Forget the Data, Love the Business

As data scientists, it is easy to get wrapped up in the data. You go to conferences and get stickers that say “I heart data”, you drink out of “I heart data” mugs, and if you are really on your high priest pedestal you wear a shirt that lets everyone know how much better you are because you trust DATA!

By simply focusing on the data I think we easily miss the point of why we should be in love with the data in the first place. If we really think about what the data actually is and go beyond its physical form, we realize the data is just a representation of the how the business interacts with the outside world.

By bringing our focus back to the business we can avoid some serious pitfalls and allow our work to have a lasting impact. Instead of simply producing models in order to show a working product, we should be focused on understanding the business and what it really needs, and by doing so we go from an employee on the payroll to becoming the “unicorn” that is the data scientist.

So what are the impacts of not loving the business? For starters, you won’t be captivated by the problem you are trying to solve. Although the effects of this may not show up right away, over time your work will have less and less of an impact.

The second pitfall of not loving the business is that you may miss the true problem the business has. This is because you may have a limited knowledge on the how the business really functions. Therefore, by not taking the time to really understand the business, its pain points, and identifying its biggest areas for growth you may miss the true problem you are trying to solve.

So how do we solve these problems? If you are currently looking for a job one of the easiest ways is make sure you are not only looking at the job description of the job you are applying for, but also taking the time to understand the business and the industry the job is in. Does the business model interest you? Have you always been fascinated by this industry? If it does, you will be far more likely to succeed and will have higher job satisfaction, longer retention, and a higher overall impact of your work.

But how do you increase your focus on the business if you are stuck in your current job? One way is to start is by interviewing different people in your company to learn about what they do within the organization. By having these interviews you may learn new things about the business that will spark your interest and give you new ideas. Another way is to research a variety of trends happening outside your company but within your industry, by doing this you may find new trends that spark your interest again.

So whether you are changing jobs or plan on staying within your current role, falling in love with the business is key to higher job satisfaction, retention, and overall impact of any data scientist’s work.