The key thing I learned talking to a data scientist at Facebook: communication skills are as important as technical skills.

A Key Insight Interviewing a Facebook Data Scientist

Dylan | Nov 09, 2020

Post Thumbnail

I was fortunate enough to speak with a data scientist currently working at Facebook. We had an interesting discussion about the challenges facing data scientists and the responsibilities that accompany the role. While I enjoyed the entire conversation, there was one thing in particular that stood out to me.

Often when studying data science, the majority of our time and energy are concentrated on technical skills. We must build a deep foundation in probability theory, statistics, linear algebra, calculus, and at the same time be able to implement everything in Python or R. In response to this, universities, MOOCs, and boot camps are all rushing to meet the demand for technical data science courses.

While there’s no question these skills are important, my number one take away from the interview was... Communication Skills are as Important as Technical Skills

During our conversation, he highlighted that it really doesn’t matter how great your analysis or solution is if you can’t convince anyone to care about it or use it themselves.

This forced me to reflect back on my own learning path. Had I made sure to nurture the critical soft skills necessary to become an effective data scientist?

Especially today with countless tools being developed and released to automate data cleaning and preparation processes. Collaborating with others and persuading audiences to care about what’s most important will become increasingly critical skills for practicing data scientists. Do I know how to tell a compelling story?

Suddenly, it’s not all about understanding how to implement technical concepts in practice; effective data scientists must also be confident in their ability to communicate these concepts at both a technical and non-technical level. With the rapid evolution of big data and machine learning, it’s even difficult for experts working in the field to keep up with every development. People within our businesses and society at large must depend on people in these roles to accurately communicate what is happening and any potential harm that might result.