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I am a data scientist, and I just moved from a consultancy company to a new company in a specific industry.

During interview I already told my now boss that my experience was mainly customer insights across multiple industries (i.e. nothing very specific or very deep, which is why I wanted to move to a more specific company)

My first month and I already got a new task to create a predictive modelling, and he expects me to give him a report "as soon as possible" (there is pressure from the CEO to finish this ASAP), but the thing is, this new model would need a pretty deep understanding of the industry.

How do I tell him that I would need time (a lot) just to study the industry first (trends, terms, KPIs, common strategies, etc.) since my seniors a coworkers are all busy themselves (some have even been disciplined/scolded for poor deliverables)? And any tips to learn fast or at least to communicate this or ask for help?

Thank you in advance

  • "How do you tell your manager you lack the skills required to perform a task in the given timeframe" – Gregory Currie Mar 13 at 4:54
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You need to let you boss know as soon as possible.

Whenever you are given a deadline you don't believe you can meet, you have a professional obligation to share that knowledge with those setting the deadline.

Professionals in every industry have to deal with the fact they may know more than their boss regarding their specialisation.

Rather than go to your boss and say it's not possible, or not possible within the timeframe, go to him with options and estimates. Do not go and bluntly say it's not possible.

After all, scientists all the time are able to write reports with limited information. A role of a scientist is to quantify the unknowns and error, and make sure stakeholders are aware of limitations in the reporting.

You could go to him and say you can do surface-level analysis, and it will take a shorter timeframe. You can explain the more time you are given the more time you can refine your model. Start with a basic generic model and work to refine for the industry. As you learn more, you may decide to scrap it and start over, but having something is better than nothing.

It's good that you understand the downward pressure on your boss, but it's even worse for him if a week goes by and you don't have anything near what the CEO expects, and this is unexpected. It's better to be open and transparent.

If this is indeed a priority, it's a possibility that your boss will make manpower available to you to assist with your learning, but he won't do that unless he is aware of your knowledge gaps.

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I've felt your pain; this is why things like the Agile Manifesto were written. The problem you're facing isn't just the immediate one; it's the culture.

That being said, your best approach may be to explain to your boss (again) that you don't have depth in the industry yet, and why that depth is needed to create this model according to the company's quality standards (or to yours; whichever is applicable here.) In other words, can you lay out some questions or imagine some scenarios that are likely to come up as you're creating the model that you couldn't address well due to your lack of depth? And can you explain to your boss how long it would take you to do the research needed to answer them?

It might be helpful to use an analogy here: "If we were both knitters, we might agree that a sweater is a large project. However, if you were an expert in knitting and I were a beginner, you would most likely be done with the sweater much more quickly than I would be. I.e., we might agree that the task of creating this model is moderate in size, but I will do it much more slowly than someone with more experience in our industry. Is that ok? If not, is there someone with more depth with whom I could work on it together?"

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