In today’s digitally-connected business and manufacturing ecosystem, chances are you work with a data scientist or two. However, legacy communication gaps persist between technical and non-technical professionals.
Most of the time, everyone remains frustrated trying to understand what the other person is saying. Why continue this way?
Here are five tips for fine-tuning how well you work with data scientists. In my Playbook, these professionals are valuable sales and business assets. Let’s explore.
Tip 1. Let’s demystify what that data scientist colleague “does.”
I asked Carla Gentry, data scientist extraordinaire, about her role as a thought-leading data scientist. By the way, her article on the subject is recommended reading. Gentry is an immensely experienced data scientist. She works with an organization’s leadership, communicating conclusions and recommendations based on existing data and analyses.
“The great thing about this field is that it crosses over to so many industries, from banking to finance to marketing, science, social/psychological to consumer package good, sales, etc.,” Gentry says.
First, “data science is logic- and math-based.” Also, data scientists are holistic thinkers, remaining continuously inquisitive about trends suggested by data. As a result, data scientists are both scientists as well as artists, scrutinizing data, asking questions and applying “what if” analysis. Not only that, they question the status quo of existing assumptions and processes.
Consequently, non-technical colleagues should stop thinking about data scientists as “order-takers” who collect a bunch of data and report on what they collected. Ultimately, data scientists are collaborators and partners.
Tip 2. Understand the difference between being trained in data science compared to being experienced.
Data science project outcomes are contingent upon specificity in project scope and definition.
If you are a business or sales professional working with a data scientist, determine their level of training and experience. Also, communicate your own level of sales and business experience. That conversation, alone, develops a more collaborative relationship.
While data science is a hot profession, there is a proliferation of data science courses available.
As a result, says Gentry, “you end up with [a lot of] ‘academics,’ but not experience. Those [data science professionals] who have math and engineering backgrounds, or skills that are natural, can hone these skills by practicing using R [open source statistical programming language] to access free or ‘open source’ data. Then [they] hope for an internship or a Jr. Data Science position to actually work / gain experience in an analytical field.”
Tip 3. Unfortunately, many sales and business professionals are intimidated by technical talk and how quickly data scientists go “off script.”
Going off script is normal for STEM professionals. Their training makes them relentlessly curious. As a result, they continuously explore options, resulting in new processes and innovations. Perhaps you should become more comfortable exploring new options for sales and business processes, too.
For starters, stop clinging to sales scripts which are technical lingo life rafts, emphasizing learning to “speak” technical talk. Unless you actually are a data scientist, why sling around a bunch of data science acronyms?
If you are one of those intimidated sales or business professionals, download my guide to working with skeptical technical professionals.
Instead, ask questions that are not necessarily included in scripted sales conversations or standard sales enablement materials. Then, after developing an understanding of technical aspects, use your business side to comfortably go off script. Would you like to learn how?
Tip 4. Yes, it works both ways. Does that data science colleague sling around professional lingo, marginalizing you from the technical conversation?
In reality, technical professionals often have difficulty explaining “who they are” and “what they do” in non-technical language.
“Technical talk is really not needed, if you know what you are talking about, especially when talking to business people or non-analytic types,” recommends Carla Gentry. “If all you know is technical jargon, are you just ‘spewing text book material’?”
When educating non-technical colleagues, Gentry recommends reading a Guardian article titled: “Explain it to me like I’m a kid.”
Tip 5. Cross-train your brain.
Perpetuating Us versus Them mindset just keeps everyone spinning their wheels in conversational and conceptual stalemates. Isn’t it time for a change?
Instead, set a goal of becoming smarter and smarter each day. For starters, sales and business people should focus on becoming more cross-functional and data-conversant. At the same time, data scientists and other technical and engineering colleagues should learn to explain concepts in easily-understandable terminology.
Either way, no one “dumbs down” what they bring to the business and technical tables. On the other hand, consider the value of business outcomes created when everyone understands what everyone else is saying. Isn’t that called Collaboration?
Babette Ten Haken is a STEM-trained catalyst, corporate strategist, storyteller and facilitator. Her focus? How collaboration revolutionizes and humanizes the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) value chain. The results? Increased customer loyalty, customer success and customer retention. Babette’s One Millimeter Mindset™ programs draw from her background as a scientist, sales professional, enterprise-level facilitator, Six Sigma Green Belt and certified DFSS Voice of the Customer practitioner.
Image author: Ion Chiosea Image source: Fotolia