This may sound a bit mundane, but my greatest fear as a data scientist is not getting buy-in from managers.
Sure, the technical aspects of data science can be tricky at times, but it’s honestly not the most difficult part of the job.
As data scientists, we’re armed with a solid toolbox of algorithms, technologies and more importantly, the scientific method. We develop hypotheses and test them somewhat rigorously. If one adheres to this approach, it should be possible to give an answer to practically any question that can be asked about data. New tools and techniques can always be learned when needed.
We may need to reject a hypothesis every now and then, but that doesn’t mean the project was a failure from a technical standpoint.
No, the real challenge lies in the convincing management of the value of our work. Getting them to invest in our projects usually requires a leap of faith.
The end result of a data science project is not a shiny new website or mobile app that the managers can show to their friends. It’s often somewhat intangible. Even if it’s an algorithm that can be deployed straight into production, its real value may not be realized until months later, when the project has already been signed off.
Managers have the power to render me irrelevant. They can look at my project proposal and simply say “Nah, my gut feeling tells me this isn’t going to work”. Convincing them otherwise requires soft skills. And those aren’t the traits that made me become a data scientist in the first place.