Succeeding in Data Science — Chapter 1 Passion

Chapter 2 Excellence>>

We have been pumped with the adage of the modern world, “follow your passion.” The questions are,

  • What is passion?
  • How to find one’s passion?

While the adage is clear, the answers to these aren’t. Without the answers, I have seen data scientists pursuing an apparition confused as passion.

I have heard, “data is my passion.” How could data be your passion? Data is boring!

The problem is passion is often misunderstood. But what is true is that we feel happier if we do things we are passionate about. If we look in reverse from here we find answers to our what and how questions?

We feel happier when we create value. There are several such acts. The value in them could be for oneself or others. Among them, any act that creates value for both is (or becomes) your passion.

Any activity that creates value for yourself and for at least one other person is your passion.

Table 1. Passion Table.

The Passion Table above summarizes the possibilities of our actions. They can be leisurely, philanthropic, a hobby, or a passion. Categorizing actions into the first two is straightforward. But we often mix hobby with passion.

For example, suppose you like biking. It improves your health — a value to you. But it has little to no value for others. Therefore, this is a hobby.

You can always treat your hobby as your passion. But here we are talking about succeeding.

Consider another example: suppose you published an article. You would have learned something writing it. Also, you imparted it to others. You created value for both. Therefore, this is likely to be or become your passion.

I will speak for myself. My passion is to solve problems which can be solved with data science.

The passion is solving problems with data science.

Look closely: the passion is solving a problem. Data science is a tool to do it instead of being a passion itself.

Understand this by drawing a parallel with a doctor’s profession. Do you think a surgeon’s passion is to cut open people? Instead the surgeon’s passion is saving a life. He/she does not have to be emotional about it. But the purpose is clear. (Also, imagine if his passion was really to only cut open people.)

Similarly, for me the passion is to solve a problem. Data science is just a tool I choose to use. I learn data science so that I can solve relevant problems.

In doing so, I create value for myself. I learn something about data science everyday. And I create value for others by solving a problem. This is symbiotic. I can, therefore, do this forever. And, hence, I can say this is my passion. I become happier doing this!

We lose interest.

Think about the surgeon again. If saving lives is not the surgeon’s passion, he/she is likely to get demotivated sooner or later. Surgery is arduous. Also, there is a laundry list of mundane pre- and post-surgery work. If the surgeon was only passionate about surgery, he/she will be ruffled by all the accompanying dirty work.

It is similar in data science. There is significant amount of dirty work. It often starts with understanding the problem, and defining it. Followed by data collection, cleaning, and pre-processing.

The glamorous part of model construction is a small fraction of the whole project. It is then followed by deploying the system which has its own challenges such as covering every real-world corner cases, achieving small computation time, cost, and so on.

Except the intermediary modeling, both the pre- and post-activities are tedious.

If we did not know we are here to solve a problem which has value to people, we will be enervated quickly. And, before we know we start to hate what we once thought was our passion.

In conclusion, introspect and assess whether you like solving problems that can be solved using data science. Focus on solving the problem. Use data science as a tool. Use it as and when necessary. Never try to force data science as the solution. Only then you create value for yourself and others. If you see this in yourself, you have found your passion. You will happily do this for the rest of your life!

Disclaimer: The post contains original content copyrighted to the author.

Director of Science at ProcessMiner | Book Author |