Creating or Finding Value as a Data Scientist

Creating or Finding Value as a Data Scientist

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By Jose Quesada

Hi, this is Jose Quesada for Data Science Retreat.

Today let’s talk about a word with no clear definition but has much meaning: Value. The word in itself has a more of a ‘fluffy’ or a vaguer meaning attached to it, so let’s give it a more concrete definition.

Everyone has ideas, and they want to make products out of these ideas. But what makes these ideas unique would be the value that it creates. It is this value that differentiates every entrepreneur from the rest.

So, what is Value? Personally, it means something which solves a real problem. Ideally, there are several audiences who have problems that they do not know how to solve. The concept of Machine Learning is something that gives a Data Scientist a tremendous amount of leverage over others to solve problems. 

I have made a video on this topic for those of you who prefer watching a video than reading, see below.

Play Video

So, what can you do with this unique leverage that creates value? Let’s navigate this issue through some examples.

  1. Suppose you have a child who is Dyslexic. Dyslexia is a disease that affects about 25% of the population, according to some studies. Dyslexic children have a hard time trying to read. For a parent, this is worrisome because, of course the child suffers, but also, the parent will have to spend more trying to solve the child’s problem. Since this is a solution that affects a large population, and you find a solution to this using Machine Learning, you create value.
  2. Another example is if ‘You’ have a rare condition. This is not an issue that most of the population faces, but creating a solution out of it will generate much value to you and others who have the same condition.
  3. There are small problems that companies face, like wanting to create a catalog of things they purchase to keep track and reduce the company’s cost. If you use Machine Learning to find a solution to this issue, a lot of companies can cut their costs with the value that you have generated.

Now, if you are a Data Scientist who is comfortable in his/ her company and thinks that you don’t want to look out for problems and solve them, though you may be able to survive in the long run, it is not something I personally recommend. Why?  Let me elaborate with an example:

Suppose there are 2 Data Scientists- Andreas and Vlad. Andreas is very good with people and wants to find solutions to the problems that various departments in his company face. He is well-liked in the company since he actively looks out for problems and solves them using Machine Learning, which other departments did not even know could be solved. Vlad, on the other hand, is a very productive employee too. If someone gives him a problem, he will find a solution to it. Everyone knows Vlad will be able to get to the bottom of any situation.

But who do you think makes more money? Andreas. Why? He finds problems and produces value for the company. He is an irreplaceable asset to the company; hence they will pay him more to keep him. He also has the ideal Product/ Market fit, which is very important in every company.
How can you solve problems? By merely talking to people- be it on LinkedIn or real life.
In the book ‘The Lessons School Forgot’ by Steve Sammartino, he introduces a concept called ‘10 meetings’.

Suppose you are entirely new to the market, and you want to know more about it. You reach out to someone from the industry and ask to meet them over a cup of coffee to get to learn more. At the end of the conversation, you would have picked up certain keywords from the discussion that you can go home and lookup. Now, when you meet another person, your questions will be much more specific. And by the time you reach the 10th meeting, you possess good knowledge about not just the industry but also the problems in the industry, which you may be able to solve with Machine Learning. Then you can approach someone with a valuable solution to their problem, and you’ve secured the job as well!

The next idea is from the book ‘The Mom Test’ by Rob Fitzpatrick. Suppose you have a solution to an idea, and you go to your mom and present it. When you do, most probably, your mom will tell you that it is a great idea, even if it may not. Why? Because your mom loves you and wants to keep you in happy spirits. But what you learn from this is that people will lie to you.

So how do you get a reasonable opinion about what you think is a valuable idea? There are three things which you can do here.

1. Talk about their life instead of your idea:

Suppose you have an idea to make an app that gives you recipes based on the things you have in your pantry. You think this would be a successful app, so you test it with your mom, who has been cooking for a long time. When you tell her this, she seems enthusiastic at first and gives it a try. But eventually, you realize that she isn’t using the app since it isn’t really a necessity to her. Her way of cooking is a process whereby she plans much ahead, makes a list, buys things, and makes it. Such an app may not be a necessity to her or for many others.

2. Ask about specifics in their past instead of generics or opinions about the future:

If you ask your mom a generic question like ‘Do people like recipes?’, she will definitely say Yes! If you ask her a question like ‘How often do you check your recipe book’? She may say that the last she checked was five years ago as she has been cooking for 20 years.

Since what you want to know is that if people would be interested in an app that automatically generates recipes, you can derive ideas from your own circle by asking specific questions to them, which gives you a glimpse of their life and their needs.

3. Talk less, Listen more.

You can go from guessing the problem to be in a spot where you know the problem really well. You could be the person who knows about the problem the most in the world, and you have the solution. That is a wonderful place to be. So, you want to go in that direction.

This is very important when you want to know whether your idea is good enough or not. You may be very consumed in your idea that you may have forgotten other issues that come with it, it’s a necessity, or it’s practicality. When you talk to someone, just listen and you would get to know more about the actual issue and how often the product will be used- giving you the idea of what you actually need to do rather than you had planned to do.


To conclude, what makes every idea a class apart is the value that it creates.

To create more value, it is necessary to actively lookout for problems that require solutions and work towards creating the best solution from the rest.


transcription credit : Neeraja Nair