The data science scene is divided into start-ups and corporates — is that really so? The answer depends on who you ask. Start-ups are certain that corporates will not (want not) get out of their proprietary structures. That they would never even think of looking for their data science community elsewhere than at traditional conferences. Corporates, on the other hand, say that this is not true at all. We were interested in this difference in perception. So we talked to Helmut Linde from Merck, a passionate Meet-up guest.
The global Head of Data Science & Analytics at Merck often talks in Frankfurt and Darmstadt and he knows the advantages of Meetup platform s. He wants to understand the issues that are relevant to the community. Data science and artificial intelligence would be subject to certain cycles and fashions. “I want to understand which new trends are emerging and whether they are promising. I’m also interested in the use cases of others.”
And so the community is also a sounding board for him, which he can use to determine where Merck stands in terms of data science. He is aware that the time of proof of concepts is over: “Now we are moving into operationalizing with many different hurdles. Networking is the path out of it.”
Meet-ups as job hubs
This is just one side of the Meetup medal. Another is the recruiting world. In his function as department Head of a Data Science Group at Merck, he uses them as a job hub to determine supply and demand. “In the end, everyone is allowed to say what or whom they are looking for. That has become institutionalized and I like it. Here he speaks for his employer Merck, which he wants to give visibility in the community. He wants to and must take advantage of this spirit of optimism.
“Are you actively seeking, Helmut?” “Not necessarily, but we must always position ourselves as an attractive employer. My team has grown strongly in recent years and data scientists are also sought after in other parts of the Group. That’s why it often happens that positions have to be filled — and I want to be prepared for that.” So Helmut would like the Meet-up audience to keep Merck as an employer for data scientists in mind. “We want them to remember Merck when we have open positions.”
What does he actually say about the hype about data science? “Ten years ago, none of that existed. There were teams that focused on specific use cases, but that was it. Of course, the pharmaceutical industry also had teams for statistical analyses of clinical studies, for example. But the fact that you have broadly based advanced analytics departments occurred in the last few years.“
Do the Meetups really spring up like mushrooms? According to Eldar, the initiator of the Frankfurt Data Science Community, Germany is lagging behind. Helmut Linde sees things differently: “My feeling is that there is already a lot of them. In any case, I get quite a lot of invitations, and in my opinion, there is no lack of opportunities to exchange experiences. After all, it’s not only in the pharmaceutical industry that there is a trend towards competence centres for data science. In general, I have noticed that there has been an increased ambition in many industries for the past two to five years. Merck is not an exception.”
Spirit of the Meetups in danger? “Maybe the Meetups are just reflecting internal data science movements.”
Helmut, don’t you think that corporates are undermining the spirit of meetups in the long term? Whoever wants to make himself interesting as an employer is not doing the whole concept any favours, is he? “Of course, I try to represent us as a company in delight. But: I always avoid too much advertising.”