Sometimes we forget the humans behind the tech in our ever busy world. DSF is fortunate enough to know some incredible tech leaders across the world and has the privilege of hearing them present at our events. That being said, our Speaker Spotlight sets the stage to get to know our speakers on a more personal level and connect them with our growing community. Read the mini interview below!

A bit about Okan:

I am originally from Istanbul, Turkey and currently residing in Barcelona, Spain. I have been working as a data scientist for over one and a half years at Product Madness, where I help in optimizing Ad monetization and user acquisition activities. Prior to this role, I worked as a data scientist in credit risk analytics at ING, refining my expertise in risk assessment and predictive modelling during the three years I spent there. My educational background includes a double major in economics and industrial engineering, followed by a master’s degree in data science.

How did you start out in your tech career?

I kicked off my journey in the tech world as a data scientist in the risk analytics team at ING. It was an exciting role where I got to build predictive models for fraud and default detection, but that was not the most of it! I also had the chance to be directly involved in managing the loan portfolio and making some important business decisions. This experience proved invaluable in bridging the gap between data science and big-picture thinking, showing me how our analyses have real-world impacts.

What are the signs of success in your field?

Success in my field involves a mix of technical prowess and staying updated with the latest technologies, which I find both crucial and enjoyable. But what really sets the winners apart is the ability to deeply understand the business landscape and its unique requirements. Translating these needs into well-defined data problems and crafting impactful solutions, whether they’re simple or intricate, is the key to triumph. It’s the perfect combination of technical finesse and a profound understanding of the big picture that drives genuine success in data science.

What is the best and worst thing about your job role?

The best part of my job is the sheer diversity of industry problems that may come my way. I absolutely love how I can take any business need or opportunity and transform it into a data-driven problem, cracking it open with innovative solutions. It’s like being a problem-solving wizard! And the worst thing about my job is that it’s often considered an auxiliary function, which means I need to sync up closely with stakeholders and final decision-makers. While I understand the importance of collaboration, it’s not always straightforward.

What can you advise someone just starting out to be successful?

To be successful, I can advise embracing both conventional and novel statistical approaches but always with an eye on the big picture. Identify what the business truly needs and tailor your methodologies for maximum impact. It’s crucial to tie your data science solutions to real business outcomes by honing your business acumen. I believe this fusion of technical expertise and business focus will pave the way for your success in the field.

How do you switch off?

When I need to switch off, I love taking a nice walk with my earphones blasting my favourite tunes. It’s my go-to daily ritual. Besides that, I enjoy watching movies, playing games, and working on my DJ skills. These activities help me relax, unwind, and have a great time outside of work.

What advice would you give your younger self?

While the “invest in bitcoin” idea might be tempting, the advice I’d give my younger self would be to embrace even more spontaneity, put less pressure on myself, and simply enjoy the ride. Life has a funny way of working out, and stressing too much about the future can take away from the present moments that matter the most. So, I’d tell my younger self to live in the now, and maybe take even more risks.

What is next for you?

Moving forward, at work, I aim to make a bigger impact on how we handle marketing spend at Product Madness more optimally while improving my technical skills, staying up to date with the latest trends in data science. Outside of work, I’m really looking forward to improving my Spanish and immersing myself in the Spanish way of life.

If you could do another job now, what would you do? Why?

If I were to choose another job right now, I’d go for something that involves teaching and sharing knowledge. It’s incredibly rewarding for me to witness others learn and grow, and interestingly, teaching a topic helps me solidify my own understanding even further. Plus, there’s another dream job in my mind—being a DJ. Even the idea of creating a lively atmosphere and seeing people enjoying the music I play fills me with excitement.

What are your top 5 predictions in tech for the next 5 years?

– AI technologies will continue to evolve, with more sophisticated algorithms, improved natural language processing, and increased adoption in various industries.

– The future of AI, at least in the next 5 years, lies in its evolution towards augmented intelligence, where it will work alongside humans rather than replacing them.

–  More individuals with a data background will assume managerial and decision-making positions, as their expertise to uncover valuable insights amid vast and noisy information will be even more crucial than it is now.

–  IoT devices will become more prevalent, leading to a massive increase in data generated and opportunities for connected services and smart applications.

– Data privacy will be increasingly prioritized, leading to a shift towards working with aggregated data, such as employing Marketing Mix Models in the marketing domain.

Watch Okan’s session at the Data Science Festival here.

Thank you to all our wonderful speakers for taking part in our Speaker Spotlight!

Want to become a DSF Speaker? Apply here!