How to grow as a data scientist if you are the first data scientist at a company


How to grow as a data scientist if you are the first data scientist at a company

Congratulations - you interviewed for a data science position at a company and got hired! Not only that, you are the first data scientist this company has hired. There are no other data scientists around to show you the ropes and you won't be working as part of a bigger data science team. As you start your data journey in the company by yourself, here's some practical advice for you for how you can continue growing as a data scientist...

You have three areas you need to focus on as you think about your growth path

Now that you got your data science job and are expected to use data science to help the company achieve goals, there four areas you'll need to focus on are a) make sure you are aware of where the field is going, b) bring the learnings into your company, c) share what you are learning and doing with others.

Make sure you are aware of where the field is going

This seems obvious, right? That said, it's important to keep in my since you are by yourself in the company, so it will be up to you to stay abreast of the new techniques that are being used at other companies. You can do this by reading new papers coming out of academic machine learning conferences, reading/viewing/attending industry data sconferences like Strata, PyData, MLconf, and others, as well as reading blog posts and articles from other data science practitioners.

Additionally, you'll also have to know where the field is going in your industry. Luckily, there will be others in the company who can help you with this as they've already been working in the field before you joined and will be aware of all of the literature and conferences that can help you.

As the first data scientist at the company it will be up to you to marry your findings into projects, products, and experiments you can do to help the company achieve its goals.

Bring the learnings into your company

Part of being the first data science hire at a company is the expectation that you're bringing in a perspective and skill set that the company was lacking. Which means as you find others outside of your company to learn from, as others outside of your company show you the ropes, as you use trial and error to figure things out on your own, you will have to turn around and share what you've learned with others in the company.

You are now the ambassador of the data science world to the people in your company and those you come in contact with and rely on your skills and findings. As you have to focus on your work, make sure you keep in mind the other people in your organization.

For example, if you are doing a project with marketing and you run into an article of how Human Resources are using data in another organization, make sure you share it with the HR team. Yes, it's not related to marketing nor the project you are working on with them, but it will be very welcome by the HR team and could potentially lead to work and collaboration between the data science team (you) and HR.

Share what you are learning and doing with others

It's important for you to learn how to communicate with all of the different levels and positions in the company. You will have to go out of your way to make sure your work is seen and that it helps others in the company achieve their goals. This is because as the first data scientist, most people within the organization will not know what you do, how you do it, or what your results should be or could be. So it is very important for you to go out of your way to share what you are learning and doing with others.

By teaching others and bringing them up to speed on data science, not only do you help their stature, you help your stature as well. Additionally, it will lead to a diversity of ideas and paths you can then go back and test. People will thank you and you'll be thankful you took the time to engage them.

As you learn different techniques, programming languages, and ways data and data science can be helpful to the company, share them immediately. Often times, the most valuable aspect of your job will not be getting a slightly more predictive model than before, it will be in being able to help others bring a data-centric view to their jobs and projects. It is by doing this, that you will be able to show the value of having a data science team, keep your job, make people happy, and perhaps even hire more data scientists to grow the team!

Congrats! Now go out and a) make sure you are aware of where the field is going, b) bring the learnings into your company, c) share what you are learning and doing with others.

By focusing in on these areas, you'll ensure that you can not only help the company, but also hire and build a great data science team, and if you need to leave the company, guarantee that you'll be able to get a data science job elsewhere.

Good luck and best wishes!!


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