Ivy Lu: How To Organize Data Science Teams and Data Science Projects for Startups 


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Ivy Lu is the head of data science and machine learning at Oxygen. Ivy’s onboarding marked the launch of Oxygen’s banking platform. She has bachelor’s degree in Geographical Information System from Peking University, a Ph.D in Earth Systems and Geoinformation Science and a Master’s degree in Geographic Information Science and Cartography both from George Mason University.

Episode Links:

Ivy Lu’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ivy9lu/

Ivy Lu’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/oxygenbanking

Ivy Lu’s Website: https://www.blog.oxygen.us/

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Here’s the timestamps for the episode:

(00:00) – Introduction

(01:42) – I joined Capital One as a data scientist after my graduation from George Mason University with a PhD in Geographic Information Science. After I moved to the west coast, I joined Apple. So, at Apple, I work on an anti-fraud team where we fight against all kinds of fraud and abuse within the whole Apple ecosystem to bring trust and safety to the Apple customers. Both experiments helped me prepare for my new challenge at Oxygen as a FinTech company. So, that’s my career , how I passed from the traditional banking industry to a large technology company. And now I’m at the spin hat company Oxygen.

(04:05) – A collaboration challenge, since you are the only one and only data scientist on the team, basically, you are collaborating with so many different teams and departments: from operations to marketing customer support or product features. So, you need to collaborate with every single one in the different departments and understand their needs, understand their pain. That also comes related to the first challenge. Collaboration comes with prioritization.

(06:57) – Data science teams should be positioned as the foundation and the cross team within the whole organization. So for each line of the business, data scientists should have domain knowledge about the problem that they are trying to deal with

(09:20) – I collaborate with our fraud team to set up a lot of protections in the core sets. We collaborate with different fraud vendors on how to set up all the parameters, all the controls in place in the fraud vendors for our sign up status. After the sign up flow is pretty under control, I built a preliminary machine learning model for the fraudsters, to detect fraudsters after sign up for the behaviors they show with our card.

(14:48) – I see these days, as data scientists it may require different skills than before. Nowadays, maybe, coding skills are not required anymore with such a good tool for data scientists and for machine learning engineers. But, ultimately, I still think the important thing is the study section background on the machine learning algorithm, the deep understanding of the machine learning algorithms. Also what’s important is the deep understanding of the problem they’re solving.

(17:41) – There are two types of team structure. One is like the data science team belongs to one centralized team and then people may wear multiple hats. So, one day you may work on project A, then another day and work on project B, versus another one that is more embedded.

(20:33) – We launched a new product called Elements. So we are now offering four tiers of the product, with increasing cashback with different saving APRs, as well as other retail and travel benefits like priority pass, launch access, reimbursements, like digital subscriptions, like Netflix, and the Peloton Digital.

(23:08) – We are going to raise our series B soon and a series B is all about metrics. Whether your company is going to be sustainable, what’s your retention, what’s your user growth. So a lot of KPIs and the metrics you send show to not only our internal business, but also to work presents for our VC.