3 Valuable Skills That Have Doubled My Income as a Data Scientist
In a year, I have learned three essential skills that have opened a new world of possibilities.
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Let’s start by introducing myself. I am a certified data scientist who works multiple job roles (data science copywriting and editing) for multiple companies. You can call me an individual contractor. Furthermore, I provide consultancy for machine learning adoption, creating infographics, and beta testing the data products.
While juggling multiple job roles I have realized that technical skills are not the core part of the job. Learning new tools or methodologies can give you an advantage over your peers, but they are not core skills.
Before we dive into three valuable skills, I want you to ask yourself:
- Do you usually complete the task accurately within the time frame?
- Does your work represent you?
- Do you understand the problem and come up with an optimal solution?
- Are you a curious individual?
- Do you voice your concerns about the project?
If the answers to the above questions are all “yes”, then you will agree with the core skills that I am going to mention. Else, you will learn valuable lessons that will potentially double your current income.
1. Time Management
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Time management is crucial for the individual contractor and an employee. Your ability to complete tasks on time will affect the whole team. Even if you are working solo, your ability to complete the contract within a given time frame will help you a long way.
Meeting Project Deadlines
Meeting deadlines will make you a dependable member of the team, and it will earn you favor among higher management. Even as a freelancer, completing the project on time will improve your reputation, and companies are willing to pay a high price for quality and timely submission.
To get better at meeting deadlines, you need to make sure you understand the project, and decide the time it will take you to complete it. Communicate your timeline with your manager. Make sure it is reasonable.
Always add more days to your timeline for unfortunate events such as illness, emergency, internet outages, and family issues.
You cannot work 12 to 18 hours every day to complete the project. Working non-stop will end in disaster, and you will start to feel the symptoms of burnout. Managing breaks is a skill, and you need to make it a priority if you want to sustain your success.
Every day, I take 1-2 hours of mini breaks during work. Every week, one semi-long break, and every year, a long vacation.
Even during the project, you need to take multiple 30 minutes breaks even if you are stuck and feeling frustrated. No matter the urgency. Your health comes first.
Every phone, laptop, PC, and tablet has a calendar app, and very few people know how to use it effectively. Managing a calendar is an art. You are the master of your meetings, working days, holidays, and email days.
Add important things on the calendar with priority. I use color tags to prioritize the tasks:
- Holidays and special events
- Team and individual meetings meetings
- Grinding days
- Light workdays
- Non-work-related Important tasks (Bank visit, official visit, family)
- Work-related events
After mastering the calendar management skill, you will realize that you have more time for yourself, and it will reduce anxiety. You will know what to do weeks ahead of time. It will also improve your time management skill and eventually improve your productivity.
2. Deep Dive and Research
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Before jumping into the project, do a deep search on the subject. Learn about the current development and come up with a plan. If you are testing an application or analyzing the data, make sure you cover all the angles.
For example, if I have to write a blog on data science tools, I will go deep into the documentation and examples and try a few things out of the box to explore all of the functionalities. In doing so, I will discover many bugs and shortcuts to improve the process.
How does this affect your job? Companies are always looking for individuals who are curious and strive for quality. This attribute in employees results in promotions and pay raises.
Follow the current meta
Data science is an ever-changing world, and companies are on the look for tools and methodologies to improve the current systems. Staying in tune with the current meta will boost your productivity and make you adaptable to changes.
No matter where you are, a solution-oriented mindset is the most in-demand attribute. You will not just impress your manager or teammates, but you will also create a strong case for a raise. These small things do matter.
There have been many times when I am stuck for days and when eventually I come up with a unique solution I get praise. It is all about relentless and diving deep into the fundamentals.
It is optional in most cases, but for the company or manager, it is the most important thing. If you can submit quality work on time regularly. It will make you stand out, and you will be in a strong position to ask for more.
Deep dive into the topic or data will help you discover insights that are valuable to the company.
Always remember, your work represents you. Why do you see some contractors asking for 300$/hour and the other 60$/hour?
The quality of work will help you build a strong portfolio.
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For data scientists, the best form of communication is email, and the worst is texting. Email is always official, and you have a penalty of time to reply and think logically. Effective communication will help you in the long run. You will avoid arguments and frustration.
In my case, I have to build this skill from the ground up. I had no idea how to communicate my concern. As a result, I got bad contracts (lower rates), mental health issues (unreasonable work hours), and in the worst case never-ending arguments.
Communicate your concerns
Always communicate your concerns about work hours, project timeline, resources, and pay. If you think your time is worth more, communicate it with your manager, and I am sure they will compensate you.
Not saying anything and working like an animal will cost you your mental health.
Even in the middle of the project, if you think that the project was unreasonable and required more time to complete, always voice your concern. Make sure you are on top of things.
“The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life. - Confucius”
Make sure you learn the basics of email communication. Before replying to the query or asking a question, make sure you think logically and avoid spelling and grammatical mistakes.
Use the flags or stars for important emails and use rules to sort all the emails into various categories. You don’t have to reply to everyone at once. Make sure your current project takes priority. Furthermore, always back your request with reference and logical reasoning.
Build your reputation
You can use effective communication to build a reputation. Never ask for an unreasonable time, money, or help. You should be confident in your technical skills and learn to communicate the results.
Remember, it's not communicating with technical people that get you recognition. It's the non-technical stakeholders and customers. Treat them equally and with respect. Do not force your judgment upon them. Let them have the final say. In the long run, you will earn the respect of the powerful people in the industry.
In my case, I have been approached by top companies to write content, books, and courses. And, it’s all because of how I deal with my colleagues, managers, and employers.
- Time Management
- Meeting project deadlines will make you a dependable employee or contractor
- Managing breaks keep you consistent at work and avoid burnout
- Managing your calendar will reduce anxiety and make you productive
- Deep Dive and Research
- Following the current meta will keep you updated with the latest tools and technologies.
- Solution-oriented mindset will make you a valuable asset to the company
- Quality work will improve your chance of getting higher pay.
- Communicate your concerns to your boss and manager at the start and in the middle of the project.
- Email communication skills are important. Make it a professional and logical conversation.
- Build your reputation with honest and hard work. Make sure you treat everyone equally.
Abid Ali Awan (@1abidaliawan) is a certified data scientist professional who loves building machine learning models. Currently, he is focusing on content creation and writing technical blogs on machine learning and data science technologies. Abid holds a Master's degree in Technology Management and a bachelor's degree in Telecommunication Engineering. His vision is to build an AI product using a graph neural network for students struggling with mental illness.