip to main content

Humanize the Digitized

with Kate O'Neill

Humanize the Digitized

with Kate O'Neill

Download your Lab Notes and get into action!

Whether we are talking about marketing or automation, the human side of things is still relevant and important. We are so excited to have Kate O’Neill on today’s show to talk about humanizing the digital world. Kate is the creator and CEO of KO Insights and an in demand keynote speaker. She is the author of Tech Humanist: How You Can Make Technology Better for Business and Better for Humans and Pixels and Place: Connecting Human Experience Across Physical and Digital Spaces.

She is driven by curiosity and passion and has had an amazing career journey. She studied language and music, created Toshiba’s Intranet, was among the first 100 employees at Netflix, started an agency, became an entrepreneur, and went viral talking about the 10 year challenge and face recognition. This is an amazing interview where Kate shares how technology and humans intersect. We talk about fostering a human connection, how small businesses can use automation, upcoming technological opportunities, and so much more.


Show Notes

[06:16] Kate was a language major. She was working on her undergrad work when the web came about. She built the website for the University of Chicago Language Lab.

[06:57] This was one of the first departmental websites, and she was noticed by a recruiter at Toshiba where she ended up building their intranet.

[07:14] She ended up moving to Silicon Valley, and she was one of the first 100 employees of Netflix. She helped build a lot of e-commerce standards that were new at the time.

[07:42] She was still set on working in tech, but she moved to Nashville for songwriting. Music was always a part of her passion.

[08:45] In college, she majored in German, because she was interested in a UN interpreting career.

[10:32] In early jobs, she left the roles after she felt like she had done all she needed to do.

[12:45] Kate is now the founder and CEO of KO Insights where she focuses on writing and speaking. Prior to that she had a an agency called Meta Marketer.

[14:15] At KO Insights she is trying to create more meaningful human experiences at scale. She wants to reach as many leaders as possible and get them thinking in new ways to leverage data and technology to create more meaningful human experiences.

[16:43] It was a natural progression for Kate to get to talk to different groups and companies and be in front of their leadership and bring them new thoughts and help them think in new ways.

[17:50] Kate's work and income is almost entirely speaking, but she does speak about strategy. She also writes books and articles.

[18:27] Having her books and place helps her articulate what her vision is and what she is putting forward into the business marketplace.

[18:56] The strategy that she does when she partners with other companies is mostly research for her writing.

[20:25] Kate spoke at the Amsterdam Economic Board about technology and AI. She introduced a concept called the tech human metropolis of the future.

[22:20] Automation is really about applying an automated system to anything. It can be software or robots or any type of automation. There are levels of sophistication and relevance that would apply to a small business such as autoresponders or chatbots.

[23:15] The key with a small business just like a big business is to keep the human in focus. The people you are interacting with is who you are supposed to be creating these experiences for.

[25:58] It helps to step back a level and think about your customer, employee, or whoever as a human.

[27:06] Kate shares an example of how Starbucks mobile app is a really good example of human design.

[29:20] Another great example is the New York Snapchat Spectacles campaign.

[31:19] Local brands also have the opportunity to partner with local media and do things that are really innovative.

[32:51] The meaning of place and understanding how community comes to life. Find what is meaningful about your organization or university. Think how place affects what you are offering.

[36:29] Technology always feels like it's changing fast, and it's going to keep changing faster.

[39:17] The future is about the decisions that you make every day. Educate yourself as much as you can and feel empowered to make good decisions and embrace the future.

[44:24] The driving theme of Kate's career has to do with meaning and human connection. She is interested in how technology fosters human connection.

[46:01] We encode ourselves into machines, and we determine the values and biases.

[46:31] Experience at scale is culture.

[50:28] We need to be thinking about how we can make businesses align with good human outcomes.

[53:44] There is never going to be a shortage of API opportunities, because there is too much potential for monetary rewards.

[59:36] Kate had a crush of media exposure in January of 2019. Her book was featured at CES. She tweeted about how data used in the 10-year challenge could be used as data for training facial recognition. Then she wrote a Wired article about it, and that went viral.

[01:02:39] If you are asked to  participate in sharing your information in a specific way, that could be a red flag.

Thank You

Tracy Oswald
Andre Archimbaud


Rob Heath -
Ronan Fitzgerald -


Kate O'Neill