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TMC Data Science | Cracking problems and building team spirit

"As a relatively new Business Cell, we’d like to put ourselves on the map, and we want to inspire each other by building something cool as a team," says Valentin Kotov, Employeneur at TMC Data Science. What better way to reach those goals than by taking part in a big public competition? This summer, Data Science kicked-off a series of hackathons in which cell members take part in contests, solve challenging problems, and work with the latest tools available.

"Usually, a hackathon is something of a binge-coding event," Valentin explains. "All kinds of specialists take part, and for 48 hours, there’s hardly any sleep, just frantic coding, plus lots of beer and caffeine. Our approach is a bit more relaxed: we come together regularly with a group of Data Science Employeneurs. We have a pizza, talk about our activities, and share our latest professional insights and best practices. It’s all very informal - but that doesn’t mean we don’t take it seriously or aren’t ambitious!"

Kaggle competition

Recently, the Data Science team decided to join the Santander Value Prediction Challenge: a Kaggle competition in which TMC’s team are taking on 3,300 (and counting) other participants. The challenge issued by the Spanish bank: build a model that predicts the value of the next transaction of a Santander customer.

"If we manage to build an amazing predictive model - great. But if by doing new things together we can all share our inspiration and learn something about our field - even better!"

"Of course, it would be awesome to reach a high place in the competition," says Valentin, "but to be honest, that’s not our main goal. The most important point of the challenge is to take part in something fun together, to join in a collective Data Science experience. If we manage to build an amazing predictive model - great. But if by doing new things together we can all share our inspiration and learn something about our field - even better!"

Mental gymnastics

Valentin himself has some experience with competitions like these: "During my Data Science studies, I followed a course entirely centered on competing in challenges with fellow students. I immediately realized what a great, fun way this is to exercise your art and your creativity, on so many levels. It’s a great opportunity to try out that new technique or technology you’ve read or heard about but haven’t tried yourself yet. You could see it in some ways as a challenging kind of mental gymnastics, but there are more serious professional benefits to it as well. It’s an easy, publicly accessible way to prove your expertise as a team. It shows how your team ranks compared to the other contestants. Even though we haven’t set a specific goal when it comes to our ranking, I’m confident we’ll do great!"

There are still a few more weeks, a couple of pizza sessions, and lots of mental gymnastics to go for Valentin and his team - the Santander competition runs until 21 August. But just hearing Valentin’s enthusiasm is enough to know that the team’s main goals have already been reached: TMC Data Science are both growing their assets and having fun.

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