#72 Focusing on Simplification to Solve Data Science Roadblocks with Evan Shellshear – Head of Analytics

Evan Shellshear.jpg

Evan Shellshear has been an entrepreneur for more than a decade, and throughout that time he has always loved getting his hands dirty with building products from scratch and then commercializing them. Evan has a passion for innovation and not just from a managerial perspective but also from a doing perspective. He has a Ph.D. in Game Theory, is published in fields computer graphics to politics, mathematics to manufacturing, and much more. Evan has founded or co-founded over half a dozen companies to commercialize different technologies. 

In this episode, Evan explained how he started in the data space, including his Ph.D. in Game Theory and hitting rock bottom in Germany. Then, Evan describes what to do if you are stuck in the details and you have hit a roadblock, and you cannot go any further. Imagine running around on a piece of paper, and someone draws a line in front of you, the best solution you can do is to zoom out and see how you are in a three-dimensional world. The best way to solve technical roadblocks is by zooming out and asking what the problem is you are trying to solve. If you still cannot solve the barrier, zoom out another level, and ask what the client is trying to achieve. Instead of solving by being technically smarter, you can solve it by understanding the problem better. 

In Sweden, Evan worked with robotics and took a different approach than the rest of the world to solving deep fundamental issues in robotics around path planning. Instead of using conventional techniques, they chose to open up and find all new avenues of exploration. One thing data scientists are taught is to be highly technical; they are not taught how to learn things. Whenever Evan lectures, he tells people, however complicated their first solution is, look at it and simplify it, then simplify it again. It needs to be simplified twice before then can present it to anybody. Then, Evan explains the measures of success he uses during a project to ensure he is on the right track. When you notice your client has not even considered the problem you are presenting is what Evan calls an “aha moment.” Later, Evan explains the process of a case study, getting users to adopt new technologies and his book Innovation Tools.

Enjoy the show!

We speak about:

  • [01:15] How Evan started in the world of data

  • [09:45] Zoom out to solve technical roadblocks 

  • [12:10] Examples of how Evan zoomed out

  • [14:25] Why is zooming out a challenge for data scientists?   

  • [18:00] Focus on simplification

  • [22:45] Taking opportunities that present themselves   

  • [27:00] Measures of success during a project 

  • [31:00] The process of a case study 

  • [36:05] Getting users to adopt new technologies  

  • [40:00] Innovation Tools

  • [47:20] Evan’s proudest moment 

  • [49:40] Challenges for the future of machine learning  

  • [51:30] Get soft skills   


Evan’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eshellshear/

Innovation Tools: https://amzn.to/2OrrAsj


  • “Take a step up and over to look at the problem in a new direction.”

  • “It is in our human nature to overcomplicate things.”

  • “I need to help the company understand what the true problem is.”

  • “Take a low-risk approach to solve your client’s problem.”

Thank you to our sponsors:

UNSW Master of Data Science Online: studyonline.unsw.edu.au

Datasource Services: datasourceservices.com.au or email Will Howard on will@datasourceservices.com.au

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Evan Shellshear is based in Kensington, Victoria, Australia.

And as always, we appreciate your Reviews, Follows, Likes, Shares and Ratings. Thank you so much for listening. Enjoy the show!