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Why can’t every day be a DataFest day?

Photo above shows panel with Zoe Webster, Dr Sue Black, Sally Eaves and moderator Tabitha Goldstaub discussing How Data and AI is enabling humankind
Daniel Sloan

One of our MSc students, Daniel Sloan (Strathclyde MSc in Fin Tech), writes about his DataSummit experience after winning a free ticket to the event

Still buzzing from Data Talent on Tuesday, I could not wait to arrive at the finale of the DataFest fortnight. As I arrived in our beautiful capital, the sun was shining which is a rare occasion in bonnie Scotland but made the day even more glorious. The Assembly Rooms were glowing with the bright colours of The Data Summit 2019. After being greeted by some lovely people, the noise from the exhibition room hit me, like birds chirping on a Spring morning. There is something in the air in the data ecosystem in Scotland, it’s a unique buzz and I am sure you will agree that The Data Lab are to thank for that. Everyone is doing something different with data and cannot wait to hear each other’s stories. There is one thing that everyone has in common though; the desire to achieve more with data. There is a general feeling in Scotland that Data Science is only just getting started and the possibilities are endless.

Day 1 – huge array of talk topics

After the warm welcome from Gillian (CEO of The Data Lab), I was pleased that for the second time this week to have Maggie Philbin OBE as the host. Maggie’s ability to get the crowd going is amazing, from start to finish, her passion is infectious. The theme for the event was #DataTogether and that’s exactly what we were doing – data, together. There are too many awesome speakers to mention them all. What really got me on the first day though was the huge array of topics.

Data Summit day 1 at the Assembly Rooms Edinburgh; Maggie Philbin Science TV presenter in conversation with Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie.

The day kicked off with Christopher Wylie, who blew the whistle on Cambridge Analytica. This brought the subject of data privacy and how data can be used for the wrong reasons. Later in the afternoon, Lawrie Elder from SAS discussed the use of data for intelligence-led policing. The day had gone full circle from how not to use data to the use of data to make the world a safer place, highlighting the variety and quality of the speakers and the event. Another two speakers that stood out for me personally were Sue Black OBE and Sally Eaves, two women that have the ability to make you believe that anything is possible. All that was going through my head was that Scotland’s data sector is absolutely rocking!

Then the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon made a guest appearance and commended the work of the sector and the Data Lab – highlighting that the Scottish Government will continue to support the data sector in Scotland in any way possible. I truly believe that the Data sector in Scotland is only just getting started and it’s far too exciting – eek!

Day 2 – again the speakers were exceptional

As we arrived on the Friday morning, everyone was talking about the great night they had before at the DataFest After Dark – yes, some people literally spent 14 hours in one day talking about data. Once we got underway, the first speaker was Liberty Vittert, discussing ‘The Fake News of Data’. After listening to Liberty showing how easily statistics can be completely misleading, it is safe to say most of the audience will be questioning every statistic that they see in the mainstream media.

Data Summit day 2 ; Maggie Aderin-Pocock – Space Scientist and Science Communicator.

Again, the speakers were exceptional, every one of them engaging the audience with their own expertise. Some personal highlights for me included Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE and her infectious personality. It was so inspiring to see a leader in her field so passionate about getting children interested in science – the world needs more of you! Closing the 2 days of amazing speakers was Cassie Kozyrkov – Chief Decision Scientist at Google. Cassie broke down data science and discussed the difference between a Data Scientist’s job and other data roles – if you’re going for a job as a data scientist, “make sure they have data, or you will be a data engineer”.

Gillian and the team at the Data Lab brought down the curtains on what for me was a 48-hour rollercoaster, and I am delighted to have been a part of it as a Data Lab MSC student – thank you to Gillian, Marian and the rest of the team at The Data Lab for having me!

My Data Lab MSc Journey

I thought I would leave you with some thoughts on my journey as a The Data Lab MSc student. The Data Lab are exceptional in bringing people from all walks of life together and over the past 6 months, I have grown my network significantly. There is much more to just studying, it is not easy to fit events in whilst meeting deadlines but it’s more than worth it! The collaboration between The Data Lab and MBN Academy is unique, you don’t only get to bump shoulders with The Data Lab cohort but also with Robin Huggins and his team at MBN. Robin being named as one of the top 100 most influential data and analytics practitioners in the UK is not surprising when you see his commitment to the field. Every data event I go to, Robin is there – making sure he is always up to date with what’s happening in the data sector in Scotland. You will hear it a million times, but networking is crucial for personal growth and more so opportunities beyond studying.

After being inspired by everything that is going on with data and especially my field of study which is FinTech, I have started my own FinTech company and am now part of the first cohort in the FinTech Accelerator based at the Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network. So far, I am loving every minute of it and the network I have tapped into courtesy of The Data Lab’s events is invaluable when growing a start-up. From the Data Talent and Data Summit events, I have connected with countless people who could potentially help me at some point along the start-up journey. I am now looking forward to coming together with the rest of The Data Lab MSc cohort in June for the Innovation Week to solve some real-life data problems – the fun never stops!

If you love data – you will love The Data Lab!

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