Thanks to Conor Jensen for contributing this blog, originally posted to Renegade Science.

Managing in Data Science is an especially unique challenge, one for which most new managers are unprepared. Last week I had the privilege of speaking at Rev, Domino Data Lab’s conference targeted specifically at data science leaders and it was one of the best conferences I’ve been to. One of the most striking things coming away from it was the depth of management that was there, and the commonalities of the challenges that we face. Going back through my notes, here were my biggest takeaways:

  1. Data Scientists are often making implicit decisions for their companies based on the assumptions they build into their models, and we need to help our teams bring these decisions to the surface for more comprehensive discussion. Cathy O’Neil gave a great keynote around using Ethical Matrices to help this process.
  2. Training for new managers in Data Science is essentially non-existent. Given the high technical bar for practitioners, most new managers have spent a significant amount of time building up strong skills, which leaves very little room for learning management. Some wonderful leaders have emerged, but fighting against the odds (thanks Cassie). As a field, we need to put more emphasis and energy into helping new managers learn their craft and stop expecting them to spend half their time building models!
  3. Many companies are still struggling to make good on their investments in advanced analytics, and while data scientists and their leaders aren’t solely responsible, surely we bear some of the blame. Managing upwards and outwards is a key responsibility of data science leaders that needs to be developed, to set proper expectations within our companies.

A big thank you to all the speakers and presenters that were there, I learned a ton during my 3 days. If you didn’t make the event, I strongly encourage you to try to make it next year. And a shout out to my fellow panelists, Michelangelo and Patrick, and our great moderator Josh. I had a blast speaking with you, hopefully the audience enjoyed it too!