Simona Dobreva, Growth Manager at 365 Data Science
Simona Dobreva, Growth Manager at 365 Data Science (and author of the Introduction to R Programming in the 365 Data Science training) is here to answer our “Meet the Team” interview questions.
Hi, Simona. I’m supper happy I managed to catch you between tasks for this interview. I know you have tons of insanely different responsibilities, but how would you describe what you do in the company to the people who don’t know you?
Oh, that’s a nice question! Let’s see if this elevator pitch will cover it – we work together, so you can be my fact checker, haha. So, I spend most of my time at the intersection of marketing and content development. Essentially, I am hands-on when we are creating new videos, articles, resources, and sometimes courses, and I am pretty engaged when we need to communicate the awesome new stuff we’ve created to our students and wider public. That said, if you ever find yourself perplexed by a 365 Data Science article, social media post, video, various other content and communication… blame it on the messenger (me)! Of course, if you’d like to offer helpful feedback, that’s more than welcome, and once again, you can do it by getting in touch with the messenger (me) at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to talk to you!
But enough shop talk… what else?
I also teach R over at 365datascience.com – that has definitely been one of the most interesting experiences for me so far – there are so many extremely bright students who engage with the content in ways I never thought they would, and I am ever grateful for their creativity, curiosity, ingenuity, and honest feedback. I can’t help but feel that the type of online teaching we provide contributes to a unique learning experience. Many people might not know this, but we place a lot of focus on direct interaction and Q&A with the students. So, if they get stuck, they can directly ask the instructor they’re learning from a question or… you know, just learn something new we haven’t yet discussed in the course. I believe this is super valuable, and I hope our students feel the same way.
I am sure they do! But as you said, enough shop talk! We also heard you are a gamer. What are your favorite games of all time?
No, no, no, I am not a gamer, BUT! off the top of my head: The Last of Us, Uncharted, and Tomb Raider – all PS4 games, all single player campaigns with a survival element. I promise, this post is not sponsored by Sony!... Anyway, I’ve recently started to notice the behavior of the AI and that’s given me a new fun element to pay attention to. Talk about Machine Learning sneaking its way into our everyday lives…
I also very much enjoy playing board games. Mostly co-op, like Arkham Horror or D&D… which I still haven’t played, but would love to explore! I am super excited by the “party” dynamics in these games and as a diligent overthinker, I find the experience quite informative. That, and sometimes my competitive side gets the better of me, so I try to avoid non co-op gaming. In fact, Iliya and I played Clank! once with a group of friends, and I didn’t win… we haven’t played together since.
Oh, no, I hope it wasn't as bad as you let on it was, Simona! So... from the perspective a person with such a wide variety of interests, what’s it like to work for 365 Data Science?
Like playing D&D (I would imagine)! I am joking, of course – but if I squint really hard, I can probably find similarities. For instance, there are new challenges almost every day and it’s incredibly rewarding when we manage to address them well. I say “we” here and that’s important, because I am working with a very capable group of people (and I hope we’ll get to hear from all of them here), and when we complete a goal or solve a challenge, there’s a sense of shared accomplishment. Obviously, I wouldn't like to speak for everyone, but I think it usually means we have learned something, and that we have all played to our strengths, leveraging what we’re best at. I think this is very valuable in a startup environment like ours and it’s something I am looking forward to.
On a more professional note, I do not enjoy standing still. In that sense, 365 Data Science and myself was quite the lucky match. Data science is a subject matter that is evolving and changing as I am writing this – with new tools being developed and new practices accepted. 365 Data Science, respectively, is a project that, by the nature of what we do, needs to adapt to the data science field. We cannot provide high quality learning resources if our information is outdated, or inaccurate! The thought itself is horrifying.
So, to stay ahead of (or with) the curve, we need to be extra invested in our actions. 365 Data Science is still growing, the field is still growing, and we’re at the helm of it all. What can I say, it’s an exciting field (*shrugs*).
In a nutshell? Doing the work we do is demanding and equally rewarding – isn’t this always how it goes?
Thanks, Simona. That sense of shared accomplishment you mention is one of the things that really keep all of us going. Now, drastically changing the subject - are you a dog or a cat person? Why?
A dog person, no contest!
We’ve had a dog in our home since I was 0-years old – it was an old grumpy pincher who was very protective of me (or so I am told). Then we had a black German Shepherd named Rex with whom I used to share a bed, and, I believe, a spoon oftentimes. Then another couple of smaller dogs and finally, Bromley, who is my own sleepy Jack Russell Terrier. I guess you can say have always been part of a dog pack in one way or another. And while I am definitely not the Dog Whisperer just yet, I am certainly a lot better at interacting with dogs than I am with cats.
But… Perhaps my preference is simply a lack of practice with hanging out with cats. I believe you can develop a deep-deep understanding of very many things if you consciously expose yourself to them – so, ask me again in 2 years?
Will do, Simona. Now, from cats and dogs to human nature: What types of people become data scientists?
Hahaha, I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I will try to answer this question in two ways: one is based on my gut feeling and personal knowledge of the data science tribe, and the other – on the data.
Alright – the ‘gut feeling’ data scientist is a curious self-starter, who trusts the numbers. They are usually critical in both their personal and professional lives – and if you think about it, it makes sense – you are applying statistical methods and thinking in search for patterns and answers on the job, which is bound to spill into interpersonal relationships… and vice versa. But I suppose you could get a similar answer if you look at the horoscope for a random sign… hence, the second part of this response.
The ‘data-backed’ data scientist. That’s a person who has some sort of quant education (look at that – they trust the numbers), and can do some sort of programming – at least Python or R. But even if they are not a formal Computer Science graduate, I believe the typical data scientist has at least online education behind their backs (self-starter!…).
Hmm. This is a tough question, really!
I think the line that will help you distinguish between those who become data scientists (or any other type of data science professionals) and those who don’t lies in whether they want to work in the field.
As I mentioned, data science is characterized by motivated, self-starting individuals, and I think that’s the biggest unifying feature for data scientists.
So, if you’re considering pursuing data science, I’d say you make the cut already. And if this response isn't too helpful for the future data scientist, I strongly advise you to take a look at the research we did into what actually makes a data scientist -- it is most informative (and encouraging, I believe)!
Good luck on your journey, everyone, and thanks, Team, for the questions.