So how did I get here?I started off with a PhD in Astrophysics in 2000. My scientific aspirations where at a high – a great post doctoral position lined up and I was so sure I would stay in science. Well, things worked out differently. The love and joy of writing software kept nagging at me, and at every corner I was faced with the clear fact that in science it is not code that matters but papers. And while I loved writing the former, I could not get myself to write the latter. I took the plunge in 2007 starting my first job as a software developer in a insurance software company in Germany. Not long into this job I knew I had made the right choice of starting a career in software, but somehow I missed the academic environment a lot. When the perfect opportunity came a long to combine the two and take up a software development position at the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg I did not hesitate long. Building the software for a new planet finding instrument as part of a small team was a very fulfilling task – and it was here that I learned a great deal about engineering a large and complex software. The project nearing its end a move to London in 2012 prompted me to look for opportunities in this fantastic metropole, which I found quite soon in the financial sector working on a risk software for Aon, a huge global provider of financial services. Being part of Aon taught me both the upsides and the downsides of being part of a big corporation – being part of a small expert team shielded me from some of that, but in the end knowing that a corporate career was not really me, I changed drastically to join a small startup in the movie industry. The company I joined, We Got POP is a very innovative tech company revolutionising the way movies are produced with their online platform. During my short but very intense and enjoyable time there I learned a great deal and it reassured me that the start-up scene was the right place for me. Already during my time at Aon I got an increased interest in Data Science and started helping out at Pivigo in my spare time. It really is a fascinating new field that combines so many different areas of science, programming, technology and engineering – impossible to resist!
One of the more interesting conceptual questions around data science is also evident from my career: how do data science, scientific research and software engineering relate? What can they learn from each other? As Frederick Brooks writes in the “The Mythical Man-Month”, a classic on the bookshelf of every software developer: “The complexity of software is an essential property not an accidental one” whereas “Mathematics and the physical sciences made great strides for three centuries by constructing simplified models of complex phenomena,…”.
But while the fields differ greatly in this regard, one of the upcoming challenges for Data Science, as it is a combination both of a research activity as well as a construction/engineering activity is how to build on previous work and foster a culture both of outstanding, sound research quality and quality product development. Combining these two worlds also lies at the heart of S2DS – where aspiring data scientists learn to apply their skills in a business context. True progress in data science will come to those who are not just great researcher but also understand how to implement the algorithms and deliver results in a usable and value oriented way. I believe the truly great data scientists of the future will be both, great discoverers and researchers but also great builders.
Now at Pivigo I look forward to an intense challenge, building something useful for our new community. It will be an exciting time for all of us; please do get in touch. In the end we are all builders. Builders of the future of what we call Data Science.