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Engineering & Product

Johan Chan, Data Scientist at Parrot Analytics

From dreaming of becoming an archeologist to predicting the favourite cartoons of children all over the world for a very impressive an under the radar New Zealand tech company. We caught up with Johan Chan, Data Scientist at Parrot Analytics to learn more about his journey into tech.

Johan has a passion for new media, and how its ever-growing influence changes our social behaviour. His role at Parrot allows him to spend my days analyzing, mining, and modeling the behaviour of online users from across the world.

Johan shares some great insight into some misconceptions about data science as well as some very helpful advice for others considering tech as a career path. Thanks for sharing your story, Johan.

“What if you could guess your best friend’s favourite cartoons?”

Firstly, how would you explain to a five year old what it is you do?

What if you could guess your best friend’s favourite cartoons? What if you could guess all your friends’ favourite cartoons?

Now, let’s say you can guess the favourite cartoons of children not only in New Zealand, but in Japan, Brazil, France, Australia, children all across the world? Well, that’s my superpower! 

And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?

As a Data Scientist at Parrot Analytics, my time is split between developing data products and assisting our clients on diverse consulting project:

Our mission is to bring the entertainment industry in the age of big data and AI.  I do this by first identifying the technology gaps and needs of our clients.

Then I address those gaps by engineering machine-learning solutions from mining the internet footprint of hundreds of millions of online users.

Finally, I work alongside our clients to provide actionable insight that enables them to make data-driven decisions. Leverage our products by integrating them into existing client workflows, and educate on the required data literacy.

Remember that an educated client will always feel more empowered to use your services.

What are some of the common misconceptions about working as Data Scientist?

“Data science is about mastering machine-learning”. Actually smart data science is not just about maximising your model accuracy, but more importantly, your ability to harvest your creativity to build meaningful products with machine learning.

This comes hand in hand with sufficient industry knowledge and a good awareness of who your end-user is.

“I always wanted to be an archeologist, unraveling the mystery of the ancient world is what excited me the most.”

Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?

I come from a creative family: my mother is a painter and my sister is a teacher in applied art. So science & tech in general, wasn’t my first choice. If anything, I always wanted to be an archeologist, unraveling the mystery of the ancient world is what excited me the most. 

However, what few years in R&D taught me is that it all comes down to your ability to think outside the box. From building the vision behind a new data product to crafting the corresponding data-pipelines, creativity is omnipresent.

Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working at Parrot Analytics? 

I have always been passionate about the new media, and how its ever-growing influence changes our social behaviour.

For example, one of my theses at university was focusing on understanding the mechanisms that led French teenagers to leave their home and join ISIS forces in Syria after being targeted on social media by extremist propaganda.

Paired with my background in bioinformatics (the science of modelling the living), joining Parrot Analytics was an obvious choice. There, I get to spend my days analyzing, mining, and modeling the behaviour of online users from across the world.

“Take your time to find the right product and team”

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

“Leadership is earned not given”. Your leadership in a company should not be inherited from your title or position, but be the product of the example you display at work.

Leadership should not be about authority or power,  but about empowering your colleagues to be the best at what they do. It is not about demanding results, but about facilitating the work of your peers.

Do you have any advice for people considering tech as a career path and how they might get there quicker?

Take your time. Take your time to find the right product and team. Job interviews are a 2-way conversation. So seize the opportunity to find out more about the team and the company’s culture. Make sure that you embark on the right tech-journey for yourself!

Lastly, Parrot Analytics is set to start growing quickly.  What kind of candidates do you think Parrot Analytics is looking for in terms of experience, attitude, and character?

We are looking for candidates who are passionate about entertainment, data, and technology. Candidates who demonstrate a growth mindset and exhibit the propensity to take on challenges with a go-to attitude.

The majority of the projects we work on, do not have a playbook, so your critical thinking and thought process is what will differentiate you.

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