How To Network Effectively At Data Science Conferences

Attendees at Cypher 2017 conference

One of the best ways to succeed in the data science is to stay connected with the community not just on Reddit forums or GitHub communities but at data science conferences – the highest-value networking activities one can pursue.

Contrary to popular view, data science conferences aren’t just limited for data practitioners, data analysts who are a good four years into this career or data scientists leading teams –newbies should also participate in the conferences and find opportunities to connect with peers, speakers and even companies to understand how the tech world is evolving. Data Science conferences can be good for fresh graduates and software professionals who want to dive into data science field. Networking is good for career and it will also expose the participants to new ideas and perspectives and give an understanding of where the industry is heading. It is also a great way to learn skills through introductory workshops/talks. Networking is also pegged as the best way to land a job in this booming field and connect with companies that are always on a lookout for fresh talent.

The year 2018 is going to see a whopping 240 conferences being held across the globe on ML/AI with US, UK & Canada being the top destinations. Our last count revealed there are top 10, most attended conferences being held in India. While a few like COMAD, ICVGIP are more academic-oriented, Cypher and the upcoming The Machine Conference 2018 is more of data practitioner’s conference, with a large industry participation. There is a sharp focus on applied talks wherein real industry problems and workshops which empower participants in the data science journey.

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In terms of job opportunities, not everybody can beat up the job search drum to land that coveted data science gig. This is where data science conferences provide a great opportunity to understand the ecosystem, one can also attend a career track at conferences to find what type of roles companies are looking for. This is geared for newbie roles but it can apply to those looking for a transition as well.

Let’s list down the most effective ways to network at data science conferences:

1) Network your way up & level up your skills: While experienced practitioners won’t have such a hard time selling their expertise to recruiters and companies at conferences which are always milling with senior management teams and HR personnel, newbies could probably find it tough to canvass their limited skillset.

Tip: Tool up by attending a slew of workshops, not only would it help you hit the right spot on which skillset to focus on, but you can also establish a link with the person conducting the workshop, seek professional advice, share your accomplishments/skillset so far and how to take it forward. Industry conferences feature deep immersion sessions which get professionals up-to-speed with emerging technologies where they also get walk through real case studies.

2) Networking with researchers: Academic conferences are all about discussions over research papers and if a particular area of research strikes interesting, make time to visit the poster sessions, exchange emails and talk about your interest in the area and how to take it forward. Academicians and Professors are always happy to guide and mentor to give valuable insights. Make sure you make a priority wish list of people you would like to meet at the conference.

Tip: Be sure to do your research well about the paper being discussed and make sure to note down important points during the presentation. It could be difficult to make yourself heard among the gaggle of fans, make sure you start by asking relevant questions to the presenter.  

3) Career Track talks can give an understanding of varied roles: If you are just starting out, you would like to talk to industry members to figure out what each of the roles entail and how much inclination you have towards data science or data engineering, pegged as the hottest job role of 2018. Career Tracks delve into the nitty gritty of the job role, also map the skills required to level up so that you can make better, informed career decisions.

Tip: Carefully research the sessions and choose them wisely – make sure your objective is clear and you are able to get the maximum out of the session. Post the session, keep your business cards get ready to share it with the speakers.

4) Networking for a job at a conference: Tech conferences provide ample opportunities for growth, and advancement and with so much buzz around data science, senior HR managers also end up being present at a few tech conferences to stay on top of the newest trends and strategies and discuss industry-specific challenges. This is a great place to exchange business cards and even strike up a conversation if a company has a vacancy for a particular role. The job of a recruiter is to attract talent and he/she would always appreciate the proactive approach. The contacts you make could also help you land a job in the future.

Tip: It’s true tech conferences provide an opportunity to engage in a direct exchange with experts, but it is up to you to follow up with them and take the conversation forward. Since large events can sometimes be overwhelming and people tend to forget soon, it’s best to follow up with an email a day after meeting the expert.  

5) Network to build your personal brand: Most conferences aren’t just about knowledge sharing or skilling up on the current trends, it is also a way of contributing to the up and coming trends in data science. For example, you just finished an exciting new project and made a splashy technical tutorial that teaches a specific tool or skill but didn’t get a chance to do a workshop, you can always talk about it post an event to eager participants. Sharing knowledge is one of the best ways to build value in a professional context and this could lead to even more collaborations.

Tip: Data Science conferences are the best places to meet aspiring data scientists and understand what trends are picking up. Build connections with your peers who can guide and help you leverage your capabilities better. It is also the best way to build a personal brand, talk about your experience and strengths and strike up future collaborations.

Richa Bhatia
Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.

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