Happy new year (if you are on the Gregorian calendar)!!! I’ve been willing to write a post for a while but so much have been going on in the last year that I couldn’t prioritize it. The value of having a blog for me was always to share knowledge with fellows on the web. I’ve been learning so much from other blogs and web resources, that’s my way to give back to the community. Blogging is also an easy way for me to “commit” to memory certain things, like summarizing book or articles.
A bit of context first!
In 2016, my family and I moved from Seattle to Boston. I stayed at Microsoft but moved from the Bing team to the Azure Machine Learning team that had an opening in Cambridge, MA. We stayed in Seattle for about 5 years, we had a really great time, made great friends, and we got to learn what it meant to live on Microsoft mothership.
A few months after joining the team in Cambridge, the group decided to update our strategy with regards to Azure Machine Learning and we started working on a set of new capabilities to offer data scientist to make their work more efficient. I’ve also started a certificate in Data Science as I felt that my knowledge of Machine Learning and AI wasn’t academic enough to understand deeply the challenges of data scientist. Combining the new product and the certificate (and the normal life of a dad with 2 kids) had a tax on some side activities, like this blog.
Learning from 2017?
There were many learnings this year, both from an human standpoint and from a professional standpoint.
Have a north star, stick to it but be open to opportunity / feedback.
When building a new product (a v1), it’s really important to have a vision of what values your product is going to bring to your users. We started by interviewing a large amount of data scientist within and outside Microsoft to understand what their daily job was and what their challenges were. A few, pretty clear, patterns emerged quickly and we decided to focus on it. However, we couldn’t do everything in a reasonable time, so we had to take some shortcuts and make some cuts too. We had a few potential users that we could talk to and get their feedback on our plan but without a pool of active users, it’s challenging to have enough data (statistically significant) before making a decision.
- Have a network of potential users, know how to reach out to them and talk with them.
- Find patterns in all the discussions you have with your users, be really articulated in the process of asking them questions.
- Build a product vision, try to get some customers to love it and agree to give feedback along the journey.
- Creating a product is both about coming with the right vision and entering the market early enough, need to balance these when making decision.
- When building the product, do not forget the destination envisioned but do not be blinded by it either. The goal is to build enough of a product for our users to give us feedback (MVP), if there is a clear trend in the feedback, listen to it.
Doing classes in addition of work requires effort and time
That might sound obvious, but the certificate I’m pursuing requires effort and time. Effort to understand and time for the homework and reading required. I took two classes in 2017 (one per trimester), each class required about 10 hours per week of extra work. Given that we were really busy at work, I already had pretty long days. I’m really lucky that my wife was really supportive in this initiative, she made sure I had enough time for my class while prepping the kids of seeing dad working late and somewhat on their time with me.
- Have your family support, you are going to miss a lot of family time working, so make sure to send the right message.
- Be organized, I would generally watch the online class as early as possible and then take the evening of the weeks to complete the homework. Morning of the week-end were dedicated to that too.
- Get enough rest, altogether my weeks were about 60+ hours of work, it’s dangerously close (for me at least) to burning out, making sure to have enough time to charge your battery while spending quality time with your love ones is a great way to keep your motivation high and your spirit up.
Gives yourself a stretch goal
When joining my new team, I was asked to give a 5 minutes presentation weekly about how the product is going (metrics analysis), it helped me build my “public speaking” skill, then I had the opportunities (I actually actively seek them) to present in conferences ( I gave 5 talks this year, in front of hundreds of people), the first one was terrible but very valuable, then it just got better. It was a stretch goal for me as I used to get a bit anxious before speaking to large amount of people.
- Public speaking is challenging, the best way to master it is to prepare for each talk a lot and make as much talk as possible.
- Know your subject inside-out, this will help reduce the stress.
- Have the right tool for the presentation (adaptors, charger, slides, zoom, …) whatever helps making your presentation better to watch.
- People wants you to succeed and are there to learn something.
Thanks for reading and, again, happy new year!