“I have been a mentor for all my life”
Hey Raffaele! Welcome to our ‘Meet the Mentor’ series! You’ve been with us for a while now! When did you join, and why did you decide to become a mentor?
Hi! Thank you for having me here! I applied on MentorCruise on the last day of 2018. I was looking for new ways of interacting with interesting people and then I landed on the MC website.
I’ve been a mentor almost all life long. I’ve been teaching and mentoring university students well before I finished my master degree (I worked with people much older than me at the time) and I’ve always enjoyed it. I think that mentoring people that live abroad is a unique opportunity.
What’s your background? What skills do you pass onto your mentees?
After my master degree I did a PhD in Computational Statistics and then I spent 5 years as a contract researcher. After that I started working in the “real world” (a lot of people call it this way), mainly as a consultant.
Today my profession can be called “data scientist” or “machine learning expert” and tomorrow it will probably have another name as far as I will be able to continue keeping a lifelong learning mindset.
The skills i pass to my mentees can be described as follows:
Statistics (of course): i really believe it is a key enabler for looking at data and making business sense out of it.
Experience: I tell stories about real life machine learning-related issues and how to deal with them (things that are very difficult to find on books). These come from real experience.
Storytelling: if you work in the “real world” your customer will probably be a business guy that wants you to talk about the business value you created and not about machine learning models that can “wavefire the AUC of the parallax of the estimator in the w*rytbf#[email protected]…:”
Statistical computing languages: mainly Python and R. I am planning to add Julia to that toolkit soon.
Did you ever have a strong mentor in your life? How did they help?
Yes! Professor Carlo Lauro from University of Naples Federico II. He was the head of the department in which I did my PhD. He is probably the most beautiful mind I’ve ever talked to.
He helped me understand that creativity is the real key to research and, in general, solving any business problem. Asking him questions and listening to his answers was an invaluable experience to me to understand how to approach a problem that is bigger than me.
It would be great to have him here…..wait a minute! I’ll give him a call!
“Every time I teach something, my understand of it gets better”
What’s your mentorship style?
For mentees that want to grow their skillset, I set up projects, give tasks and discuss the results.
For mentees that want advice on their day-to-day job we just talk, look at data, discuss results.
How do you usually set up mentorships? How and how much did you communicate?
For mentees that want to grow their skillset:
- I start trying to understand what the mentee needs.
- After that we create a project together.
- I set one or more tasks to be performed before the next meeting.
- Loop over this list.
I set up calls of about one hour and I answer questions via email or whatsapp in a best-effort way (cannot sign SLAs on this. I have a job)
Tell us about one of your best past mentorship experiences!
All of them are special! Very difficult to choose.
What are you getting out of being a mentor?
Every time I teach something or I tell a story about how I solved a problem, my understanding of it gets better. Many times mentees’ questions give me ideas about solving problems in ways I didn’t think about.
On the other side I find helping people very rewarding.
What’s your best advice for new mentors out there?
Take this very seriously. In this age we have the unique opportunity to talk to people that face problems that can be very different from the ones we do here. I’m also sure that mentoring is going to spread a lot in the future.
“Keep an Open Mind”
What is the most crucial skill to learn for people entering the tech industry?
Keep an open mind. If you’re a programmer, be ready to learn business stuff. If you’re a statistician, be ready to learn programming, etc.
Be ready to never stop learning.
Stay humble. Don’t ever think you know everything. This is never correct and is a clear signal that you’re getting old.
Who is your ideal mentee?
Mainly open minded people.
And to wrap things up, where can we find out more about you and your work?
My linkedin profile is the ideal entry point. I am planning to put something on github. Stay connected!