Navigating the Data-Driven Career Landscape

If you belong to the tribe of data science enthusiasts, you’ve probably wondered about the secret sauce to succeed in this dynamic field. Well, look no further!

Recently, I attended the Data Science Sydney Meet-Up at Sydney University, where an esteemed panel of industry leaders provided invaluable career advice for data scientists, analysts, and actuaries.

This extraordinary gathering showcased luminaries like Wendy Glasgow, the trailblazing Head of Data at Canva; Luke Metcalfe, the enterprising CEO of Microburbs; the ingenious Tristan Blakers, Chief Technical Officer at Publift; and the strategic recruitment mastermind Greg Perl, Custom Solution Lead at The Onset.

Not only did they impart their wisdom on what they look for in top talent, but they also revealed the magic behind their own data science endeavours.

Let’s dive into the key takeaways from this engaging event!

Beyond Technical Expertise

As data professionals, it’s essential to go beyond just the technical skills and understand the broader context of your work. Employers seek individuals who can bridge the gap between data analysis and business strategy. Here are some key attributes that managers look  for in candidates:

  1. Curiosity and Interest: Inquisitive minds are highly valued in the world of data science. The desire to explore, discover, and learn is what drives innovation.
  2. Adding Value: Employers want data professionals who can make a difference and contribute to the growth and success of the organisation.
  3. Rigorous Thinking: An analytical mindset that thrives on meticulous problem-solving is vital to making informed decisions based on data insights.
  4. Business Understanding: It’s not just about the numbers; data professionals should have a genuine interest in understanding the business and its goals.
  5. Autonomy and Initiative: Successful data scientists take the initiative to gather data by using tools like Python and SQL rather than waiting for data teams to provide it.
  6. Domain Knowledge: Having domain-specific expertise is beneficial, but a passion for learning and adapting to new industries will make you stand out.
  7. Stakeholder Management: Data professionals must be adept at communicating complex findings to non-technical stakeholders effectively.
  8. Disruptive Thinking: Embrace the power of data to challenge the status quo and drive innovation.
  9. Problem-Solving: The desire to tackle interesting and challenging problems can help you stand out as a data professional.
  10. Impactful Contributions: Demonstrating how your work has positively influenced the organisation not only highlights your unique offering but it also sets you apart from other candidates.

The Perfect Blend of Technical and Soft Skills

While technical skills are undoubtedly crucial, the panel highlighted the importance of balance. Statistical skills are essential, but having a sense of purpose and pride, not just treating data analysis as an exercise, can elevate your work to the next level.

Understanding Stakeholders and Presenting Insights

As a data professional, you must understand the needs of your stakeholders, the problems you need to solve, and the overall strategy of the organisation. Here are some valuable tips on how to excel in stakeholder management:

  1. Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to clarify your understanding of the project or problem to ensure you are on the right track.
  2. Simplify Presentations: Stakeholders may not have a technical background, so tailor your presentations to suit their level of understanding.
  3. Empathy and Communication: Understand the roles and perspectives of different stakeholders and speak their language to foster better collaboration.
  4. Alignment with Business Metrics: Align your metrics with the key performance indicators (KPIs) used by the business to showcase the impact of your work.

Choosing the Right Work Environment

Data professionals have the flexibility to work in various industries and company sizes. Whether you prefer small start-ups or large corporations, each has its unique advantages:

  1. Small Companies: You’ll get the opportunity to work on projects from start to finish, own the outcomes, and gain a broad skill set. Self-starters will thrive in this type of environment.
  2. Large Organisations: Larger organisations typically provide more structured training and mentorship opportunities. This makes larger organisations a great choice for those seeking professional growth.


How to Craft a Standout CV

Your CV is often the first impression employers have of you, so make it count. Here are some CV tips to keep in mind:

  1. Keep It Concise: Limit your CV to two pages and focus on highlighting your relevant experience. 
  2. Highlight Achievements: Emphasise the impact you had in previous roles and showcase how you contributed to the success of the organisation.
  3. Be Consistent: To avoid confusion, use one common name across your professional platforms and interactions, such as LinkedIn and your CV.
  4. Research the Company: Tailor your CV to the specific job by including keywords from the job advertisement and company mission or goals to demonstrate your knowledge of the company.
  5. Spellcheck: Attention to detail is crucial. Make sure your CV is error-free.
  6. Less Focus on Cover Letters: While cover letters are a long-standing custom, the consensus among the panellists was that they often go unread. Company talent acquisition people generally just look at keywords in the CV.

The Quest for Domain Knowledge

One of the challenges for data professionals is gaining domain-specific knowledge when working in a new industry. Invest time in researching the company, understanding its initiatives, and taking industry-related courses to demonstrate your commitment to understanding the industry.


This Data Science Meet-Up was a treasure trove of career advice for aspiring and seasoned data scientists, analysts, and actuaries alike.

Beyond technical skills, it’s crucial to understand the broader business context, communicate effectively with stakeholders, and present insights in a way that resonates with the company’s goals.

Whether you choose to work in a small start-up or a large corporation, the key is to add value and make a difference through your work. As the world of data continues to evolve, the pursuit of domain knowledge and disruptive thinking will be essential to stay ahead in this exciting and ever-changing field.

Side note: I asked Chat GPT to help me rewrite my dots points into an article and I think it did a great job!

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