Deliveroo’s Ela Osterberger on why a career in data science delivers


What does being Director of Data Science at Deliveroo entail?

I look after a team of 35 data scientists working on our delivery network, pricing strategy, consumer care and our experimentation platform. My main responsibility within those areas is to make sure my team has everything they need, that the priorities they’re working to are correct, that they have the context of why they’re working on certain things and why they’re important, and that they get all the training and support they need. Essentially, I make sure people are set up to be successful in their job.


How did you get into the field of data science?

I studied economics in Vienna, where I’m from, then moved to Amsterdam to do an MSc in econometrics. From there I moved to London and got a job as a ‘business analyst’ (this was before data scientist was really a ‘thing’, then got a role at a big media agency where I did analysis for brands like Virgin Media, Harrods and Waitrose. Then I moved to The Guardian, where I was really able to see how my analysis transformed a product.


What challenges have you come up against in your eight-year career?

During my studies about 95% of my peers were men, who all wanted to become investment bankers. I knew I didn’t want to do that, but it was tricky for me to envisage what my career would look like. Data science is a career path that hasn’t been around for very long, so sometimes it’s been difficult to know what the next step is. So, I’ve had to have a lot of self-belief and just trust that if I deliver good work it will get me somewhere. And luckily, that has happened for me.


There is a recognised gender imbalance in data science – how does this have an impact on your working life?

I think men and women have different natural tendencies and leadership styles. For instance, there’s an established culture of how men solve problems, whereas sometimes women have a slightly different approach. I do work in a male-dominated arena, but I’m in a position now where I can manage other people – and managers – so I’m trying to change that culture of how we make decisions, encouraging a more collaborative, empathetic approach.


What can be done to attract and retain more women in data science?

One thing I’m trying to get across is how amazing working in data science is and what a great career you can have in this field. We do a lot at Deliveroo to inspire young girls, like celebrate Ada Lovelace day, plus we have a very diverse pipeline – our recruitment team work hard on that, as well as making sure we have diverse interview panels. We also try to foster communities, so we host events for organisations such as RLadies and She++.

In terms of retaining women, I think it’s really important to be mindful of flexibility. I’m a mum myself, and I need to work from home occasionally. I also think it’s important we respect people’s time outside of work. This can be difficult working at one of Europe’s fastest growing tech companies – there are always a hundred things to do. Ensuring that people on my team find a work-life balance that works for them is important.


You’re one of the speakers at the 2020 everywoman in Tech Forum, and one of your panel topics will be on building diverse teams. On this front, what works and what doesn’t?

You can’t get diversity without putting in the effort. For me, getting out there and actually talking one-to-one with other women has had a real impact. I was part of a panel recently where there were some really bright women in the audience, none of whom thought they had what it takes to apply for a data science role. I met up with some individually and encouraged them to apply, and one is now working for Deliveroo.


And what does ‘teamwork’ look like in the age of digital transformation?

In my team, everyone is based in the same office, but people work remotely. Tech has helped with this as people can dial into meetings, and we do this a lot. In fact, I often don’t know if I’ve met someone in person or over a call because we use Google Hangouts, where you can actually see everyone sitting around.

The team organise a lot of social events and training courses, so I think even if you do work from home a few days a week, there’s still a sense of community.


To find out more about our great line-up of speakers at the 2020 everywoman in Tech Forum  – and to book your tickets – click here.


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