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I recently joined a small company as a data scientist. Most people here are working in this industry for 10+ years and are fairly old fashioned when it comes to analytics. I'm also the youngest person around.

My problem is: I often get asked questions like: "Oh you studied this subject? I've heard its really hard." Or when someone asks me about my role here, it usually involves a more complicated-sounding explanation that makes me sound elitist. I've tried to circumvent this by showing more interest in others work, and avoiding talking about my degree and work experience. While I'm not being rude by answering their question, I feel it has created a distance between me and the other employees.

Tldr; I sound like I'm showing off at work and I want to avoid it.

If someone has tips on how to fit in a company culture in my situation, would be great.

  • I get this a lot (did a maths degree and work in data science) I try to just be modest "yeah, it was pretty tough but I'm really interested in the subject which helps" then I change the conversation to them "You did English Lit right? I'd find that so tricky, I'm terrible at essays, I suppose everyone has their fortes right?". Not posting as an answer because I have no idea how people perceive this – Bee Oct 2 '19 at 16:33
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There's no "one size fits all" answer since we don't know your company culture.

Saying "it was hard, but I enjoyed the difficulty" shows that you rise to a challenge.

Saying "there have been many advances in the last decade that make it much more accessible" acknowledges the difficulty and opens the door to further conversation.

Turning the question around and asking what studying it was like when they were learning it opens the asker up to a more personal question and shows interest in them.

All that said, time heals most wounds. If their ego or pride is hurt by your answer, it'll smooth over in time.

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From what you wrote I understand that you feel like you're showing off, even though nobody has shown any sign that they feel the same way. Also, I understand that you are the only person working on this subject in the company.

I believe showing interest in other's work is a great approach to decrease this distance, so keep doing that (but be careful to not overdo it and becoming annoying). Also, when explaining what you try no to delve too deep into it. Everything has a simple explanation, try to find one for your work. I don't know exactly what you do but maybe something like

I receive a bunch of data and try to find stuff that will help the company using some data analysis tools. Yeah, it might get a bit complex but it is not rocket science

But maybe this distance that you feel you have between yourself and your peers might not be related to your extremely complex work. It might happen because of age gap (you said you are the youngest in the company), because you are the new guy, because they prefer to hang out out folks who do the same stuff as them.

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