From the Crimean War to Machine Learning

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What do Florence Nightingale, the BBC, destroyed World War 2 tanks and 155 Data Science students have in common?

They were all part of an amazing two days I spent this week out and about in Edinburgh.

On Tuesday, I was honoured to be asked to speak at Royal London’s BI & Analytics Seminar Event. Expertly hosted by Gwilym Morrison, this 2-day event brought together Technology Leaders and practitioners from a variety of Royal London business areas with speakers from organisations such as TableauMicrosoftBoston Consulting GroupBusiness Data Partners and Accenture.

Gwilym opened the event with a couple of anecdotes based on his 2 passions – Data Analytics and Military History. I didn’t know that Florence Nightingale was a statistician/Data Scientist – and the slides showing her Data Visualisations from the Crimean War were amazing discussion points. Gwilym followed this with a story around the use of statistics by the Allied forces during WW2 to estimate destroyed enemy vehicles – a method that proved highly accurate when compared to other methods such as aerial observation, etc. Interesting stuff to kick us off!

I took to the stage mid-morning to discuss Data Talent UK: The State of the Nation, a presentation I have built which looks at the changing landscape for organisations looking to engage with Data Talent at a variety of levels.

I was accompanied to the event by my colleague, Darren Moffat. Over to him now for his thoughts on the day:

I had a great day at the Royal London BI and Analytics Seminar Event and had the opportunity to listen to some great speakers and hear about the exciting things that are going on at the moment in Royal London’s Data and Analytics functions. It was a massively engaging exercise and great for the audience to get involved and share all of their different opinions on Data and Analytics practice.

From an MBN perspective, it was great to see the interest and appreciation on our talk on “Data Talent: The State of the Nation”. Not everyone is aware of the extent of the challenges faced finding good data talent, especially in the very competitive market that we find ourselves in today. There are so many different ways we have to engage with prospective candidates nowadays that need a lot of investment in time, resources and effort! It was warming to hear compliments and appreciation from everyone on the work that has been put in by MBN in the industry, especially the collaborations with Universities that help give students that vitally important commercial experience before they graduate and enter the jungle that is employment!

We spent the rest of the day networking and listening to some great speakers who provided a wide range of observations and discussion points on topics such as Machine Learning, Data Science, Price Optimisation Analytics techniques and the importance of Data Veracity. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable day spent in some great company.

Next morning, I was up and about bright and early to head back to Edinburgh with my colleague, Alan Wilson, to attend Data Lab’s MSc. Launch Event at the University of Edinburgh’s PlayFair Library. With the Data Lab MSc. numbers growing to 155 funded students this year, it was a busy, noisy, exciting affair!

Joining speakers from The Data Lab, Spiritus Partners, the BBC and Streamba, I presented an overview of the MSc. Placement Programme. With this being MBN’s third year of delivering the Programme, I was able to reflect back on the success of the Programme (over 100 students placed into Industry so far, with the majority of them securing full-time employment immediately afterwards) and give this year’s intake some tips and advice on how to maximise their experience throughout the year. I am strongly of the opinion that Employability is a skill that should be adopted early in a student’s learning journey – and practiced throughout – and it was refreshing to hear so many of the speakers echo my sentiments.

MBN Solutions’ Head of HR, Operations & Compliance, Alan Wilson, commented:

“The Data Lab MSC student placement programme continues to grow year on year and it was exciting to attend this year’s launch event as the programme kicks off for a 4th successive year. The collaboration between the industry and academia underlines the unique landscape that is developing in Scotland around Data and it’s great for MBN to be part of the community that is driving it. The diversity of the students taking part is a wonderful testament to the attractiveness of Scotland as a country to live in and as a nebula for data talent. I wish all of those taking part the best of luck over the coming months and look forward to supporting all the students in finding placement opportunities”.

The day concluded with a Q & A session with a panel made up of students from previous years who were now fully-fledged Data Scientists working in industry. With organisations such as DeloitteNHS ScotlandSnapDragon and the Scottish Funding Council represented on stage, the students in the audience were given guidance and advice on everything from learning techniques, to choosing the most appropriate Placement and on to how to successfully transition into industry after graduation. It was a lively, honest session which perfectly illustrated the uniquely “joined up” approach which the Data Lab has taken to ensure that Data Talent have the smoothest possible journey from undertaking their MSc. studies to gaining their place as commercial Data specialists. Perhaps, sitting somewhere quietly in the audience, is the next Florence Nightingale!!

With that, we were done. A very quick networking opportunity followed over a glass of wine – it was great to speak to so many of the students that MBN will be collaborating with this year – and then it was time to head to the train station for the journey home.

If you work within a business that are interested in understanding the changing landscape for Data Talent at entry and experienced hire level or if you are potentially interested in finding out how your organisation could benefit from The Data Lab MSc. Placement Programme then please feel free to get in touch and I’d be happy to have a chat!