Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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    Welcome to a Silicon Valley State of Mind, thoughts tips and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "Silicon Valley's Top Information Strategist."

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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "The Science of Success."

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Posted by on in Leadership

I had power issues again this weekend. No, I wasn’t suffering through one of San Ramon’s infamous blackouts, this time I was dealing with the power in my car—the battery was dead. And, unfortunately, the battery charger was no help this time, because the battery was completely dead—flatlined. This happened because nobody drives that car, and as you may know, a car that stays idle for too long will have performance problems when you call on it to work. The same is true for data scientists on your big data team—you must keep them busy solving important problems.

First of all, data scientists are very expensive resources, so it’s just irresponsible to hire a few, just to have them watering the plants while you figure out what you want to do with them. More importantly, idle data scientists need to stay busy with challenging and exciting work, or they’ll lose enthusiasm for what you’re trying to accomplish. And if this period of inactivity is extended, it’s hard to engender urgency when it’s time to get serious.

This is a bigger responsibility than you might expect. It’s common for me to see idle data scientists while the leadership struggles to get their plans in place. This is a very bad situation. Thoroughbred horses are bred to run, and if you don’t keep them moving, they’ll lose their edge. Data scientists are a particular breed of analyst—not unlike a thoroughbred. Some business analysts are okay with just a moderate amount of activity, but data scientists thrive on solving problems, and get distracted and demoralized when they don’t have a big problem to solve. In the same way you must keep a thoroughbred moving, or a car running, you must keep a data scientist analyzing, or they’ll lose their edge.

The only thing left to do with my car this weekend was to call AAA and have them replace the battery. You don’t want to get into a situation where your big data’s power source needs to be replaced. Make sure they always have something important to do.

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Posted by on in Leadership

A few hours in Fry’s Electronics gives me powers beyond belief. I spent the whole day yesterday meeting with clients in Campbell and Sunnyvale. An unexpected call at around 4:00 PM put me on the 880 Freeway at around 5:00 PM when it’s in parking lot status. After inching my way to Mission Boulevard, I decided to stop off at Fry’s Electronics—my Fortress of Solitude. I entered tired and weary from a long day of meetings and emerged with the vigor to conquer Mount Everest (okay, maybe I’ll start with Mount Diablo). Burnout drains talent; understanding how to recharge your analytic team is vital to getting the most from them—both in productivity and loyalty.

Like most analytics, I’m an introvert (INFJ for those who understand what this means). If you lead and/or manage a team of analytics, it’s important to understand how introverts work. There are many misconceptions. Contrary to popular belief, introverts like being in social settings, have no problem voicing their opinion, typically have a great sense of humor, and can be very fun to hang out with.

The accurate distinction between introverts and extroverts is where their locus of energy lies. Introverts revitalize when they’re alone. They’ll function fine in a social setting; however, their battery is draining quicker than extroverts. If you put them in meetings all day or extended team-building exercises, they will quickly burn out.

To protect your analytic team from burnout, schedule downtime for them: especially on the heels of extended and extensive social interaction. A field trip to Fry’s Electronics from time to time might not be a bad idea either.

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