As a Data Scientist, you are currently in high demand and in a hot market. That is not about to change any time soon.
So on the one hand, you can ignore this article.
Yet on the other hand, given the 40+ big data projects we’ve delivered for Contexti clients, we’ve had a lot of interactions with Data Scientists inside companies of varying sizes and industries and my observation is that Data Scientists are leaving value on the table for themselves and are therefore limiting their career and leadership trajectories.
There are probably a number of reasons for this, but primarily it’s because Data Scientists are allowing themselves to be pigeonholed into being ‘just the data person’.
You will have greater value as a Data Scientist when:
- you have established credibility BEYOND being just the data person
- you get a seat at the strategic table to discuss the business and customer context; and
- your efforts result in measurable impact on the organisation
So here are 7 ways you can increase your value as Data Scientist:
#1 Know the business
When you are on the ‘same page’ as the business you will engender a deeper level of conversation, you will ask better questions, you will push back on the right issues and overall you will command the respect of your colleagues beyond your analytics brilliance. You should know and be able to quickly articulate key business and profit details such as:
- what industry you are in;
- what are the top performing product / service lines;
- what are your best channels to market;
- who are your primary customers;
- who are your most strategic partners (and why? what’s in it for them);
- who are your biggest competitors and what is their strategic or competitive advantage;
- who are your likely unexpected competitors and
- who is going to disrupt you or your industry externally ◦ etc •
#2 Get to know your Customer’s Customer
Don’t settle with just understanding the ‘Marketing’, ‘Risk’, ‘Operations’ departments as your customers. While they may be your direct customers, you should also care to learn about your customer’s customer. Who are they serving? Request that you join your customer when they meet with their customers, this will give you another level of context, perspective and depth in understanding the ‘end customer’. By getting to know your customer’s customer, you will think differently about the problem you are solving and you will have a different conversation and create a higher level of rapport with your direct customer.
#3 Beyond the WHAT and the HOW…. Ask WHY
It’s easy to jump into problem solving mode. The question is are you solving the right problems? Often you’ll have clarity on ‘What’ you need to do and given your skills you’ll know the ‘How’. To increase your relevance and value, make sure you are also clear on the ‘WHY’. By understanding the ‘Why’ you will think creatively about the problem and solution – if you understand the ‘why’ you may recognise you’ve been tasked with the incorrect ‘what’. Even the conversation of the ‘why’ will help build trust between you and the people you are collaborating with. •
#4 Step away from the data
To get context and perspective, step away from the data, models and charts and put yourself in position to observe what you are meant to be measuring or solving in its physical form. Things beyond the numbers will jump out at you that can dictate the success or failure of your solutions. Certain industry nuances, the political landscape of the organisation, the organisation’s readiness to adopt change, culture and values, the user experience and the customer journey will all give you greater levels of insight beyond the numbers.
#5 Seek the ACTION
The best insights, not executed will create zero value. So in addition to understanding the ‘why’, seek to understand the ‘actions’ that will be taken given your insights. Often this will be outside of your domain or direct sphere of influence and that is exactly the point. To move beyond being ‘just the data person’ you should seek clarity (accountability) from your colleagues on what will be done with your insights, in what time frame and how you and your colleagues will be informed about the impact.
#6 Build bridges with people
The right team composition is critical to ensure success with data projects. In addition to Data Scientists you need customer advocates, subject matter experts, platform architects, platform engineers, data engineers, platform administrators, marketing/operations/risk/legal experts etc. So as a Data Scientist, build relationships with these colleagues, they are all important contributors to delivering success. You will learn from them, you will teach them and most importantly you will have established a bridge, which will raise your value. •
We often hear Data Scientists need to be ‘story tellers’, often this is only interpreted as ‘story telling with the numbers’. I suggest that you should not to wait for just the ‘story with the numbers’ part of the project before you find your voice. It’s important to bring people on the journey and you can do this by communicating (over communicating). Share with them your understanding of the ‘business’, your knowledge of the ‘customer’s customer’, the ‘why’ of what you are working on, the insights you gained by ‘stepping away from the numbers’ and how you expect the your insights to be turned into ‘actions’ to deliver value. Share with people your experimentations, your success, failures and learnings. You will learn from their feedback and corrections, you will build respect with your openness and willingness to share and teach and you will establish your voice in your organisation.