“So what do you do for a living nowadays? Experimenting on mice?” This accusation, stated during the Annual-Day-of-Misery (sometimes referred to as “aunt Suzan’s birthday family reunion”), has brought home to me the fact that my profession is not well-known. Yes, that’s right. I’m a data scientist. I’m working in the Operations Research department of a Polish/UK mid-size software house. You could say that it’s not that unusual, but on our side of the historical Iron Curtain it still is. Such departments are rare and such positions are uncommon. So, additionally motivated by the fresh label of a person that mistreats animals (as my family has only recently acknowledged my previous domain – software development: people fixing routers, configuring laptops and creating these funny web pages with these sweet little cats), I’ve decided to create a blog describing what we do here on a daily basis. The main goal is to create interest and drag more people into the field of OR. And the second goal is to get peer review from others that already are experts.
So, why is this rare to see an OR department in Poland (and I think the situation is quite similar in the other “off-shoring / near-shoring” directions like India, Romania, Ukraine, Brazil, etc.)? To simplify (outrageously), we have two kinds of companies here. The first group are locally owned, either privatised huge nation-wide companies struggling not to collapse or fairly young companies grown from family businesses. Usually, they do not have much experience in successful investing in the research. They focus on day-to-day operations, trying to survive and prosper on a difficult market, not thinking much on data research. The universities are also not helping, as they are not used to cooperate with business, nor the local business is used to cooperate with the universities (and the paper work at the universities is just horrifying). Only small part of these first group companies decide to create OR departments. This will for sure get better in the future, with the increase of these companies maturity.
The second group are foreign companies that have decided to open an office in Poland to benefit from the “off-shoring / near-shoring” model. Many of them already have good experiences of investing in research. However, the model does not include moving the research departments away from their headquarters. Most of the companies just move the production positions (in software domain this would be developers, testers and support engineers, together with the necessary line management). This means that also in these companies it is unusual to find an OR department in Poland.
Having said that, I was unbelievably lucky to join a company which does not fear to locate any department here, breaking the established ways of doing business. And as a result, I’m a data scientist now.
Why the blog
As this is an unusual role around here, I thought that I could make it a little bit better understood (especially as there is huge hype around the role, with the trend to tie it exclusively with the Big Data problems solving). Hopefully this will drag attention of smart, data-literate, business aware people, that could decide one day to choose “data science” as their professional path. And this will for sure result in (a) more companies bringing more interesting work up here and (b) more bright people to cooperate with.
To help in achieving this, I will describe in my blog what problems we are trying to solve on a daily basis, broadly in the domains of data analysis, data visualisation, solving business problems using data driven models, defining and gathering business processes measures (ordinary and extraordinary), etc. I’m hoping to get fair amount of constructive critique from the blog readers. I will also treat the blog as a form of free therapy, so you are reading this on your own risk.
I plan to publish
1-2 posts monthly 1 post monthly. I plan to answer all questions from readers in two business days the latest. I plan not to think about the fact that 95% of blogs gets abandoned. Hope you will enjoy it!
BTW. The company name is Objectivity. We develop and maintain software for UK and German customers. We have offices in Wroclaw/Poland and Coventry/UK. (We have a good laugh every time someone is going to the UK office, as there is a British idiom “sent to Coventry”.) Our way of doing business is: being agile, hiring only professionals and being painfully honest with our customers and employees. It seems to be working well, so, against all the odds, maybe there is some hope for this world after all.