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“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”. Malcom X

As Nelson Mandela acknowledged, education is truly the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world. This year especially, we’ve all experienced the need to be agile, to adapt to changing circumstances and recognise how upskilling and learning is essential to expanding our capability to meet an ever-adapting environment.

It is upon foundations such as these that Mango has built education solutions on; working with data science teams to build future proofing skills aligned to strategic objectives.

A recent survey by Udemy noted the recent and specific emphasis on upskilling and reskilling as a result of the pandemic, with 62% of organisations aspiring to close their skills gap. A key starting point for business is in assessing the skills needed to meet their strategic aims and business objectives. In addition, they need to consider the diverse capabilities across their teams, to truly embrace the right learning culture. Team building and upskilling is an integral part of embracing change for a data-driven future. According to the report by Udemy – data literacy is the new computer literacy.

Workforces with strong data skills across the organisation, not just limited to the analytics team, can help embrace these positive changes. Quite often, it’s the business stakeholders who own the targets and processes who are most empowered by engaging in the data & analytics conversation.

As educators in data science and advanced analytics, we’d like to share some of the most effective strategies when looking to upskilling teams and business stakeholders appropriately:

  • Ensure a dynamic, facilitated learning environment – This year, like no other before, saw providers going virtual. Whilst nothing replaces face to face contact, any method that brings your teams together virtually into a real classroom setting, is the next best thing. Applying learning to a workflow requires a mentoring-based approach to help build lasting and best in class capability. Self-learning or pre-recorded lectures have their place but lack the interactive ‘in person trainer’ approach, where wider questions can be answered.
  • Apply a unique learning experience so that it is tailored to the market or industry – the ability to adapt to the needs of a diverse group is a core skill as a trainer. Practice exercises tailored to help beyond the classroom will allow newly applied their skills to be incorporated into a daily workflow.
  • Ensure training partners have real world experience from industry – the ability to showcase relevant examples and not just the theory, can really help bring a programme to life. In our experience, the ability to share and provide value via real-world applications, combined with practical, proven approaches and best practice advice, is key.
  • Choose courses as an integral part of a leaning pathway – courses for individuals and teams should be chosen as part of learning pathways to fill any capability gaps. Processes which invest in capability, with ongoing development of skills are proven to help staff retention. There should also be processes in place to retest these new skills.
  • Demystifying data science – the ability to establish a common language between all functions of an organisation is essential to a collaborative partnership. This depth of understanding will then ensure a close alignment between analytics and strategy, supporting any barriers to change.

Following the delivery of a recent training programme delivered to AstraZeneca, Gabriella Rustici-Data Science Learning Director, commented:

“Having worked with Mango previously on a training project, we reached out to them as a trusted partner to assist us with a data science training initiative which involved helping cohorts from our R&D data science function embark on their R journey.  We were also looking for a workshop to help our scientists ‘demystify’ data science and understand the terminology – establishing a common language between scientists and data scientists.

Mango helped us create a remote virtual classroom R training program, which included support surgeries designed to enable participants to really absorb what they had learnt from the program. Feedback received from course participants was excellent, with comments such as: “ The instructor was great, really patient”, “The instructor was very enthusiastic, clearly knew their topic and the learning material was great”, “ I got a lot from the course” and “I’m keen to learn more R, hopefully with Mango”. The workshop was well received and has certainly given us a good start to increasing awareness of what data science can do.”

About Mango Training

Whether you’re seeking R training courses, Python training courses or more, our comprehensive training programmes are specially designed to guide practising data scientists and data engineers from breakthrough to mastery level in R programming, Python, Shiny, AI/ML and more.

 

NHS-R Community
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The NHS is one of the UK’s most valued institutions and serves as the healthcare infrastructure for millions of people. Mango has had the pleasure of supporting their internal NHS-R community over the last few years, supporting the initiative from its inception and sharing our knowledge and expertise at their events as they seek to promote the wider usage and adoption of R and develop best practice solutions to NHS problems.

According to a recent survey by Udemy, 62% of organisations are focusing on closing skills gaps, essential to keeping teams competitive, up to date and armed with the relevant skills to adapt to future challenges.  For many institutions, an important first step is connecting their analytics teams and data professionals to encourage the collaboration and sharing of knowledge. With ‘Data literacy’ fast becoming the new computer literacy, workforces with strong data skills are fast realising the strength and value of such skills across the whole organisation.

As the UK’s largest employer, comprising 207 clinical commissioning groups, 135 acute non-specialist trusts and 17 acute specialist trusts in England alone, the NHS faces a particularly daunting task when it comes to connecting their data professionals, a vast group which includes clinicians as well as performance, information and health analysts.

The NHS-R community was the brainchild of Professor Mohammed Mohammed, Principal Consultant (Strategy Unit), Professor of Healthcare, Quality & Effectiveness at the University of Bradford. He argues,  “I’m pretty sure there is enough brain power in NHS to tackle any analytical challenge, but what we have to do is harness that power, promoting R as the incredible tool that it is, and one that can enable the growing NHS analytics community to work collaboratively, rather than in silos”.

Three years in and the NHS-R Community has begun to address that issue, bringing together once disparate groups and individuals to create a community, sharing insights, use cases, best practices and approaches, designed to create better outputs across the NHS with a key aim of improving patient outcomes.  Having delivered workshops at previous NHS-R conferences, Mango consultants were pleased to support the most recent virtual conference with two workshops – An Introduction to the Tidyverse and Text Analysis in R. These courses proved to be a popular choice with the conference attendees, attracting feedback such as “The workshop has developed my confidence for using R in advanced analysis” and “An easy to follow and clear introduction to the topic.”

Liz Mathews, Mango’s Head of Community, has worked with Professor Mohammed from the beginning, sharing information and learnings from our own R community work and experience.  Professor Mohammed commented:

“The NHS-R community has, from its very first conference, enjoyed support from Mango who have a wealth of experience in using R for government sector work and great insight in how to develop and support R based communities. Mango hosts the annual R in Industry conference (EARL) to which NHS-R Community members are invited and from which we have learned so much. We see Mango as a friend and a champion for the NHS-R Community.”

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In 2020 the EARL conference was held virtually due to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Although this removed the valuable networking element of the conference, the ‘VirtuEARL’ virtual approach meant we reached a geographically wider audience and ensured a successful conference. Thought leadership from academia and industry logged in to discover how R can be used in business, and over 300 data science professionals convened to join workshops or hear presenters share their novel and interesting applications of R. The flexibility of scheduling allowed talks to be picked according to personal or team interests.

The conference kicked off with workshops delivered by Mango data scientists and guest presenters, Max Kuhn of RStudio and Colin Fay from ThinkR, with topics including data visualisation, text analysis and modelling. The presentation day both began and finished with keynote presentations: Annarita Roscino from Zurich spoke about her journey from data practitioner to data & analytics leader – sharing key insights from her role as a Head of Predictive Analytics, and Max Kuhn from RStudio used his keynote to introduce tidymodels – a collection of packages for modelling and machine learning using tidyverse principles.

Between these great keynotes, EARL offered a further 11 presentations from across a range of industry sectors and topics. A snapshot of these shows just some of the ways that R is being used commercially: Eryk Walczak from the Bank of England revealed his use of text analysis in R to study financial regulations, Joe Fallon and Gavin Thompson from HMRC presented on their impressive work behind the Self Employment Income Support Scheme launched by the Government in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, Dr. Lisa Clarke from Virgin Media gave an insightful and inspiring talk on how to maximize an analytics team’s productivity, whilst Dave Goody, lead data scientist from the Department of Education, presented on using R shiny apps at scale across a team of 100 to drive operational decision making.

Long time EARL friend and aficionado, Jeremy Horne of DataCove, demonstrated how to build an engaging marketing campaign using R, and Dr Adriana De Palma from the Natural History Museum showed her use of R to predict biodiversity loss.

Charity donation 

Due to the reduced overheads of delivering the conference remotely in 2020, the Mango team decided to donate the profits of the 2020 EARL conference to Data for Black Lives. This is a great non-profit organization dedicated to using data science to create concrete and measurable improvements to the lives of Black people. They aim to use data science to fight bias, promote civic engagement and build progressive movements. We are thrilled to be able to donate just over £12,000 to this brilliant charity.

Whilst EARL 2020 was our first such virtual event, the conference was highly successful. Attendees described it as an “unintimidating and friendly conference,” with “high-quality presentations from experts in their respective fields” and were delighted to see how R and data science in general were being used commercially. One attendee best described the conference: “EARL goes beyond introducing new packages and educates attendees on how R is being used around the world to make difficult decisions”.

If you’d like to learn more about EARL 2020 or see the conference presentations in full, click here.