When one thinks about the essential skills of a data scientist the first ones to come to mind are coding, business acumen and mathematics. However, a crucial and often overlooked skill is good communication. As a data scientist, you will be interacting with many different people and stakeholders. It is therefore essential to ensure that one can communicate effectively and also not be robotic. Here are my three top tips for effective communication for data scientists. I hope that you find these tips useful.
1. Body language
Many people do not know that only 7% of communication comes from the words you actually say, 38% is tone and 55% is body language. When you are speaking to someone try to always be open with your body language, this means don’t cross your arms when talking to people and if you are sitting down then keep your palms facing up. Make sure you are not overly loud or harsh in your tone. The easiest way to understand this is to have a conversation with a friend and film it. It will be a bit odd when you watch it back, but it will really help to understand this and point out things that can be changed. You also want to make sure that you have a neutral or smiling expression. This will give a relaxed feel to the conversation which will help conversation flow smoothly.
Whether you are a freelance data science consultant or a data scientist within a company, you need to build rapport with your stakeholders and colleagues. The easiest way to do this is to find common ground; talk about things that you are both interested in. Whether that be the big match over the weekend or the latest news in the tech world. This is a fantastic way to build the foundations of a long-lasting and fruitful business relationship.
Second top tip for building rapport is to be empathetic. When your client or stakeholder is explaining their business problem, really pay attention to the details, summarise what they said and ask questions. This will show that you care about helping them solve their business problems and are listening to them. This will make it easier for them to open up, help you to manage their expectations and give you everything you need to plan the project.
The quickest way to get better at skills is to practice. The best places to practice communication is by networking events. If you go to meetup.com and search for data science there are an unlimited supply of meetups to choose from. These events give you the opportunity to talk to a variety of data scientist from junior to senior consultants. We at Pivigo run a meetup every two months where we have speakers coming to talk about how data science is being used in their companies and the value it adds. Those who attend our event range from our clients, our community, and influencers in the field of data science. This will give you an insight into what commercial data science involves. This meetup is a perfect opportunity to get involved in the community and to network with like-minded individuals. From the community perspective, our meetups and meetups alike provide a fantastic forum to raise any questions you have about developing your career in data science. For more information about strengthening your networking ability check out Jessica Walkenhorst’s (S2DS London 2016 Fellow) blog.
Bonus tip: Books
Two books that will really help with communication are Crucial Conversations and Just Listen. Both of these books will give you some really great techniques to practice and use throughout your entire career.