Last Tuesday, Steph joined Lorien at our Data Science event which explored the value of data science in business strategy and gave tactical advice for implementing a data science initiative successfully.
1. Hi Steph, thanks for joining us and thank you for your presentation at the data science event last Tuesday. To start with, we wanted to find out what attracted you to data science as a career?
Well, I don’t think anyone grows up necessarily wanting to be a data scientist! I started out as a product analyst blending marketing with analysis. The company I was working with at the time had quite limited internal data and I found the problem-solving aspect of it quite interesting. As part of that I learnt SQL and eventually moved into the BI team. After that, I moved to a different organisation that was more focused on predictive analytics and started up on a modelling piece and it went from there. I guess it happened quite organically really – I really enjoy solving problems so it was quite a natural fit for me.
2. Tell us about your company, Locke Data – what inspired you to set it up?
Working for myself was a plan for my thirties! I wanted to be my own boss and spend time on my community work. It seems to be going well; I’m very busy at the moment which is exciting, so we’ll just have to see what happens. In a year or so I might expand out, but I don’t have any immediate plans at the moment.
3. You help everyone from C-suite members through to companies just starting up with their data strategy. What’s your golden rule for getting started?
Make sure you get good data. It’s important to encourage different users to share their data with you in a clear format, but it’s also important to process and store the data effectively. Without one, the other’s next to useless.
4. What’s the most interesting or innovative thing you’ve ever heard data science being applied to?
Language. People are complicated and languages reflect that – using data science to translate slang and make it relevant is very interesting, particularly when you consider how much language has changed over the past couple of decades. Skype for instance is doing real-time translations so we’re moving towards universal communication. It’s amazing!
What are your big predictions about the future of data science? Is there anything that you think businesses should be investing in now to safeguard for the future?
I imagine there will be some quite high profile failures, such as data and security breaches that will necessitate more rigour around the process and making it operational. As more businesses hinge on it, more work will be needed. The more sensitive the marketplace, the more highly regulated it will need to be.
5. We were interested to hear that you’ve been awarded Microsoft’s Most Valued Professional (MVP) award for their data platform, and that you’re one of only 500 globally. Can you tell us a bit about how you got your award?
To be honest, it wasn’t something that I really expected – I was nominated for it and it was a bit of a surprise when I was awarded! I was quite involved in the Microsoft community from an early age though. I started running the local SQL Server user group at 24 and I’ve been running a few since then. I started organising conferences at 26. Over the past few years I’ve organised and presented at quite a lot of conferences, both nationally and internationally. I think I got MVP because of how I straddle the data science and database worlds, teaching each about the other people.
Overall though I would say that most MVPs don’t actually go after it, they get awarded it because of the things they’re already doing and would be doing even without the award.
6. Have you noticed any difference in terms of engagement or interest in your network since you got the award? Do you feel like it’s opened a lot of doors?
Not especially! There’s lots of things you can do when you’re an MVP, though, such as posting content on Microsoft’s Channel 9 [a site with vlogs and features from Microsoft experts], or blogging on the Microsoft platform. You are also invited to attend and speak at different Microsoft conferences around the world, which is another great way to share knowledge. The conferences are also normally live-streamed too so you can watch them at home – that’s something that I like to do to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the community.
7. Do you have any advice for other people working toward their MVP award?
Do what you do best – blogging, presenting, supporting in forums – but don’t do it because Microsoft might recognise you. You can tell the people that are truly passionate from those that simply want the award – it never works!
Apart from that, there’s a huge network out there that you can learn from. ‘Data Science for Business’ is a great read for someone starting out as it gives you the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ in quite straightforward terms, but there’s also plenty of books, blogs and vlogs that have some really useful and interesting information.
8. We’ve written a number of blogs recently on how to become an MVP, including our most recent one on your MVP persona (social butterfly etc.) So, what do you think your persona would be and why?
It would have to be the ‘school ma'am’. I do a lot of organising of events to help people advance their knowledge and I focus a lot of my time on helping people get started. I'm most interested in enabling people to learn and giving them the passion for continuing their studies. I like to host sessions that show people the ropes and hopefully give them the confidence to keep on learning.
A huge thank you to Steph Locke once again for joining us last week and for her insightful presentation into the world of data science. We hope to have you back again soon!