Chapter 7. How to Survive in Your Organization

I wanted so badly to write a chapter on how to “manage up” if you are a data scientist. Data scientists are in the theory business. No matter how much data is collected or how many algorithms are written, the work is just numbers on a page and graphs on a screen until someone with resources takes action. And that someone is usually your boss. Managing up is the art of convincing your boss that there is enough value in the research to justify taking an action. 

I’ve resolved to write only about the things that I’ve seen work firsthand, and the problem is that I don’t manage up—ever. I’ve looked into every persuasion technique I could find: ways to win friends and influence people, raising my emotional intelligence, improving my ability to tell compelling data stories. But, in my experience, people are just going to do what they’re going to do. I haven’t been able to find a Jedi mind trick that could consistently change that. But I have found a handful of factors that are indicators of a healthy, supportive environment for productive data science research.

You Need a Network

Pyramid-shaped businesses have a definite chain of command and control (Figure 7-1). Direction flows down from your boss, who acts as the gatekeeper for passing the value you create up into other parts of the organization. No matter how good the idea, there will be many who miss its value and potential. Sooner or later, your boss will miss the potential of a significant ...

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