Article | April 29, 2021
We live in a world convulsed by new technologies and we are witnessing how more and more processes are automated in order to be executed with the same skill or even with better results than if they were carried out by a human, all this in order to be more efficient and effective.
In this context the world of work is becoming increasingly competitive, because to remain employable we need to learn to manage or find a way to adapt our knowledge and skills to new technologies.
With the spread of e-learning platforms and the tutorials that we can find available on the internet, acquiring new knowledge is within everyone's reach. For this reason, it is necessary to differentiate ourselves in order to stand out from other professionals, who have the hard skills similar to ours and this is precisely where Soft Skills play a very important role.
What are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are actually a combination of individual social skills, communication skills, personality traits, attitudes, social intelligence and emotional intelligence. Which facilitate relationships with others, making us more effective when interacting with other people.
We could say that Soft Skills are the human interface that allow us to adapt to different working environments and industries. They are powerful tools for personal and professional growth.
Why are Soft Skills key in our professional growth?
Nowadays, standing out in the world of work is getting increasingly difficult, regardless of whether you are part of a corporation or work independently, due to the great competition within the labor market. That is why we must develop certain skills and attitudes that help us to function properly and successfully meet professional demands.
Soft Skills are the point of differentiation that allows us to be selected for a position. The reason is very simple, we could be applying for a position and competing with people that are equal or even more qualified than us at a technical level, but to achieve the collaborative objectives of the company, more is required than just the technical and rational part. Also the way of communicating, values, ethics, as well as personality traits are highly valued factors since they help to drive organizations through high-performance teams, guaranteeing the achievement of their objectives.
The background of the Soft Skills that we have trained throughout our lives make us unique, because it is unlikely that two people have the same combination of Soft Skills and been trained in a similar way, and that makes us more competitive against certain job opportunities where perhaps many will have the same Hard Skills, but where our Soft Skills will be the ones that will make us stand out to continue advancing in our professional career.
How to sharpen our Soft Skills?
To perform in any job we necessarily need to interact with other people, even if we work independently or remotely, so we must have the necessary skills that allow us to connect successfully with our teammates and stakeholders.
Starting from the fact that Soft Skills are human skills, we can say that we have them pre-installed and the way to start using them (installing them) is through the experiences we undergo every day.
Imagine being able to communicate assertively in your work environment and in your personal life. Master the use of tools installed in you to improve your interpersonal relationships within your work teams and reduce conflict. This would allow you to foster a healthy working environment and be able to lead any team in any environment in a strategic and effective way.
Think of Soft Skills as a set of Apps that are ready to be used (like a toolbox) and that according to the experiences that are presented in our personal and / or professional lives, we are going to choose to use these applications to achieve our goals. Every time we access one of these applications, we are giving it the opportunity to collect data that will allow it to personalize its insights according to our needs and to fine-tune its effectiveness each time we use it.
One of the best ways to train our Soft Skills is by leaving our comfort zone, because that will allow us to 'install' more and more Soft Skills.
Another way to refine our Soft Skills is by participating in activities that involve people we do not know and even better if we involve people from other cultures, because we will achieve a beneficial exchange of experiences and knowledge for both parties that will enrich and make the training of our Soft Skills even more valuable.
Some examples of activities that will enhance your Soft Skills:
• Participate in competitions (e.g. Hackathons)
• Found or be a lead of a community that shares your interests, and organizes small or large projects.
• Organize a study group aimed at carrying out a technical or business project in order to confront professionals from various fields or industries.
• Find resources and experts to help you. There are Soft Skills trainers who know useful techniques and tips to develop/sharpen your skills.
• Participate in volunteer activities. You will meet new people with whom to put your Soft Skills in action.
These activities will train/sharpen your leadership skills, teamwork, delegation, interpersonal communication, persuasion, etc. These are skills that we do not have as much facility to train while we are students or when we have just started working after finishing our studies, and that are required in the labor market to continue climbing in our professional career.
Why do Soft Skills matter in the Data Science universe?
A consequence of the use of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science is that many of the jobs that we know today will be automated and this is a matter of concern for many professionals who see their careers are in danger, but the good news is that in the future many new jobs the Soft Skills will be the main protagonists, this is what John Thompson explains us in his book "Building Analytics Teams"
In other words, it is precisely our human skills that will allow us to be more employable in the future, and they will be highly requested skills because according to what the experts envision which is, that the machines will not be able to match us in this field, and that is why training our Soft Skills becomes a priority because they will allow us to be the key players of the future.
On the other hand, Data Science is an interdisciplinary field where Soft Skills such as cooperation and communication are essential to achieve the goals set. Denis Rothman, author of the book "Transformers for Natural Language Processing" in an interview that I conducted, mentioned that The Human Quality is the most important thing for him when choosing the members of his work team.
These are some considerations to take into account to generate a culture of cooperation:
• People work harder and need less supervision, when they themselves control their work and have more freedom to choose how to do it. When they work as a team, they show greater motivation, their sense of pride increases and productivity reaches higher levels.
• Solid teams that seek quality and excellence correct themselves; that is, they identify problems and correct them very quickly. Thus, they gain work experience and increase their performance.
• Forming a solid and efficient work team requires patience. You need to give them time to see your results. They will have to establish procedures to complete tasks, handle administrative functions and work together efficiently, they will even have to adapt to their own decisions and accept their consequences.
• A manager or team leader must recognize the team building process without expecting immediate results. The group will have to go through a learning process and this will take longer in some groups than in others.
Another key component to achieving high levels of cooperation is fluid communication among team members and stakeholders. For instance defining the communication channels and the contact points in the different teams involved, guarantees the constant flow of communication during the life cycle of a Data Science project.
One of the most critical moments is the presentation of the results to the stakeholders. In some cases the results of a project are not taken into consideration not so much because the expected results are not achieved, but because the way in which these results are presented are not meaningful for the stakeholders, and this, in most cases, it is due to the existence of communication barriers that is a consequence of the use of a language (terminologies) used in the technical world but not in the business world.
After taking a tour of the world of Soft Skills, we can conclude by saying that Soft Skills are like superpowers that are waiting for the opportunity to be put into action, to make you a superhero or superheroine.
Keep climbing positions in your professional career depends on you, on how much you use these superpowers but above all on your skills to refine them and make them available to the work team of which you are part. Don't wait any longer and start discovering your potential, start training your Soft Skills!
If you want to know more about Soft Skills, I invite you to visit The Soft Skills Show
Article | April 29, 2021
In recent years, we have seen more industries adopt data analytics as they realize how important it is. Even the hotel industry is not left behind in this.
This is because the hospitality industry is data-rich. And the key to maintaining a competitive advantage has come down to ‘how hotels manage and analyze this data’.
With the changes taking place in the hospitality industry, data analysis can help you gain meaningful insights that can redefine the way hotels conduct business.
Article | April 29, 2021
Deep learning, the main innovation that has renewed interest in artificial intelligence in the past years, has helped solve many critical problems in computer vision, natural language processing, and speech recognition. However, as the deep learning matures and moves from hype peak to its trough of disillusionment, it is becoming clear that it is missing some fundamental components.
Article | April 29, 2021
Data has settled into regular business practices. Executives in every industry are looking for ways to optimize processes through the implementation of data. Doing business without analytics is just shooting yourself in the foot.
Yet, global business efforts to embrace data-transformation haven't had resounding success. There are many reasons for the challenging course, however, people and process management has been cited as the common thread.
A combination of people touting data as the “new oil” and everyone scrambling to obtain business intelligence has led to information being considered an end in itself. While the idea of becoming a data-driven organization is extremely beneficial, the execution is often lacking. In some areas of business, action over strategy can bring tremendous results.
However, in data governance such an approach often results in a hectic period of implementations, new processes, and uncoordinated decision-making. What I propose is to proceed with a good strategy and sound data governance principles in mind.
Auditing data for quality
Within a data governance framework, information turns into an asset. Proper data governance is essentially informational accounting. There are numerous rules, regulations, and guidelines to make governance ensure quality.
While boiling down the process into one concept would be reductionist, by far the most important topic in all information management and governance is data quality. Data quality can be loosely defined as the degree to which data is accurate, complete, timely, consistent, adherent to rules and requirements, and relevant.
Generally, knowledge workers (i.e. those who are heavily involved in data) have an intuitive grasp of when data quality is lacking. However, pinpointing the problem should be the goal. Only if the root cause, which is generally behavioral or process-based rather than technical, of the issue is discovered can the problem be resolved.
Lack of consistent data quality assurance leads to the same result with varying degrees of terribleness - decision making based on inaccurate information. For example, mismanaging company inventory is most often due to lack of data quality. Absence of data governance is all cost and no benefit. In the coming years, the threat of a lack of quality assurance will only increase as more businesses try to take advantage of data of any kind.
Luckily, data governance is becoming a more well-known phenomenon. According to a survey we conducted with Censuswide, nearly 50% of companies in the financial sector have put data quality assurement as part of their overall data strategy for the coming year.
Data governance prerequisites
Information management used to be thought of as an enterprise-level practice. While that still rings true in many cases today, overall data load within companies has significantly risen in the past few years. With the proliferation of data-as-a-service companies and overall improvement in information acquisition, medium-size enterprises can now derive beneficial results from implementing data governance if they are within a data-heavy field.
However, data governance programs will differ according to several factors. Each of these will influence the complexity of the strategy:
Business model - the type of organization, its hierarchy, industry, and daily activities.
Content - the volume, type (e.g. internal and external data, general information, documents, etc.) and location of content being governed.
Federation - the extent and intensity of governance.
Smaller businesses will barely have to think about the business model as they will usually have only one. Multinational corporations, on other hand, might have several branches and arms of action, necessitating different data governance strategies for each.
However, the hardest prerequisite for data governance is proving its efficacy beforehand. Since the process itself deals with abstract concepts (e.g. data as an asset, procedural efficiency), often only platitudes of “improved performance” and “reduced operating costs” will be available as arguments. Regardless of the distinct data governance strategy implemented, the effects become visible much later down the line. Even then, for people who have an aversion to data, the effects might be nearly invisible.
Therefore, while improved business performance and efficiency is a direct result of proper data governance, making the case for implementing such a strategy is easiest through risk reduction. Proper management of data results in easier compliance with laws and regulations, reduced data breach risk, and better decision making due to more streamlined access to information.
“Why even bother?”
Data governance is difficult, messy, and, sometimes, brutal. After all, most bad data is created out of human behavior, not technical error. That means telling people they’re doing something wrong (through habit or semi-intentional action). Proving someone wrong, at times repeatedly, is bound to ruffle some feathers.
Going to a social war for data might seem like overkill. However, proper data governance prevents numerous invisible costs and opens up avenues for growth. Without it, there’s an increased likelihood of:
Costs associated with data. Lack of consistent quality control can lead to the derivation of unrealistic conclusions. Noticing these has costs as retracing steps and fixing the root cause takes a considerable amount of time. Not noticing these can cause invisible financial sinks.
Costs associated with opportunity. All data can deliver insight. However, messy, inaccurate, or low-quality data has its potential significantly reduced. Some insights may simply be invisible if a business can’t keep up with quality.
As data governance is associated with an improvement in nearly all aspects of the organization, its importance cannot be overstated. However, getting everyone on board and keeping them there throughout the implementation will be painful. Delivering carefully crafted cost-benefit and risk analyses of such a project will be the initial step in nearly all cases.
Luckily, an end goal to all data governance programs is to disappear. As long as the required practices and behaviors remain, data quality can be maintained. Eventually, no one will even notice they’re doing something they may have considered “out of the ordinary” previously.