Why we’ve partnered with WiD UK 2018?

We’ve partnered with Women in Data again this year because we know at Mango how important it is to encourage diversity within data science. We know that a diverse team helps to build success as having a range of people and skills helps our teams perform better. We are proud that our Data Science team is 40% female, and we are keen to ensure that we continue to attract great female talent to the team.

Spotlight on Ruth Thomson

Name: Ruth Thomson
Job title: Strategic Advice and Strategic Innovation
Expertise: Helping businesses make better decisions using advanced analytics and data science
Education: Undergraduate honours degree in Geography combined with professional education in analytics and innovation

In the past, I disliked being asked “So, what is your background?” as I felt at a disadvantage because I didn’t have a traditional statistics/programming/computer science background.

So I started reading about how diversity is the key to innovation and commercial success. I then realised my different background was not a disadvantage but an advantage.

Now I can say I have the perfect background for innovation in data science and advanced analytics.

My background couldn’t be more diverse. I’ve worked for large organisations as well as start-ups, I’ve worked in product development, marketing and consulting, I have experience leading teams as well as delivering projects myself. I’ve won awards and seen projects fail. I bring a unique perspective and a blend of skills to my work in Strategic Innovation.

I am a voracious learner and the more I read about predictive analytics, the more passionate I become about its power and potential. Using MOOCs and online learning, I learnt how to formulate analytic questions from business problems and how to use SQL, Python and Jupyter Notebook. I connected with people working in advanced analytics on LinkedIn and in person at events like Bristol Data Scientists.

I saw I could add value to a company by combining my business experience with a knowledge and understanding of data science. Mango Solutions has given me the opportunity to do just that.

There are so many ways Mango Solutions is a brilliant place to work as a woman. I have a young family so most importantly for me, they have created a working environment where I can thrive in a senior role whilst still having a family life.

In a world where the majority of companies struggle to create workplaces where women can thrive, I am proud to say that Mango is excelling in creating a culture and working practices that support female leadership.

Spotlight on Karina Marks

Full Name: Karina Marks

Job title: Data Science Consultant

Area of expertise
As part of the training team at Mango, I support businesses in their use of both R and Python for Data Analytics. In addition, my work as a consultant means I get involved with customer data science projects.

First Class Integrated Masters in Mathematics (MMath) Degree from Cardiff University. I graduated top of my class.

Karina is delivering Mango Solutions’ Introduction to Python Session

What led you to this career path? Have you come across any obstacles?

I was introduced to R and Python at University. My data science career occurred by accident – it wasn’t something spoken about much at university. The more I read up about what a data scientist does, the more I realized that I wanted to be involved in this area. I am naturally inquisitive and always like to be challenged. The dynamic elements of the career really appealed to me. I didn’t know much about R (or Python) so I spent time teaching myself both languages from online tutorials including tidyverse in R and Pandas in Python. I then managed to secure an internship with Mango Solutions before my Masters year at University, which of course gave me access to Mango’s wealth of resources.

Realistically, because of my inexperience with writing commercial code at this time I should have found it difficult to find my internship. However, I really feel that my passion and persistence really paid off. I am so lucky that Mango has helped support my journey and helped me to develop my skills and gain an understanding of the analytics industry. After graduating, Mango offered me a permanent Data Scientist position and I have been fortunate to have been here ever since.

Tell us a bit about what your job entails

For just over 1 year I have been a Data Science Consultant. A large proportion of my job consists of project work, working in direct contact with customers to produce something that can assist their decision making. For example, for one customer I developed code to help speed up a slow and complex process that was previously performed using multiple excel spreadsheets; because the intended end users would not have technical skills, I then developed a shiny app to sit on top of the code, allowing anyone to use it. Alongside project work, I get to work on Mango’s data science product – ValidR, I develop materials for, and deliver training to, a wide range of training course attendees, and I also work on internal Strategic Innovation projects.

What are the key challenges to the role?

Every customer has a specific requirement which requires me to constantly develop my skills and approaches to solving their problem. Also, there are always new and interesting technologies, which it can be difficult to keep up with. However I see this as an opportunity to develop further skills.

Have you noticed any changes in the industry regarding women in the field?

At Mango, we have a surprisingly high proportion of female Data Scientists; and we continue to see this rise. I often find myself the only female in a meeting however, but personally I have never seen it as a disadvantage because I have faith in my own abilities and what I can achieve, regardless of my gender.

What drives you to start the day? What do you really love about the role?

I love the dynamic nature of working in Data Science, and how every day I am doing something different, new and exciting. I enjoy working with other intelligent people in the analytics field.

How have Mango Solutions supported your personal development in the field?

Starting without any experience in data science, (or in computer science at all) – with only a statistical background, Mango have greatly helped me develop my coding skills, and nurtured my DS skills. I have gained insurmountable knowledge of the field and expect to continue increasing this with Mango.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in their field?

Just do it, chase your dream and have faith in your own ability. Data Science is a highly rewarding career that always gives new challenges. I have always been interested in numbers from a pre-school age to developing an analytical adult mind, so for me, it’s been a natural progression aligned to my key strengths.

Karina is delivering Mango Solutions Introduction to Python workshop at the Women in Data conference, providing an overview of what it is and how it can be put to most effective use in business.    

Spotlight on Aimee Gott

Full Name: Aimee Gott
Job Title: Senior Data Scientist and Education Practice Lead
Employer: Mango Solutions
Subject Matter Expertise: Data Science

Aimée is a Senior Consultant at Mango Solutions. She has a PhD in Statistics from Lancaster University where she also completed her undergraduate and master’s degrees. As the Training Lead at Mango, Aimée oversees training course development across the data science pipeline and has delivered training all over the world to hundreds of people on all aspects of R. You’ll see her attend and speak regularly at R user groups and meetups around the UK and in her spare time, she enjoys learning European languages and documenting her travels through photography.

Spotlight on Jelena Ilic

Full Name: Jelena Ilic

Job title: Senior Data Scientist

Machine Learning. In Conversation with Jelena Ilic, Senior Data Scientist, Mango Solutions  

Ruth Thomson, Interim Director of Strategic Innovation sat down with Jelena, one of Mango’s machine learning experts. 

Thanks Jelena for your time. It is an absolute pleasure to have this opportunity to discuss machine learning today.

Tell me about your background with machine learning

I’ve been using machine learning for many years. I first started using machine learning as part of my Phd in Physics over 12 years ago using a neural net for mainly pattern recognition in particle physics. And I’ve been using it ever since in projects and for clients when it is the best tool for the job.

Because I’ve been using it for so long, I find it amusing that machine learning is now being marketed as a new thing. The algorithms and approaches have been around since the 1970s. The exciting thing is that we now have computers powerful enough to enabling the greater use of the machine learning to help improve decision making.

Now as a Senior Data Scientist at Mango, I use machine learning in our consultancy projects and I also train data scientists around the world in the world’s largest companies in how to use machine learning. Most recently, for example, I have been training analysts and data scientists at one the UK’s largest banks.

One thing I love is understanding how tools like machine learning can be used to drive business value. How has Mango helped clients use machine learning recently?

We’ve been using machine learning in a range of different companies recently. For example, one way has been to help our customers reduce the costs resulting from late payment of invoices and another is using machine learning to create better sales forecasts. It is a powerful tool, that for the right problem, can be very effective.

What advice would you give to organisations who want to gain value from machine learning?

Recognise that machine learning is one of a suite of advanced analytics tools you can use to drive value. The most important thing to do is to define the business problem or opportunity you have and then use machine learning if it is most appropriate tool.

That is so interesting. It can be really easy to get drawn into the hype around machine

learning. As someone who has used machine learning extensively over many years. What’s your opinion?

From my experience, the most dangerous misconception is that machine learning is an ultimate oracle. Businesses see all things that have been achieved and think that machine learning is the right tool for every situation. In reality, it is a useful tool but it needs to be applied in a smart way

I totally agree. We seen and heard of so many projects where machine learning was used, to great cost and investment, when a simpler and better solution could have be applied. This has happened where organisations have started with the answer – machine learning, rather than with the question – what business problem are we trying to solve?

Exactly. And another danger is that machine learning is being sold as a tool that you can use out of the box. Just press a button and the answer will appear. In reality that is so far from the truth and some businesses have had to find that out the hard way.

Is it fair to say that the businesses who are going to drive real business value are ones who have a clear focus on the question they are trying to answer with machine learning?

Yes. A smart business will have a clear business case and a clear question that is being answered with machine learning. Then look at whether machine learning is the appropriate tool to answer that question. Baring in mind that setting up a machine learning environment is not a cheap exercise and no business wants to waste money on tools that are not needed.

Another important area for businesses to consider is the data they have available. In machine learning, having the right data is critical. In many businesses, far more attention needs to be paid to the data available, the data quality and preparation to enable machine learning.

I feel we could talk about this topic for hours! In summary, if you could a message with businesses considering using machine learning, what would it be.

Machine learning is a powerful tool but it is only one of many tools you can use. It is also not a tool, yet, that can fully replace the data analysis process. Use it as part of advanced analytics programme focused on driving business value.

How Mango Solutions see the data landscape changing in the UK in the next 5 years

We are already seeing the openness of business to change around data and this is a trend we expect to continue. You can write the best code, create the best algorithms and perform the most exacting analysis but if the business isn’t willing to effect change then this results in no value. We also expect to see the growth of innovation within the data sector and a continued move towards open source solutions from even the most traditional of industry sectors.

About Mango Solutions

Mango Solutions specialise in the provision of data science solutions to help organisations gain actionable insights from their data. We firmly believe that commercial decision-making can be enhanced by the use of analytics and that business success is increasingly dependent on being data-driven. Our mission is to empower organisations to make informed decisions using data science and advanced analytics to drive bigger gains, lower costs and optimize performance.