Danielle Toutoungi, Senseye Data Scientist, Cambridge, UK
Hi. Could you say a little about yourself and your background?
I think the main theme all my roles have shared is modelling sensing-and-measurement technology. After achieving a PhD in BioMechanical Engineering, I joined a product development consultancy, where I mainly worked with radar systems, medical devices and instrumentation.
I then joined a start-up in the field around minimal-detection sensors. We first worked to detect toxic chemicals and provide early warnings. While I ran the data scientist team, this technology was applied to the medical field to diagnose toxic chemicals in breath. So in both I was measuring physical quantities and the designing algorithms based on the data.
That’s also what I do now at Senseye. Working as a data scientist on the research team.
Why did you decide to join Senseye?
I found the opportunity at Senseye attractive because it was a technical role. A lot of data science is based around web data, not physical measurement data, which is where my interest lies. As well as that, the role asked for a lot of in-depth work that I could really get into without distraction from other responsibilities.
I’m a big believer in ‘deep work’, after reading the book by Cal Newport. For those that don’t know, it’s finding a way to work that lets you focus and really dig into a problem. My previous role as a group leader wasn’t this at all. I was responsible for a lot of communication and planning rather than getting really into tasks.
What is your role at Senseye?
As a data scientist on the research team I develop new analytical capabilities for the system to improve its use. As a team we develop the algorithms at the heart of Senseye PdM.
Currently I work in cycles. I spend the best part of a week at our headquarters in Southampton, attending meetings and fully understanding my goals for the weeks ahead. I can then spend up to a month at home, really focusing on my work. Our Chief Data Scientist, Dr James Loach, is very organized and as a team we work in phases and take time to get our ducks all in a row before working on the next batch of tasks.
What does remote working mean to you in terms of your work and life?
When joining Senseye, remote working was especially appealing because I had more need for a flexible schedule. Just like everyone, my parents are getting older and I’ve taken on some of the carer responsibilities within my family, so working from home is very valuable.
Generally it just feels like I’m finally working in a way that suits me. The opportunities it gives me outside of work end up benefiting my work in different ways. I can start my day with a good morning routine instead of a commute. I do some yoga and meditation, which gets me into a good mindset.
I love that I can go for a run at lunch. Especially in the winter. I’m pretty keen on outdoor endurance (hill running, cycling and the like) and while Cambridgeshire isn’t the best place to do this, remote working gives me more opportunities to travel somewhere less flat without taking a weekend break or using my holiday.
But even just a short run in the middle of my day does wonders for tackling work in the afternoon. I find after exercise that I can really absorb myself into harder tasks. It also helps me concentrate later in the day, so I can happily work into the evening.
Senseye’s approach to remote working is based on trust. We aren’t policed and we don’t have our hours counted. Instead the company trusts us to get on with the work or reach out if we need help. I really value that trust, and it makes me want to work harder to live up to it.
Remote working allows me to achieve a better balance between work and other aspects of my life. So when it comes to working, I have that respect from the company and I respond in kind.
What are your top tips for successful remote working?
- Decide on your Most Important Tasks (MITs) for the day. I make them very specific so it’s clear when they are “done”. I try to do this first, before I have a chance to get distracted. I also usually sketch out a rough schedule that shows any fixed commitments like meetings - it helps me figure out what time I have available to work on the MITs and helps the alarm bells start to ring if I find myself getting too distracted at any point.
- I check at the end of the day, and enjoy ticking them off if the day has gone well (again, this helps build the habit of staying on track). At the end of Friday afternoon, I also do a quick plan of my main goals for the following week, which helps me remember on Monday morning what I’m supposed to be doing and clarifies what the daily MITs need to be.
- Don’t sit down all day. Exercise and fresh air at some point during the day helps wake your brain up. I try to get about 15 minutes of yoga or stretching done before breakfast, and always feel way more awake afterwards. I try to get outside at lunchtime for at least half an hour, either for a run or walk (or occasionally a bit of weeding). When I remember I also try to throw in 5 mins of movement every couple of hours - a few pull ups, running up and down stairs, some squats - anything that gets the heart rate up a bit. I don’t always stick to it, but I always feel better and more focused when I do.
- Schedule something in the evening that means you have to stop by a certain time. I’m not good at stopping and too often end up working much later than I planned. If I end up getting to bed late my sleep is worse, which affects productivity the following day.
Learn more about why Senseye supports remote working for its employees: "Five Reasons We Support Remote Working at Senseye".