#49 Becoming a Kaggle Competition Master with Valeriy Babushkin – Head of Data Science, Kaggle Competition Master (Top 60)

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Valeriy Babushkin is the Head of Data Science at X5 Retail Group where he leads a team of 50+ people (4 departments: Machine Learning, Data Analysis, Computer Vision, R&D) and increases profit in a 25+ billion USD company. Also, Valeriy is a Kaggle competition master; ranking globally in the top 60.

In this episode, Valeriy explains his background and how he started in the data science field. At one point, he received an offer for a senior position at a bank; it was the largest privately owned bank at that time in Russia. Valeriy did not find out that he was doing machine learning until working on it for two years. What someone is doing right now could be pretty close to machine learning, and they don't even know. Then, Valeriy speaks on how trust is essential to the job of a data scientist; not only between you and your boss but between you and other departments. Trust will make your job easier when explaining the data, the results, and how reliable they are for the company. However, if there is an existing data science department in the company, you will not have to work as hard to earn the trust of others because it already exists. Sometimes when data scientists join a company, they think their job will just be to code all day. That is not always the case, you will have to talk to many people and often be a business analyst.

Next, Valeriy discusses setting up teams in the data science space and how many people really need to be involved. For instance, if an algorithm is your product, you will need not only data scientists but product managers, project managers, and software engineers. If you are building the data science department, what do you need to grow? You will need to build a roadmap for the product and know how you want the company to improve. Then, Valeriy explains why reliability is one of the most essential qualities of an employee. For instance, if you have a critical task would you rather give it to an employee with a fifty percent chance of completing it in two weeks or someone who has a ninety-nine percent chance of handling it within six weeks? You will give it to the person that is more reliable, despite the fact it may take them a little longer to complete it. Later, Valeriy reveals the story behind his Kaggle journey and discusses some ethical challenges in the data science industry.

Enjoy the show!

We speak about:

  • [01:45] How Valeriy started in the data space

  • [06:10] Transiting to working at a bank

  • [11:30] Understanding the business process

  • [15:10] Gaining trust from clients

  • [20:20] Data scientists are business analysts

  • [24:10] Expectations from the job interview

  • [25:50] Starting data science teams

  • [31:40] The type of mindsets to look for in a team member

  • [37:30] Different teams complement each other

  • [40:20] Valeriy’s journey with Kaggle

  • [47:40] Ethical challenges in the industry

  • [51:20] Persistence is key


Valeriy’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/venheads/

Valeriy’s Kaggle: https://www.kaggle.com/venheads


  • “It makes sense to have a job interview which is pretty close to your daily routine, your daily work.”

  • “Before hiring new people, you have to make a path.”

  • “One of the most important qualities for employees to have is reliability.”

  • “It is impossible to work directly with two people if you just spend five minutes a day with each of them.”

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Valeriy Babushkin is based in Zug, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

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