A day in the life of a Data Scientist, with Dr Adam Poulston

We catch up with Adam, our head of Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning, about his time at VISFO, his journey into the role and his favourite part of the job!
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Adam
Adam

By Dr Adam Poulston & Filsane Haji

Adam joined VISFO almost 2 years ago as the Head of Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning. As the resident expert in linguistics, computer science and artificial intelligence, Adam often collaborates with other teams. Recently, he has supported work on the backend of data products with the engineering team and has been taking on ad-hoc visual analysis work for the digital team. We caught up with Adam and had a chat about how he’s doing and what it’s like working at VISFO.

1. What does a typical day as the VISFO Head of Natural Language Processing & Machine Learning look like? 

There’s no typical day, in my role I wear a lot of different hats, typically related to R&D or on-demand work for consultancy projects. Currently, I am partially embedded in the Engineering team, supporting the development of a new data product while also maintaining active involvement in ongoing initiatives within Data Science. 

2. Why did you decide to work in this field? 

I was introduced to natural language processing and machine learning in an optional module at university and I found it really enjoyable and decided to pursue it further. It’s a nice mix of disciplines and involves analysing text for specific markers and covers all aspects of analysing/deriving insight from text. Once I even built a live art installation using machine learning!

3. What was your journey prior to starting your role at VISFO? Previous experience? 

I graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2014 with a Master’s in Software Engineering. From there I entered the world of data science – focusing on data mining, machine learning and natural language processing. I gained some industry experience in R&D and a consultancy role. I completed my part-time PhD on distant supervision techniques to generate datasets for use in training models for social media analytics. 

4. What top 3 personal qualities are good fits for your team? 

  • Desire to learn and try new things 
  • Ability to fail fast when necessary 
  • Willingness to work as a team and ask for help 

5. What’s the best part of your work at VISFO?  

I get to collaborate with motivated and creative individuals on a wide range of innovative projects. 

6. Tell us what you enjoy about working within the healthcare/pharmaceutical space and how different it is from what you have done before? 

Having worked both within and outside of the pharma industry, I’d say what I enjoy most are the many opportunities to deliver real value with a mix of creative problem-solving and modern technologies.  

7. Sum up VISFO in 3 words 

Innovative, intelligent, collaborative 

8. What do you work on in your VISFO L&D time, any exciting projects in the pipeline? 

To perform my role effectively it is important that I keep abreast of developments in natural language processing and machine learning. I often experiment with new technologies to assess whether they may be of use in future projects or add value to existing offerings. Currently, I am experimenting with transformer models for content recommendation. 

9. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working – any hobbies, favourite TV shows, music? 

  • Board games (but not monopoly)
  • Craft beer 
  • Currently undergoing house/garden renovations 
  • Doing Couch to 5K (again) after recovering from an ankle injury 

10. Biggest personal success to date?

I recently completed my PhD which I was working towards alongside my day-to-day role. There were several points in the journey where I could have given up and walked away, but I didn’t and am very proud of that.