Five things I wish people knew about real-life machine learning

Deena Gergis is a data science lead at Bayer. I recently discovered Deena’s article on LinkedIn titled “Five Things I Wish I Knew About Real-Life AI.” I think that this article is a great piece of a career advice for all the current and aspiring data scientists, as well as for all the professionals who work with them. Let’ me take Deena’s headings and add my 2 cents.

One. It is all about the delivered value, not the method.

I fully agree with this one. Nobody cares whether you used a linear regression or recurrent neural network. Nobody really cares about p-values or r-squared. What people need are results, insights, or working products. Simple, right?

Two. Packaging does matter

Again, well said. The way you present your solution to your colleagues, customers, or stakeholders can determine whether your project will get more funds and resources or not. 

Three. Doing the right things != doing things right.

Exactly. Citing Deena: “you might be perfectly predicting a KPI that no one cares about.” Enough said. 

Four. Set realistic expectations.

Not everybody realizes that “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence” are not a synonym of “magic” but rather a form of statistics (I hope “real” statisticians won’t get mad at me here). The principle “garbage in – garbage out” holds in machine learning. Moreover, sometimes, ML systems amplify the garbage, resulting in “garbage in, tons of garbage out”. 

Five. Keep humans in the loop.

Let me cite Deena again: “My customers are my partners, not just end-users.” Note that by “customers,” we don’t only mean walk-in clients, but also any internal customer, project manager, even a colleague who works on the same project. They are all partners with unique insights, domain knowledge, and experience. Use them to make your work better. 

Read the original article here. Deena Gergis has several more articles on LinkedIn here. And if you know Arabic, you might want to watch Deena’s videos on YouTube here. Unfortunately, my Arabic is not good enough to understand her Egyptian accent, but I suspect that her videos are as good as her writings.

One of the first dataviz blogs that I used to follow is now a book. Better Posters

I started following data visualization news and opinions quite a few years ago. One of the first bloggers who were active in this area NeurDojo, by the (now) professor Zen Faulkes. On of Zen’s spin-off blogs was devoted to better posters. This poster blog is called, surprisingly enough, Better Posters. Since I’m not in academia anymore, stopped caring about posters many years ago. Today, I stumbled upon this blog and was pleasantly surprised to discover that Better Posters is still active and that it is also now a book.

How to suck less in data visualization and professional communication

In technical communication, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. There are multiple ways to ensure this principle. Some of these ways require careful chart fine-tuning. However, there is one tool that is easy to master, fast to apply, and that provides a high return on the investment rate. I refer to chart titles. In this talk, I had two main theses. My first thesis is that most of you suck in communication (and not only data visualization).

My second thesis is that you can quickly improve your graphs by merely adding a good title. The importance of good titles is not new to my preaching, but I thought it was an excellent thing to formalize this thesis a bit, and I’m thankful to the NDR organizers for giving me this opportunity.

Following is the slide stack from my NDR presentation.