In this blog series to commemorate National Mentoring Month, we are celebrating some of our incredible mentors in the Data Science for All programs.
El Diawlol is the Director of Advanced Analytics Genesis Capital a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs, leading both the data engineering and data science team for the investment banking giant. He recently answered a few questions about his experience, career advice, and creating more inclusive workspaces.
Tell us about a pivotal moment in your career: what was the backdrop, what did you do, what did you learn?
When I graduated, I interned at a government agency, where I worked on a project doing research about business taxation. After I completed the report, the agency was extremely happy and decided to offer me a job. On the one hand I was pleased and humbled by the offer, but at the same time, deep inside I felt like it was not challenging enough, so I decided to seek a more challenging opportunity in the private sector. So, I joined a bank in analytics division. This was incredibly early on when data was not available like it is today. Many companies were just starting to think about value of data. So, I was given different business problems to solve leveraging the data.
Luckily, I met a guy who was senior in the company who really understood the data. He helped me build a few tools, and from there I started seeing what you can do with the data. I think the moral of the story is that when you are young you should always try to challenge yourself and I think that is how you really learn, and it leads to bigger opportunities as you solve more complex problems.
Who were your mentors and role models when you were starting out? What’s the best professional advice you received?
I have many mentors in my life, including my mom when I was young, and then after that my uncle when I was in high school. But I think the best mentor was when I started with a bank. Basically, they challenged me, they gave me business problems and trusted me to go around with it and come up with the solution. I think that is what you need in a mentor, someone that can challenge your mind. Once we are challenged as human beings, we are very adaptive.
When I joined the bank, the people that I worked with were very smart, with more years of business experience than I had. They trusted me with the work they were doing and let me run with it. So, I think the best advice I have is to always be open-minded and keep learning. We live in the information age, everything moves fast, so if you do not keep learn, you cannot keep up.
What have you gained from mentoring and coaching - both professionally and personally? Did anything surprise you when you started mentoring?
No matter how different everyone’s backgrounds are, all my mentees are equally interested in data and analytics. I think that’s a good thing to see. I believe data and analytics are not only for people who majored in science, statistics or math, and that we should always be thinking about diversity. I like what the program is trying to do in democratizing data, I think everyone needs to at least have a basic knowledge of what data, AI, digital and analytics are all about, even if at the end of the day they focus on one specific area.
Can you give us an example of how data skills are increasingly needed in your role and business?
Data is key for many organizations. They want data they can rely on to make decisions. That is why most organizations are investing heavily in data to build data-driven product that increases efficiency and productivity or helping automate business processes.
In term of skills needed, I think all skills are needed. You need people who understand the technology and how to build the product, and people who can create business value out of data. You need people with good communication skills, because at the end of the day you need to be able to explain your work to your audience.