S2DS 2016 – scrums

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Two weeks in my S2DS course, organised by Pivigo! I can already feel these 5 weeks will pass very fast. S2DS stands for Science 2 Data Science, and is meant to be a stepping stone between academia and working in the industry.
We’ve been studying by ourselves before the course started mid October – machine learning, python, statistics, deep learning, .. and so on. I like that they let us choosing what we were the most interested in. Shortly before the course started, the 16 of us received a list of 4 companies with a short description of a possible data science project they would be interested in. The projects ranged from big data to explorations; large companies to smaller structures without dedicated data team. One of the four was Parkinson’s UK, trying to understand how their constituent (members, volunteers, and others) were interacting with them (membership, donations, volunteering, events, shopping items, and so on). I selected it as my first choice and I’m really happy to be working with them for the duration of the course.
For me, one of the main benefits of S2DS – apart from the opportunity to work for a charity – is to get to work in a small team. It’s the first time since I finished my postgraduate degree that I work in a ‘formal’ team. Academia doesn’t really have that type of formal organisation, or at least not in my field. Pivigo makes us work in the scrum framework, a variant of the Agile framework. As far as I understood, this framework is used in product development, and appreciated for its flexibility: the starting principle being that the client doesn’t know exactly what final product it wants, so the developing team starts working and frequently reassesses that it satisfies the client. In scrums there are 3 roles: the development team (us!), the product owner (the company), and the scrum master (here from Pivigo). The team is self-organising: there is no hierarchy because each member of the team has its own competence. The scrum master only facilitate rather than lead and helps the team defining what ‘done’ means. Pivigo also gives us a technical mentor who follows our progress and assist us when we have technical issues.
I really like this framework, especially because it gives a lot of trust to the team, and replaces the ‘project manager’ by a ‘project facilitator’. I also like the flexibility: the team knows where it needs to go, and with the frequent reassessments, the risk that them loose themselves into a dead end is lower.
Now, the program is virtual – which means we’re all in different locations, mostly in Europe. We call each others several times a day (the first week I had nightmares filled with video conferencing horrors), and we’ve started to program together by sharing our screen. Although it’s quite difficult to work this way, it is a great way to learn – learning new things as well as learning that I knew other things already.
3 more weeks to go!