A data scientist walked into a bar…

A fellow data scientist once told me “Data scientists used to be like unicorns — no one believed we existed”. I suspect no-one doubts our existence today, but because of the growing popularity of the field in the last few years it can be difficult to find other experienced data scientists. An ideal situation would be to have, as my colleague Leila put it, “a diverse personal network of data scientists we could get together with to talk about graphs, discuss hiring challenges…or just to have a drink and a chat”.

Here’s out story about how we succeeded in bringing around 25 data scientists together in a pub for exactly that…

Glass half empty

As discussed in a previous blogpost, I only joined the field relatively recently myself, but I had already encountered the problem of finding people with extensive experience of the jungle of data science.

I have often excitedly told my partner all about something that happened at work that day, but while he is very supportive there is simply so much technical knowledge required to understand what the story is even about that by the time I’ve explained the most important technical references the point of the story is completely lost.

So, where can a data scientist go to discuss the very technical problem they have been facing lately at work? Or share an amazing discovery they just made that has significantly improved their life and they wish everyone knew about? To us the answer wasn’t clear.

The various meetups available for data scientists in London seem like a natural place to look. However, they tend to be mostly attended by people trying to get into the field or who recently started out, so they often cater to slightly different needs. While having very positive experiences of these meetups, my colleagues and I therefore recognised a considerable gap in the market. 
 The idea of hosting a meetup for working data scientists in London had been raised before I joined Panaseer and in July we brought this idea to life by hosting the first of the [hopefully many] Grow-the-Graph events.

Raising the bar

We decided to keep it simple. The event was to take place at a pub one evening after work. No talks and minimal formality. We simply wanted to create the environment we felt had been missing for working data scientists to meet up and talk about all the geeky and fascinating things that life as a data scientist entail.

We also saw this as a great chance to create the positive and inclusive environment that we wanted to be a part of. Everyone should feel welcome and it was important to us to not make the event sound less appealing to anyone because of some unconscious bias we introduced. One thing we did to address this was to provide name tags that specified the pronouns that attendees preferred to be addressed by and were colour coded according to whether they were happy to start conversations or preferred other people approaching them.

The feedback we got regarding this approach was very positive so we will keep doing things like this at future meetups and are always looking for more ways we can make all working data scientists feel welcome. If you have any suggestions please get in touch @Panaseer_team.

Toasting success!

We joined forces with Pivigo (a data science hub that connects freelancing data scientists with project opportunities) who sponsored the event. After creating an event page and sharing it with people we knew and people that knew people that we knew and people we didn’t know at all but found through LinkedIn (the problem of finding experienced data scientists that I described at the beginning is real) the event took place at a pub by King’s Cross on a Thursday after work.

And what a success! We weren’t really sure at all what to expect — how many people, what sort of vibe, what do we need to do as hosts? However, none of these concerns turned out to be real issues.

The attendees represented various industries including Security, Finance, Marketing and Social Media. Despite working in such different environments we all had surprisingly much in common. It was fascinating to hear how people working in a completely different sector from your own use the same solutions as you do to solve completely different problems, and how the concern with overuse of AI in places where it’s not applicable seems to stretch across industries.

Time really flew as I had conversation that ranged from topology data analysis, to natural language processing, to the best pubs in London. As I looked across the room it was clear that it also wasn’t just me who was having a good time. Laughter and animated conversations could be heard from all directions and I loved seeing how well people got on despite very few people knowing each other before arriving.

We are thrilled how well this first occurrence of Grow-the-Graph went. Thank you to everyone who came and made this night great! A special thank you to Pivigo for helping us to make it happen.

Last orders

If you are a working data scientist (whether you came to the last event or not) we would love to see you next time :) The plan is to host Grow-the-Graph every few months and we’re aiming to have the next event in October.

Please drop us a line at info@panaseer.com if you’d like to be notified of the next event.