Andrew Ng Fireside Chat with the RSS Data Science Section

On the 10th February the Royal Statistical Society Data Science Section were delighted to host a fireside chat with Andrew Ng, who shouldn’t need any introduction!

It was a great talk and one of my fellow committee members, James Weatherall, has already written a great blog post summarising the event. If you weren’t able to attend, the full session is now available on the RSS YouTube channel.

If you have any speaker suggestions that you’d like to see, please let me, or any of the committee, know!

Are you a 5/5 Data Scientist?

What does this even mean and why are people putting it on their CVs? 🙂

Towards the end of 2020 I was lucky enough to be hiring for several new positions in my team1. Given the times that we are in, there are many more applicants for roles than there was even a year ago. I’ve spoken before about the skills that you need to get a role as a data scientist and there are specific things I expect to see so I can judge experience and competency when I’m looking at these pieces of paper so I can decide who I want to interview.

Sadly I’m seeing a lot of cringeworthy things on CVs that are the fastest way to put a candidate on the no pile when they reach me. These things might get you past HR and also past some recruitment agents, and I wonder if this is why candidates do them. I try and give as much feedback as I can, although sometimes the sheer volume of CVs and the time taken for constructive feedback would be more than a full time job. By sharing some of these things more publicly I hope to pass this advice on to as many as possible.

Continue reading Are you a 5/5 Data Scientist?

Conference season online

October has always been a super busy month for me. I’m usually starting a new OU module and travelling around speaking at conferences and meetups, all while doing my day job, spending time with my family and enjoying my hobbies. Sometimes I’ve not got the balance right! 2019 I remember was particularly hectic. I optimistically submitted conference sessions at the start of the year on a variety of different topics and, as the year went on I was invited to speak at various meetups in the UK and even stepped in to do some last minute presentations where other speakers had dropped out. This time last year I had just finished 8 weeks where I had a week’s holiday, spoken at 5 conferences, 2 breakfast briefings and 8 meet ups, all of which were on slightly different topics!

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Remote Data Science – Interview

Last week I was interviewed by Keith Robinson of Ammonite Data, with a topic of managing data science teams remotely and all the challenges this brings. We had a much more wide ranging conversation where I looked at challenges of communication and even the impact on models that the current extraordinary events will have.

Part 1: Where I discuss communication and mental health while isolated
Part 2: Where I discuss the current data blip, security and consent, and prioritising work in crisis mode.

I hope you find these enjoyable and helpful.

Data Science Courses – the missing skills you need

One of the things that I have been complaining about with many of the data science masters courses is that they are missing a lot of the basic skills that are essential for you to be able to be effective in a business situation. It’s one of the things I was going to talk about at the Women in AI event that was postponed this week and I’m more than happy to work with universities who want to help build a course1. That said, some universities are realising this is missing and adding it as optional courses.

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How much maths do you really need for data science?

My LinkedIn news feed was lit up last week by a medium post from Dario Radečić originally posted in December 2019 discussing how much maths is really needed for a job in data science. He starts with berating the answers from the Quora posts by the PhD braniacs who demand you know everything… While the article is fairly light hearted and is probably more an encouragement piece to anyone currently studying or trying to get that first job in data science, I felt that, as someone who hires data scientists1, I could add some substance from the other side.

Continue reading How much maths do you really need for data science?

Getting a first job in AI or data science – what candidates need to know

Me in Lego – well not really, but it does look a lot like me 😉 – this was a very fortuitous collector fig from Series 18.

Getting any role in IT can be daunting as a first timer, whether it’s your first ever job or you’ve changed career or you’ve had a break and are returning as a junior in a new field or anything else.  Getting one in any part of AI can be even more of an up hill struggle.  Job posting and recruitment agencies are asking for PhDs, academic papers and post-doctoral research as well as years of experience in industry.  How can you get past that first barrier?  I get a lot of people asking me this when I present at Meet-Ups so thought I’d collate everything into one post.

I’m going to break down how you can demonstrate the skills that businesses need and how to talk confidently about what you can offer without the fluff.

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Agile Data Science: your data point is probably an outlier

It’s not often that I feel the need to write a reactionary post as mainly the things that tend to inflame me are usually by design.  However today I read something on LinkedIn that caused a polarisation in debate within a group of people who should really appreciate learning from different data: Data Scientists.


What was interesting was how the responses fell neatly into one of two camps: the first praising the poster for speaking out and saying this, supported by nearly an order of magnitude more likes than the total number of comments, and the second disagreeing and pointing out that it can work.  What has been lost in this was that “can” is not synonymous with “always”  – it really needs a good team and better explanation than many companies sometimes use.  What irked me most about the whole thread was the accusation that people doing data science with agile obviously “didn’t understand what science was”.  I hate these sweeping generalisations and I really do expect a higher standard of debate from anyone with either “data” or “science” anywhere near their profile. Continue reading Agile Data Science: your data point is probably an outlier

Cambridge Analytica: not AI’s ethics awakening

From the wonderful XKCD, research ethics

By now, the majority of people who keep up with the news will have heard of Cambridge Analytica, the whistle blower Christopher Wylie, and the news surrounding the harvesting of Facebook data and micro targeting, along with accusations of potentially illegal activity.  In amongst all of this news I’ve also seen articles that this is the “awakening ” moment for ethics and morals AI and data science in general.  The point where practitioners realise the impact of their work.

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”, Oppenheimer

Continue reading Cambridge Analytica: not AI’s ethics awakening

Incentivising data scientists

One of the regular Data Science discussion breakfasts. Thanks to all who attended.

I chaired a breakfast meeting for Women in Data Science recently, and one of the topics for discussion was how to retain talent. While demand is outstripping supply and the market is going crazy, it’s enough of a minefield finding good people  in the first place.

Add to this that even after you’ve made an offer to someone, recruiters will be contacting them regularly to try to tempt them away to other roles. It’s impossible to prevent this. I’m a big believer in not playing games with recruitment – I know what I can afford and won’t get into a bidding war. If I’m paying a fair salary and they go elsewhere for money, then they are more likely to jump when a recruiter calls regardless of how well you incentivise them. This isn’t a big company or small company thing, if you want to keep hold of your team after you’ve done the very hard job of hiring them then you need to understand what motivates them and either make sure that you continue to provide those needs or plan to be hiring again in the next 12-24 months. Continue reading Incentivising data scientists