Seven months ago, I was a data scientist at a big-data analytics firm. In my nine-month stint there, I was introduced to big data and the tremendous decision-making capabilities that it brings to organizations, both governments and corporations. I was convinced that data-driven decision-making is the need of the hour especially in a country like India, where most decisions are driven by intuition or experience.
I developed a keenness towards implementing the power of big data to solve certain specific problems — help farmers in our country make informed decisions, optimize traffic congestion in Indian cities, and inculcate awareness on pollution among citizens. Thus began my search for a company that is working with big data to make big impact. That was when I stumbled upon SocialCops.
Fast forward to the present day — my work at SocialCops not only helps me solve problems that I am passionate about, but also brings me, every day, to an environment that promotes learning and critical thinking. SocialCops has helped me grow emotionally, mentally and professionally in such a short span of time. Here’s how.
The Monday Morning Motivation
During my interview with SocialCops, I had told our co-founder, Prukalpa Sankar, that I wanted to solve problems in the Indian agricultural sector. Guess what — within 1 week of joining the company, I was dealing with tremendous amounts of agriculture data to help governments and philanthropic organizations make better investment decisions to help small and marginal farmers in India. I had to understand and analyze data with over 200 variables from 31 different government sources. Our team stitched these diverse datasets together by developing an intelligent system that understands and learns India’s geographical entities, thus helping us map them across all datasets. The end result was a comprehensive data intelligence tool with visualizations for our clients to gain district-level insights into three target states of India.
As a data scientist, it feels great to conceptualize and build products that have the potential to solve some of the biggest problems in the country. Over time, I have learned that not being in love with my job hampers my growth and performance on the job. Here at SocialCops, I love the work I do and feel proud when referred to as the “agriculture data expert”. That is my Monday morning motivation.
The Boss Factor
I had always been told that learning and accountability comes as a result of working under and being micro-managed by the boss, someone who is more experienced and dictates the terms and conditions of my work. Under this team structure, I constantly found myself reluctantly doing work I didn’t like and sticking by timelines I didn’t agree to.
At SocialCops, we’re loosely modeled on a holacracy. We take up projects we like, set our own timelines, and call meetings based on our judgement of whether or not things are going as per plan. Today, there is no manager that demands measurable outputs. It is my personal sense of accountability that drives me. I am a lot more committed to my work than I ever was. I feel guilty if I slack (not the messaging tool :P) at work and I never shift blame on others unless I have fixed everything that is in my control.
For instance, I remember how I was not able to close a long pending project due to some external reasons. However, since I was the point of contact, I always felt that I owned the project and hence it was my responsibility to close it. My requests to the engineering team were always kept to a minimum because these delays were causing their timelines to suffer. Had I not felt this sense of ownership towards my work, I would not have taken the extra step to fix as many issues possible at my end before reaching out to my other colleagues to fix them for me. It is paradoxical how the boss factor works better when you’re your own boss.
The Friday Nights
How many of us 20-something-year-olds cherish Friday nights when, after a tedious boring week, we go out drinking with colleagues or friends and complain about our lives and work? I remember doing that quite often in the early stages of my career. The beer was good, but the conversations were always bitter.
At SocialCops, we welcome Friday evenings with Demos. We discuss all the good work we put in during the week — celebrate our wins and work out a plan towards rectifying our failures. The best part about demos is that we get everyone’s perspective on how we could have avoided the failure and how we can improve the next time. We take in all these perspectives and come up with our best solution to the problem.
I still go out drinking on Friday nights with my colleagues after the demo. The beer is as good as ever, but the conversations have changed. Today we talk enthusiastically about how we can bring objectivity to decision making and help solve problems that matter. We love our jobs and are constantly figuring out ways to do them better while make a lasting impact.