Six steps to becoming a winning competitive data scientist

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Do you ever wonder what makes a successful data scientist? You might have guessed at a few things, like technical skills, problem solving skills, and creativity in approaching problems.What if I told you that science says otherwise?

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck argues that the best predictor of success is your mindset. Those who aspire to be successful believe that they can grow and improve as individuals.This mindset is commonly known as the growth mindset.

The good news is, there are some simple practices you can adopt in your data science journey that will help you maintain a growth mindset.

Joining the Zindi platform is your first step in the right direction.This means you are relishing opportunities for self improvement. As you take part in the challenges in the platform, view each of them as a learning opportunity and ensure you gain three times the knowledge you joined the competition with.

When taking part in the competitions, most of the time, we are faced with blockers.These blockers may cause you to fall short of your goal. Be consistent by trying out various ways to unblock yourself — by doing this you are learning. Don’t give up, keep trying till you can’t anymore and even then seek help from the discussion board and try again.

Most individuals are very hyped about winning the cash prize and some prioritise this as an end goal, to the point that if they don’t get the prize they are angry or disappointed.The important thing is when you dive in to solve a problem, ensure you are enjoying the learning process. Don’t worry if you don’t get the prize this time, or the work continues beyond the target time. If you keep learning, next time you will enjoy the fruits of your patience and hard work.

You should share your achievements with others. Starting a competition and following it through to the end is a success in itself. You may not be at the top of the leaderboard, but having tried is what matters compared to not doing it at all. Share your progress with others to help motivate yourself and them.

After completing and winning a competition, don’t relax. Maybe, you can get a cup of coffee with the prize money, but set a new goal: tackle a different challenge that you are not very familiar with. This will give you broader knowledge in the data science field.

Some of us tend to set unrealistic goals to achieve when we are starting out with a competition. Ensure you have used the time given appropriately and even outdo yourself, learn better algorithms to help boost your accuracy so as not to be disappointed when you don’t get a better overall score. ALways ensure you have given as much time as needed to the challenge to achieve your best result.

Having adopted the growth mindset, you can now put your focus on the qualities of a good data scientist.The top qualities include:

  • Knowledge in statistics and how to build models using popular statistical methods such as regression, classification, time series analysis and hypothesis testing.
  • Being able to communicate your findings to a non technical audience who are not familiar with data science concepts.
  • Technical acumen — it goes without saying that you need to learn how to code to be a good data scientist. Get familiar with Python and R libraries, SQL and also visualisation tools such as Tableau.
  • Curiousity — a great data scientist should be very curious about data, as sometimes patterns go deeper than we realise. You need to ask a lot of questions before making data-driven decisions.
  • Resilience — be ready to get frustrating blockers. Nobody gets it right at the first time .Be persistent in learning and implementing. Remember when you fail, get back up and continue trying.

With a growth mindset firmly in pace, and commitment to the qualities of a great data scientist, the sky is the limit. With this I wish you all the best in your journey to be a successful competitive data scientist.

Rose Delilah Gesicho is Zindi Ambassador for Kenya and the Learning Program Manager at Alliance4ai, and is also a passionate NLP enthusiast. She is an AI community leader for Nairobi WiMLDS and organizes deeplearning.ai pie&ai events in Nairobi. She aims to help equip individuals with skills necessary for the future of work, and you can reach her on Twitter @DelilahRose____.

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Zindi is a competition platform hosting a community of data scientists dedicated to solving Africa’s toughest challenges through machine learning & AI

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