Your communication skills are both a product and a tool

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Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

As a hiring manager, there are some essential skills and characteristics that we look for when hiring a data scientist, such as strong knowledge in Python, SQL, R studio, and skills in research, machine learning, and statistics. But the number one skill that will set you apart from the competition is your communication skills. Surprisingly, little time and effort are devoted by most quantitative professionals in developing this soft skill. This represents an excellent opportunity for data scientists to build communication skills to stand out during an interview or excel at your daily job.

One of the most significant gaps that I see across STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) candidates regardless of their experience, college attendance, or education level is their inability to communicate effectively, which means the failure to articulate the “whys” and “hows” of the job. Why they want the job, how they define the business purpose, how they prepared the data, how they selected a measure of success, or why they selected that methodology over another. Most candidates have the technical acumen or the degrees to support the hiring. But what distinguishes great candidates who will likely receive an offer is their ability to explain the purpose of a project: why was it necessary to solve it, how were the results applied, what was the value of the work to the organization, what were the critical limitations of the work, what were the assumptions made because of lack of data or any other considerations. The ability to narrate a process extends beyond the interview since soft skills are needed every day. …

A chief data scientist’s journey

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Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash

Recently, a young professional asked about my career practices and decisions on my way to leadership roles. That question seems to come often lately, so I decided to write them down and share them. I am not a career expert, but I hope my career journey will motivate and inspire you to be the best at whatever you choose to do. I believe that we shape our careers with the choices we make and the practices we adopt.

1. Work in many domains. My career has taken me from performing experimental work at Los Alamos National Laboratory to working in Washing to D.C. as a technical advisor to Wall Street as a Chief Data Scientist. In each of these transitions, I asked myself how much new knowledge would I gain if I take this opportunity because it is essential to separate opportunities from temptations when evaluating changing domains. Opportunities will help you grow as an individual and as a professional, and by growing, you can make more impactful contributions to any organization. Opportunities feed your internal drive to be a lifelong learner. They force you to examine your life and career goals because we all want to live a life of contribution. Contributions are how you find meaning in what you do and how you live a successful life. The most defining moments in my career have come when I have added a new domain of expertise to my tool belt. …

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Be a great “scientist” rather than just a “data” scientist

I want to relate a story about a great scientist name Jocelyn Bell who discovered radio pulses made by neutron starts. While working on her thesis, she was examining the output of the chart recorders by hand. She observed some anomalies, a “bit of scruff” as she called it, that did not fit the patterns produced by quasars. There was something interesting that was producing these bursts of radio waves going through her telescope. Eventually she eliminated all potential sources and concluded that they were made by neutron stars. This discovery was awarded the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics. Her discovery is remarkable but noticed the following. First, she was analyzing the data by hand. Second, she knew her instrument, her tool so well not to be fool by it. Third, she did not dismiss the anomaly as an outlier to her trained eye like any other “scruff.” The anomaly actually looked interesting to her. …


David Loaiza

Experienced Chief Data Scientist with proven history of hiring, building and leading teams in finance, in policy making and in R&D.

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