From June 6 to 9 the first ever ‘Dutch Data Science Week’ took place in the Netherlands. The week consisted of 4 days in which 28 events took place in 6 different locations. During the week people could attend classes ranging from beginner to advanced levels, visit meetups, participate in hackathons (‘data challenges’), watch the talkshows, and even find a job as a (future) data scientist in the career cafe!
To make this week a success, SAS Netherlands joined forces with one of the leading data science firms in the country: GoDataDriven. And what better way to start this new ‘Dutch Data Science’ blog series than with a profile of DDSW17 partner and co-founder GoDataDriven? I talked to Rob Dielemans, managing director, and Walter van der Scheer, marketing manager, about the company, some of their coolest projects, their ongoing challenges, and how they view the future of AI and Machine Learning. Enjoy reading!
GoDataDriven was founded in 2013 as a spin off from parent company Xebia. From the get go the focus was on leveraging the emerging Hadoop ecosystem to help customers become more ‘data driven’, hence the aptly chosen company name. GoDataDriven could be viewed as one of the many boutique consulting firms who are surfing on the current data science wave, but that wouldn’t fully do them justice. In many ways, they are ahead of the curve and have been instrumental in building communities around various emerging (and now incumbent) topics and technologies such as Hadoop, Spark, No-SQL Databases, Python, and Machine Learning.
GoDataDriven strongly believes in sharing knowledge (which is one of their core values) so organizing meetups on these topics to educate and connect people comes as a second nature. Another core value is the preferred use of and contribution to open source technologies. When visiting the office in Amsterdam two things immediately stand out: the reception area which looks (and serves) as a grand café, including the bar, and the indoor climbing wall next to this bar. To the best of my knowledge this is the only office in the Netherlands with an indoor climbing wall; a great way to clear your head if you’re stuck in a nasty programming problem if you ask me. The company currently employs 30 people which are all seasoned professionals in their field; there’s a strong belief in primarily working with experienced hires, who also get plenty of opportunities for personal and professional development.
The company name is aptly reflected in the given reference cases: it’s all about helping organizations becoming more data driven. For Bakkersland (producing 80% of packaged bread in the Netherlands) a model was developed that lets a large supermarket chain automatically generate replenishment orders. Manual adjustment by a store manager is still possible but usually not required. For a large publishing company GoDataDriven developed a translation engine by using the Google API; a nice combination of data science and data engineering skills. And for the Dutch Ebay (Markplaats) a recommender was developed that generates user specific content, especially for the mobile apps. This case was even mentioned in the global Ebay quarterly report for Q2 2017
GoDataDriven mentions a couple of challenges. First of all the complexity of helping customers to make the transition to a data driven way of working; many challenges are organizational & process challenges, not necessarily technical ones. Finding and hiring the right people is another one; there’s a real ‘war for talent’ going on and competition on the job market is increasing. GoDataDriven hires on the top end and is always looking for the brightest minds out there. As currently only 10% of the team is female, for the future, GoDataDriven hopes to balance the team composition by attracting more female data engineers and data scientists.
The future of AI & Machine Learning
According to GoDataDriven the societal impact of AI is still grossly underestimated; in their own words and to quote a classic rock song: “You ain’t seen nothing yet”. Knowledge work will be largely automated in the future, and we’re heading for a world where AI will be everywhere without us even being aware of it, in other words ‘immersive AI’. AI will also help us to enjoy life more by automating a lot of the stuff we find less attractive to do ourselves. Adopting AI in our work and life is not an option: you either jump aboard or are left behind.
GoDataDriven operates at the cutting edge of the data science world, applying the latest and greatest of what’s available. This might not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for fast innovation and are not afraid to shake things up a bit and challenge the status quo, GDD might just be the partner you’re looking for.
About the Dutch Data Science series The Dutch data science community has demonstrated outstanding creativity in application of analytics tools and techniques to solve problems and create new opportunities. As a consultant at SAS, I am in the privileged position of meeting some of the brightest stars in this community. This stars series is a review of noteworthy data science initiatives by organizations, remarkable business models by data science startups and interviews with individuals who make outstanding contribution to the community’s overall achievements.