What does it mean to be a Data Scientist? We caught up with Zoulficar Younes, MyDrive’s Lead Data Scientist, to find out.

 The fast-emerging role of the Data Scientist is becoming more and more necessary within businesses due to the vast amount of data being generated as our lifestyles become more connected. Our digital interactions leave an electronic footpath, rich in information which is invaluable to business development, if only it could be translated into plain English.

Enter: the Data Scientist!

Named the “sexiest job of the 21st century” by Harvard Business Review in 2012, Data Scientists are highly sought after to provide an essential role of discovery, analysis and advisory services to management teams. Described as a hybrid role, Data Scientists are generally of a curious and inquisitive nature. Communication skills and creativity are key to sharing insights with team members in order to precipitate action.

Our Lead Data Scientist possesses all these qualities and more. Of Lebanese-French origins, Zoulficar joined MyDrive in 2014 when the team consisted of only 6 or 7 people. His considerable studies in the field include an Master’s level Engineering degree in Computer Science, followed by a PhD in Statistics and Machine Learning. His post-doctoral experience in Paris, France lasted two years and related to electric vehicles.

 

Given the recent emergence of this field of work, Data Science was not well known as a potential career whilst Zoulficar was completing his degree.

Nevertheless, he soon found himself analysing various kinds of data: GPS data, map data, claim data and event data, in order to provide value-adding feedback to clients. On an average day, Zoulficar collaborates with Software and Data Engineers to obtain data, and use Data Science tools such as R, Python and Big Data Ecosystems: Hadoop and Spark to process the data.

“It is a multidisciplinary job,” says Zoulficar. “Expertise is required in many fields including Statistics, Machine Learning and programming skills. In addition, communication, presentation and reporting skills as well as business knowledge in the appropriate domain are necessary to make sure you can add value to the business through relevant data analysis,” he explained.

At MyDrive, Zoulficar and his team provide end-to-end data analysis. It is crucial for Data Scientists to have an understanding of the business and the intended application of the data analysis insights in order to set clear objectives.

The team navigate the different legal and ethical issues related to data sharing in order to acquire data from the following locations:

  • Driving data from mobile applications or on-board device
  • Claims data from insurance companies
  • Map data from our provider “Here

In order to process the data, Zoulficar’s team first transforms it into the right format so it can be fed into the various Data Science tools.

The Analysis step involves Machine Learning techniques such as Data Mining and Classification. Machine learning is a way of dealing with wide data variables to create and test models of prediction and regression.

This is followed by an Interpretation and Evaluation phase where one understands the results and then communicates the findings to customers to assist define future action.

Zoulficar stresses the importance of communications skills in order to report findings of complex analysis in a simplified manner, which can be easily understood by a client who does not have a Data Science background.

According to Zoulficar, the most challenging and rewarding part of being a Data Scientist is proving hypotheses. “Overcoming this challenge is really rewarding,” he says. Of course there are other perks. “Being a Data Scientist is very trendy right now,” explains Zoulficar, “I receive a lot of attention on LinkedIn from recruiters”.

Zoulficar recommends that those considering Data Science as a career ensure they have the right skill-set. This includes completed studies in Statistics, Machine Learning or at least Computer Science. He says that a PhD is not necessary, however a good understanding of business is important. It is also critical to be aware of the latest ideas and propositions in the Data Science domain. “Data Science is still an emerging field. New technology is constantly being developed so you need to keep up with latest news via blogs and forums,” says Zoulficar.

Regardless of technical qualifications specific to Data Science, there are certain attributes that can be found amongst the entire MyDrive team. “The most important requirement is to have the right attitude,” says Zoulficar. MyDrive’s relaxed office environment encourages  team members to be responsible for their own projects and to take initiative. “We’re an easy-going, diverse group of people  who enjoy socialising after work whether it be a friendly poker game or a round of beers at the local pub. In this kind of environment creativity thrives and innovation flourishes,” says Zoulficar.