Data Science mentorship


#1

Hello world!
Has anyone ever had a mentor in their life? If you are one of the lucky few who had - you know how helpful it is to know a person who’s gone through the things you’re going through, and can advise and help and point in the right direction…

I’ve been fortunate to have a few mentors in my professional life, with primary focus on corporate world in general.
However, I work for a company with data initiatives being years behind, and I literally have no one to learn from. I just kind of figure stuff out by myself, which takes time and is very inefficient, but there is no one else to ask.
Don’t get me wrong - there are many brilliant business people, finance people, accountants, managers, computer scientists… But there are no data scientists.
It’s sometimes sad to a point of willing to quit. If you’re the smartest person in the room - you’re in the wrong room (don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not the sharpest pencil in the box, but when it comes to data and R - I’ve got no one to learn from)


And I am just an example. Not to make me just about myself, I was wondering: what do you think about an idea of mentorship in data science. A setup where a youngblood data scientist could engage one-on-one with a seasoned professional, ask questions, get guidance and advice?

Also, if you happen to be that experienced professional, does the idea of paying forward to the new generation interest you?

I have no idea if something like this exist, and if not - how exactly to implement it. Just voicing this idea. Or maybe just screaming into the void.


How to pitch data science workflow to your employer?
#2

I felt like that for a long time at my old company. I had smart fellow data analysts, but we favored tools and procedures that led to irreproducible results. I learned a ton online from tutorials and communities, from books, and later from my masters degree program, but I’ve learned the most from switching jobs and being around other data scientists and data engineers.

There are formal data science mentorship programs like Thinkful, but I think it’s more like a data science bootcamp at a high fee than what you’re looking for. I think this community at RStudio is pretty great. There are also others through Google groups and Slack, but it can be hard to know the quality of the feedback if you’re just starting out or new to a concept. Without a dependable certification program, I’m not sure how you would know whether you could trust the unknown mentor to deliver sound advice.

I guess I don’t really have any good answers to your question… Just wanted to say I’ve been there and can relate.


#3

I spent a few years as the only data analyst at a company. One thing that was very scary about learning R and putting the skills into practice is: while I got plenty of results out of the data, I had nobody to check with to see if my code made any sense, or if the output was worthwhile.

I was very happy when @eric_bickel and some other folks helped to start the Louisville R Meetup. We have a nice community of R users from several different backgrounds coming together to talk about what we’ve done and what we’ve learned. It’s not exactly a mentorship situation, but it’s been a great experience. If you don’t have something similar in your community, I would very much encourage you to start one.


#4

Ha!
This then goes back to my other thread here! Haha


#5

@rkahne is spot on - having that community has been a great experience. That said - there was a litle bit of pre-work done by someone who we need to convince to join this RStudio community. He asked around in a couple of other tech/data Slack channels to get a feel for interest before diving in. Once he knew there was interest, he hosted the first one on his own at his place of employment (minimal planning on the first meeting, minimal downside) - and in that first meeting, ended it by asking for folks to volunteer their time. A handful of us raised our hands (including @rkahne!) and from there we formed a planning committee. There’s three core members who focus on planning these things out - and it makes it so much easier with even just three people.

Instead of talking you out of starting one - I want to talk everyone into starting one! It’s been a great resource, and we now have ~25 folks attending each meetup (even on a Monday night most recently!)


#6

Community has been something I’ve missed so far on my journey learning more about R and datascience. A lot of the technical knowledge is out there, but a community makes it a lot easier to find. Work can be a great place to find that community, but it isn’t guaranteed. The RStudio community seems to be fostering a good environment so far for helping this.

I’d certainly be interested in a mentorship, but I’m wary of asking for something that costs me nothing and someone else valuable time!


#7

I’ve learned it is not an outrageous ask. I asked several executives in the past to be my mentors and did not hear a “no”. It is well understood by people who made it up to the top floor that you need to send the elevator back down. I am kind of hoping for the same understanding in DS community.

I’d say be realistic about your mentor targets though. I once got connected with some senior level exec at Boeing in charge of data science there. We met once and exchanged one email. That’s it. He couldn’t commit more time to me, and I understand that. Should have tried a person a few levels below him…


#8

In my experience, when mentorship is done well then both the mentor and the mentee benefits. A good mentor doesn’t see it as a strain on their time, but as a valuable learning opportunity for them. Simple example: when I was explaining some R concepts to someone with no R knowledge, it forced me understand R to a much greater extent.


#9

This is a great point. I’m also in the camp of “first evangel of R” at my work, and one thing I’ve learned from helping others learn R: lone-wolf programmers aren’t risky because they don’t understand the language (that’s easy with documentation); they’re risky because it was never a requirement somebody else understood the code.

I may not have learned many new functions or packages from those I’ve helped, but I’ve certainly learned how to organize programs.

That and most people enjoy talking about things they enjoy doing. Find an analyst who likes using R, and you’ve probably found a mentor who’ll like teaching you R.