Stephen Wilson is Irish and came to Germany to work at various German universities. Now he has been working as a Data Scientist at Scout24 for some time. Why did he change from an academic environment to the private sector? And what does a Data Scientist do at Scout24 anyway? Read his answers in our interview with him.
You are from a small town near Dublin in Ireland but you have been living and working in Germany for 10 years now. What made you decide to move to Germany and how did you end up in Berlin?
Stephen: My background is as an academic researcher and I moved to Germany originally to take up a position at the university in Tübingen. I came to Berlin for a similar reason. I was awarded a Marie Curie fellowship to come to Berlin and work on a project of my own design at the Technical University here. The fellowship was for two years and my original plan was to return to Ireland, but instead I decided to get a “real job”, left the academy and kind of stayed in Berlin on an open-ended plan.
You have been working as a Data Scientist at Scout24 since 2017. What does this mean and how does a Data Scientist work at Scout24?
Stephen: Data scientists use a combination of techniques from machine learning, computer science, statistics and math to build systems that can automatically uncover patterns in data. The goal of this is to solve some business problem. An example might be to train a model that can automatically predict the listing price of a property based on things like the living space, number of rooms, location and so on. In this case, the machine learning model we employ automatically learns the relationship between combinations of these features and the listing price. We then use this learned relationship (a kind of mathematical formula) to predict the price of new properties, given only these descriptive inputs. We work closely within the segments to determine which use cases have the most priority and of those, which ones can benefit most from a machine-learning based approach.
Which projects are you working on at Scout24? What has been your favorite project so far?
Stephen: I’m working on a project exploring how we can better qualify leads based on predictions about user behaviour on the ImmobilienScout24 platform. I’m also involved in giving workshops introducing aspects of machine learning to our engineers, which has been lots of fun and is always quite rewarding. I just finished up the last training session for this cycle.
Do you speak German? What is it like to work in a German speaking country?
Stephen: Yes, I can speak German. In our team, we have an international mix of people so we use English for our group meetings and communications. But I speak German to Germans always. The main thing I notice as an English speaker working in Germany is that most people assume that English speakers only speak English and it is usually a surprise when they discover some of us can speak other languages.
Are there any differences between working in Ireland and working in Germany? If so, what are they and how do you deal with them?
Stephen: They are broadly similar. Though if it is your birthday in Ireland, usually other people bring in a cake for you. In Germany it is the other way around, like with hobbits.