Lessons I’ve Learned in Data Science: Top Down Communication is Crucial


As someone who loves working with data, I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way while working that I didn’t learn in school. These lessons are crucial to learn in order to become a good employee.

Lesson 1. Top-down communication is key

Top-down communication, or the pyramid principle as some people refer to it, is key when communicating ideas to others.

The idea behind this is simple: when you try to share an idea/argument, it’s the easiest for the people listening to understand and follow along if you begin with your key message, and then continue to several main arguments that support your key message; if necessary you can include with each argument some supporting data.

Using top-down this method of communication is best for these reasons:

  1. Your key point is placed front and center: if you’ve watched a TLDR at the start of an executive summary or an email/memo or at the start of a paper for a research project, you will recognize the significance of using this method. Putting the main takeaway in the front ensures that your audience receives the main idea even if they miss some of the details.
  2. Presentations could be effortlessly modified to meet the changing needs of varying audiences: you can prep a presentation and stay on the level of “main message” with key arguments for those executives at the c-level and add on the details for colleagues and others who are analytical who are looking for all the in-depth explanations.

This type of structure might not come natural to data scientists and could be counterintuitive, but not to worry. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. There may also be data scientists who have done research papers and this makes more sense for them.

Way to practice: An easy method of practice for this would be to write down your thoughts prior to a meeting based on the structure outlined above to make sure you stay on track when sharing the key discoveries of your research. It’s also good to regularly step back and ask yourself what you are attempting to solve; what you want to solve is the main message you want to convey.

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