Data Scientist – Making an impact on the company
Interview with Jason van Pelt – Data Scientist – Rotterdam Office
‘Making an impact on the company’
‘If the data we retrieve are open for more than one interpretation, they are as good as useless’, says Jason van Pelt (27), a data scientist at Samskip. So it is no surprise that he starts his average work day with checking if the data that were collected overnight, have the quality they need to have. ‘I also check if our streams of data did not interfere. If one of the streams affected the other, the latter is corrupted and I need to sort it out.’ Of course, the system is set up in way that these problems rarely occur. But still, it needs to be checked vigorously every day, before the data reports are provided to the people in the company who are going to use them and base their decisions on them.
So you begin your work day with checking if the data streams are clean and accessible. What do you do after you are done with that?
‘That depends on my agenda. I might have meetings about new projects in the works, I will discuss with colleagues about what needs to be done and who will do what, or we will brainstorm about the best way to tackle a project. If I am not in a meeting, I will work on one of the projects I have already been assigned. That might be consuming streams with scripts/models I wrote to generate insights for the business. To do that, I have to go through all the steps very thoroughly. In coding, you can not let a single step slip, in order for your work to have any meaning. I like the concentration this needs. Sometimes I am focussed for hours on end and lose track of time.
Why do you like data so much?
Data are crucial to companies like this. Next to the actual physical infrastructure, information is the backbone of the process. Without data you can not make decisions. But anyone who works with information can tell you that. For me, my love goes further. I like to analyse complex problems. I like puzzling, I like to solve things. Working with data demands all these skills. I have a biology degree, and I never thought that logistics would make my heart beat faster, yet here I am, and loving it. Of course, I could work with data in other companies too. In fact, I have during my previous work as a consultant. But during a placement at Samskip, I realised I could have a direct personal impact on the company. And that stood out to me.’
A direct personal impact? Please explain.
‘The way the IT department currently works is actually new to Samskip. Due to progressing technology, a lot of new data has become available in the past few years, and this flood of data is still being integrated within the company. That means a lot of work my colleagues and I are doing is actually new. We are not just improving existing systems — although that can also be fun — but actually building them from scratch. I know people throughout the company are using programmes I built myself or personally adjusted for them.
And because the Samskip Rotterdam office has an informal atmosphere, there is a big chance that I might actually know the colleagues that are using the systems we worked so hard to create. I get to see all the stages of the programmes I set up — from the moment they are initiated to their daily use.’ Jason knows he makes an impact and he sees it.
‘Sometimes my colleagues in other departments do not know how much added information they can gain from our programmes or how much time they can save. They just have to be introduced to this way of data analysis. In the future, when everyone knows what possibilities the Business Intelligence Team has to offer, I hope that people in other departments will come to us with requests for their own initiatives. But not yet,’ he notes. ‘Right now, we are still working on the main structure and just don’t have time for it.’
How do you keep yourself up to date in IT?
‘Before starting this job, I was given specific and intensive training for the required programmes I would be working with. And as the job progressed, I found that management was also there to help me learn new things when I needed that, too. They have also been really good about addressing my wishes and making sure I am on the right course. The field is changing all the time, so you are never really done learning, no one is.’
How do you decide what you will work on?
‘Of course, there is guidance from management and you get tasks assigned. But here, you also have to seek opportunities yourself — you have to make yourself valuable to the organisation. Some people might find that a bit scary at first, and might need some time to find their way. But once you find it, you can start building solutions for problems that people did not even know they had.’
You said you like making a personal impact on the company. Is that Samskips only draw?
Of course not. I also really appreciate the atmosphere here. I cannot put my finger on it, but it suits me. There is a clear power structure, yet, not a hierarchical air about it. It is just everyone doing their job, doing what they are good at, all while working towards a common goal.’