People and Data
I have been working in “data science” for about 10 years now. I began my data science trajectory as a Monitoring and Evaluation Director for a small non-profit trying to optimize our reporting data for various donors and prepare for future bidding opportunities. Since then, I have been working in Asia and Africa under different job titles and in different languages trying to improve decision-making using available expertise and data for both large and small organizations.
I was having dinner with a data science colleague last night and when has asked what my new contract would be, I replied that it was mainly determining what their main organizational questions were, prioritizing them, and in parallel seeing what capacity and time they have to start and maintain systems to answer their questions using data.
At the root of this, I see that people are the most important, at least in most of my work. If I clearly understand the people I am working with, their skills and how they work, I can help design data-related products and systems that suit their needs.
I frequently work with organizations where people’s capacity and time are limited and management may have limited awareness of the value of committed efforts to improve data use. But, if people feel listened to and understood, I have found it more likely that I am able to have impactful and sustained work.
As a data scientist, I believe that relationships and mutual comprehension allows for great work in the data realm. I continue to keep abreast of new tools but, in the end, the people skills keep it relevant.
By: Nicholas Welch