16 minutes | Sep 26th 2019

Structuring Your Data Science Dream Team

The way you organize your data science team will greatly affect your business’s outcome. This episode discusses different structures for a data science team, as well as top down versus bottom up approaches, how to get data science solutions into production organically, and how to be part of the business while remaining in contact with other data scientists on the team.Mark Lowe: Having lived through small scale, two people working, to large scale, thousands of people in your organization, the way that you organize the data science team has dramatic effect on its productivity.Ginette Methot: I’m Ginette, and I’m Curtis, and you are listening to Data Crunch, a podcast about how applied data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are changing the world. Data Crunch is produced by the Data Crunch Corporation, an analytics training and consulting company.Building effective data science processes is tough. Mode, the data science platform, has compiled three tips to make it a bit easier: don’t over plan, there’s no one process that fits everyone, and waste time. That’s right. Waste time. Read more at mode.com/dsp M O D E.com/D S P.Today we’re going to talk about effective ways you can organize your data science team, and we’ll hear lots of great insights from our guest. Let’s get to it.Mark: My name is Mark Lowe. I’m currently the senior principal data scientist here at Valassis.Curtis Seare: Describe just a little bit about what Valassis does.Mark: So we work with pretty much every major manufacturer retailer in the U.S. Our work kind of runs the gamut in terms of solving problems for them in terms of how do I influence customers. And so we manage a lot of print products that go reach every household, every week and of course a lot of digital products. So everything from display advertising, campaign, search campaign, social. Pretty much any distribution mechanism that can influence customers, we try to use those channels.Curtis: And in working on these problems we talked a little bit about earlier what the approaches for data science. Some people try to bin it in a software development kind of a role, an agile role, and how that usually doesn’t work for data science cause it’s more of an experimental type of a thing. Can you comment on its similarities and differences and how you should be approaching data sites?Mark: I think that’s a great question. Honestly, if you, if you asked me 10 years ago if this was an interesting question, I would have found it very boring. But having, having lived through small-scale, two people working, to large scale, thousands of people in your organization, the way that you organize the data science team has dramatic effect on its productivity, and there’s no one size that fits all. Honestly, you kind of have to cater the organization of the data science team to where the company is. For example, the two common models that are deployed and, and we’ve, we’ve lived in both of them is kinda thinking about data science as an internal consulting group. So I have a a pool of data scientists. Stakeholders throughout the company come to me and ask, they say, “I have this problem. I think it needs data science” and then the data science lead or team.Yes, we do need a data scientist working on that. Here’s a person with that specialty. So kind of farming out individuals on the team to solve particular problems. So it’s a fairly centralized organization and that, you know, there’s a lot of benefits to that. One, you’ve got strong sense of community as a team. Oftentimes you’re very tightly organized together. You function as a data science unit. You can try to make sure that you’re putting the right skillset for the right problem. As you know, as you’ve talked to that, there’s, there is no one definition of data science, there’s no one skillset. So oftentimes the data science team has a mixture of skills across the team,
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