Growing Data Science Talent Through Structured Problem Solving

Abstract: What makes a data science team more than a collection of smart individuals feeding data through algorithms? At Macy's, the core skills that unite the data science team are a knack for structured problem solving—taking a vague business task, breaking it down to understand the underlying question, and then abstracting the question to components solvable with math—and structured communication, which allows us to effect change in our organization. In order to exercise these skills, it is also important that everyone on our team has a specific objective aligned to the global team charter, in order to set expectations about what we can and should deliver for our business. Managing our data science team therefore means supporting each data scientist as they take end-to-end ownership of mission-oriented challenges, using a combination of problem-solving, machine learning, and communication skills.

During this talk we will focus on methods to approach business problems, transforming an unorganized or broad question (e.g. should we make decision x? or, how can we increase the profitability of y?) into a set of solvable steps that can be informed by data. Through some hands-on activities and example business cases, we hope to show that having a data-driven team means that we not only use our data to devise strategies to help our business, but also that we can clearly communicate those strategies to influence decisions at all levels of our organization. As data scientists we know we can do more than plug-and-play with scikit-learn, and we hope this talk will help both data scientists and their managers take more ownership of their role and use a structured approach to their problem solving and communication.

Bio: Bhagyesh Phanse is Vice President of Data Science at Macy’s, based in the New York office. He brings over 11 years of industry experience in the application of advanced analytics in various Retail and Wholesale settings. His areas of expertise include Supply Chain Management, Price Analytics, Marketing Analytics, Customer Analytics, and Omnichannel Retail.
Bhagyesh joined Macy’s in 2012 as part of the e-commerce team at Macys.com and now oversees omnichannel analytics across the wider Macy’s Inc. chain. He leads a team of Data Scientists, Data Engineers and Analytics Managers spread across the NY and SF offices. His team develops and supports execution of merchandising, pricing, fulfillment and marketing strategies to drive customer engagement, sales growth, and profitability.
Bhagyesh completed his Master of Engineering In Operations Research and Industrial Engineering from Cornell University and has a Bachelor of Engineering In Electronics Engineering from the University of Mumbai.