Data Science Boot Camp: Week One

My name’s Alexander Chituc, and I’ll be your foreign correspondent in Brussels, regularly reporting on the diHub and the data science community here in Belgium. I’m an American, I studied philosophy at Yale, and I’m one of the seventeen boot-campers for the di-Academy.

It might be an unconventional way to start a Data Science Bootcamp, but the first week was devoted to working on our communication skills with Martine George, PhD, professor of Management Practice at the Solvay Brussels school of Economics and Management. The Director and Head of Marketing Analytics and Research at BNP Paribas Fortis for nearly four years, a database analysis manager for three years, a lecturer on Business Analytics for five, now Martine was teaching us about our personality types and how to effectively communicate with each other, upper management, and potentially, coworkers with drastically different styles of communication.

week-1

The main objectives of our training were to make us aware of our own communication style, to learn to adjust the presentations on the results of analytics to different audiences, and how we could convince clients of the importance of our results.

We learned our communication styles through using the Process Communication Model, a tool that “enables you to understand, motivate, and communicate effectively with others.” On the first day, we received our profiles determined by the results of a questionnaire we had taken the week before.

personality-resultsan example of a personality profile

The model divides people into six “base” personalities, with one “phase.” My own “Structure of Personality” had a base of Thinker (organized, responsible, logical), followed by Persister (dedicated, observant, conscientious), Rebel (spontaneous, creative, playful), Imaginer (calm, imaginative, reflective), Promoter (adaptable, persuasive, and charming), and Harmonizer (compassionate, sensitive, warm), in that order (I wont get into too much detail about the different types, except to share the fun fact that in earlier versions of the model, my base personality type, Thinker, was named “Workaholic,” but if you’re interested in learning more, you can visit the website).

six-personality-typesThe second day we focused on communication with managers and giving presentations taken into account what we had learned the first day.

One important aspect of this was writing good one-pager, something a busy executive can quickly read to understand what exactly you’ve learned in your analysis, how you did it, and what to do now. We went over some example one-pagers and explained where they went wrong and how we could improve them: making sure the business question is clear, making the conclusion explicit with an actionable next step, and removing any unnecessary information when explaining the method. No matter how exciting or interesting you might find the methodology of your report, executives and upper management typically don’t.

We also spent a good portion of the second day learning about giving presentations, and how to alter your presentation given a potential change in time. With focusing on governing thoughts, story boarding, and logically organizing our ideas, you can turn a thirty minute presentation into a five minute presentation if the need arises, and vice versa. After some work with Martine, structuring the major key ideas she wanted to express, Annelies gave a great five minute pitch for an app she wanted to build using using data science, and she could just as easily turn it into a thirty minute presentation.

The biggest take away from our training was to target the right group with the right message, and to cater your message not to your own communication style, but the communication style of your audience.

It was an unusual way to start a bootcamp, but communication is an often neglected skill for a data scientists, and beginning this way really put an emphasis on its importance. Next week we would be moving on to Predictive Modeling in R and Data Visualization and Story Telling.

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