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Working as a data scientist is all about solving problems

13 Aug 2021

ACIA’s Oisín Lyons talks about his career journey in data science and shares his advice for those looking to grow their own career.

Data science and analytics are becoming more important for businesses all the time, so it’s unsurprising that career opportunities in this sector continue to grow.

Last year as part of our Data Science Week, we looked how the landscape is evolving and got some advice for the skills data scientists need in today’s world.

In order to further delve into this area, we wanted to speak to someone working in the industry to find out more about how they got to where they are and what advice they would give to someone who wants to grow their career in data science and analytics.

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Oisín Lyons is currently the head of data science at the Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics (ACIA) in Dublin, but his background is actually in mechanical engineering.

His research focus was on the area of fluid dynamics and heat transfer, specifically looking at the cooling properties of super hydrophobic surfaces. It was during this time that he started to see how business-led research could drive innovation.

“My experiments at the time were generating terabytes of data,” he said. “The techniques I was using to even extract the data and process it before I could even analyse it were heavily computational and really data science-focused.”

He said that while engineering is very technical and mathematical, its main purpose is to solve problems, which encourages critical analysis. All of this made Lyons realise that data science could be a strong career fit for him.

Within the first few months of working at Aon, Lyons said he was working alongside very senior leaders within the business, which was an important part of his career growth.

“[To] have a recent graduate in analytics working and getting exposure to a COO of a company just delivers a real profound impact, really reaffirming the impact and value that you as a data professional are having.”

In terms of advice for budding data scientists, Lyons said being curious and focusing on the ‘why’ is the key to success.

“I think if you’re at an early stage in your career, just jump right in technically but be aware to take a step back and understand the direction you’re trying to go to,” he said.

“One thing you can do is essentially put job titles and role levels slightly to the side and just focus on delivering value and enabling others to gain value from your work.”

Lyons also said a personal challenge he faced was having to grow his public speaking abilities, which is something that can prove to be extremely valuable for data scientists.

“Fostering that ability to explain, convey and sometimes even convince others of the merits of either your approach or the model that you’re using has both been a challenge and key to my career growth.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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