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The Data Doesn’t Lie: Secrets From The World of Data Science And Advice On How To Map Your Career

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How cool is data? I just attended a panel discussion entitled, “Talk Data to Me” put on by the good folks at General Assembly.

The focus of discussion was how data drives business and product decisions across industries, but also the ups-and-downs of working as data scientist, what companies who hire data scientists look for in candidates and what it is like to be a woman in the industry. Panel members were as follows:

  • Panel Members
    • Jessica Lachs, head of business operations & analytics, DoorDash
    • Lily Jiang, data science manager, Quora
    • Laura Burkhauser, senior product manager, Le Tote
    • Ive Cojuangco, data analyst, Everlane
    • Ling Chen, data science manager, Glassdoor

I live-Tweeted the event. Below is a roundup of the most interesting insights shared by the panel members. I hope you enjoy what they had to say as much as I did!   

 

* * *

 

  •  What is your favorite and least favorite part of your job?
    • Fav and least fav part of job? Fav: working with really rich #data says @lilijiang_data from @Quora | #TalkDataToMe
    • Fav and least fav part of job? Least: having to say no to people due to lack of data says @jesslachs from @DoorDash | #TalkDataToMe
    • Fav and least fav part of job? Least: Having to make decisions really fast says Laura Burkhauser from @letote | #TalkDataToMe
    • Fav & least fav part of job? Fav: the exploration that leads to new ideas & things to fix says Ling Cheng from @GlassDoor | #TalkDataToMe
    • Fav and least fav part of job? Least: when teams put a spin your data! says @poisoniveee from @Everlane
  • Where do you see the data industry going in the next five years and how do you keep current on changes?
    • Where do you see data in the next five years? “Democratization of data within companies.” from Laura Burkhauser of @letote | #TalkDataToMe
    • How do you keep current on the industry? Online courses. Very important, even though not required says @lilijiang_datafrom @Quora | #TalkDataToMe
    • It’s important to learn from the people you work with from all different backgrounds – @jesslachs from @DoorDash | #TalkDataToMe
    • How to stay current on the industry?  Meetings w/ cross-functional teams so we can learn says @poisoniveee from @Everlane | #TalkDataToMe
  • What Skills Are Companies in the Data Space Looking For When Hiring?
    • Skills you’re looking for when hiring? Someone who can solve the RIGHT problems on the roadmap says @jesslachs from @DoorDash | #TalkDataToMe
    • Skills you’re looking for when hiring? Background in #stats, #ML & cultural alignment says @lilijiang_data from @Quora | #TalkDataToMe
    • #Skills you’re looking for when hiring? Scrappiness, #efficiency & ability to communicate says @poisoniveee from @Everlane | #TalkDataToMe
  • As you move up the ladder and focus more on people management, how do you let go of the fun stuff – doing the actual work?
    • As you climb & manage more, how do you let go of fun stuff? Identifying new #data projects helps says @lilijiang_data of @Quora | #TalkDataToMe
  • Is It Important To Discuss Gender In Data Science?
    • Important to talk gender in #DataScience? I’m a data scientist. Not a woman data scientist says @lilijiang_data of @Quora | #TalkDataToMe
    • Important to talk gender in #DataScience? Yes b/c there is skepticism of female ability says Laura Burkhauser of @letote | #TalkDataToMe
    • Important to talk gender in #DataScience? My advice: find female mentors & talk issues thru says @poisoniveee of @Everlane | #TalkDataToMe
    • Important to talk gender in #DataScience? Bonding by M & F happens differently. What I’ve seen says Ling Cheng of @GlassDoor | #TalkDataToMe
  • How Do You Empower Colleagues to Empower Themselves When It Comes To Data?
    • Making #data more accessible makes it less scary to people says @jesslachs of @DoorDash | #TalkDataToMe
    • How do you empower colleagues to empower themselves/approach #data? Empower them w/ tools! says Laura Burkhauser of @letote | #TalkDataToMe
    • How do you empower colleagues to empower themselves/approach #data? Show them how it’s done! says @poisoniveee of @Everlane | #TalkDataToMe

(Note: Some of these Tweets were modified slightly from their original form for clarity.) 

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True Till Death: How Metal and Hardcore Punk Shaped my Career in Public Relations

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The hardcore/metal scene is one formed upon community, friendship and progressive ideas. Yes, it has evolved over time, but for the most part, its ideals have remained the same: choosing to focus on integrity, morality and finding light within the dark.

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The belief system referenced above also exist in public relations.  Sure, the structure, tools and players have also changed with time, but the message and goals have also remained the same.

Share stories with a positive message.  Value your relationships.  Respect your audience’s trust. Shine a light where needed.

It’s not exactly rocket science. The similarities exist because both communities have important stories to tell. I guess that is why I am a member of both.

Below, is a short documentary on Enjoy The Massacre – a Chicago-based metal/hardcore band whose talent is only surpassed by their passion for life and music. The documentary puts the finishing touches on my above-described ideas rather nicely.

An added bonus – fast-forward to 3:42 to hear about the time my band, The Auburn System, played a crack house in Detroit, Michigan while on tour with ETM in early 2008.

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ATTN Gen-Y: This is NOT How You Get a Job (But Here is How You Do)

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I recently agreed to sit down for a professional discussion with the daughter of an acquaintance. A recent graduate seeking a job in professional communications, like many these days, she was having a hard time in a difficult job market. I was more than happy to help. I took a look at my calendar for the next few weeks and passed along my email address explaining I’d be happy to answer any questions she might have. The next day, I received the following email:

“Hello Nicholas,

NAME WITHHELD informed me I should contact you if I had any questions, in which I do. Just one major important one, are you able to find me a job? Haha.”

Take note, Gen-Y. This is not how you network.

I walked off my Alma mater’s commencement stage during the peak of The Great Recession – so, I know a thing or two about patience and determination as it relates to the job hunt.  It took me years to build my network, but it eventually paid off. Finding your dream position – or even a position at all – requires hard work, hours of research, and most important, respect.

The exchange  described above brought back a flood of memories revolving around the dozens of informational interviews I went on during my job-hunting days.

What’s an informational interview you ask?

An informational interview is a meeting between a job-seeker and a professional employed in your field of interest. The normal rules of a job interview apply – etiquette, proper dress and preparation are absolutely required. However, the purpose of the meeting is not to request employment, but to gather critical information that will help you better market yourself. Consider the meeting a fact-finding mission.

At a certain point, I narrowed down the questions that were most important to ask and provided the most perspective. I’ve included them below:

  • What kind of education, skills and background are necessary for a career in this field?
  • How did you start in the industry? What advice would you offer someone who is seeking employment in today’s market?
  • How do you suggest I build upon my existing resume? What entry-level jobs should I be seeking?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing the industry today?
  • Are there any professional associations you recommend I join?
  • Would you be so kind as to recommend someone else who will sit down and answer some similar questions? If so, can I use your name when contacting them?

Along with a little professional courtesy (thank-you notes, etc.) the informational interview can help open doors you never knew existed.  Learn to master them and not only will your employment prospects improve, you can avoid embarrassing faux pas like the one described above.

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