Mindy Lim: Leading the Whole-of-Government Data Science Connect Community
Mindy Lim is a Central Engagement Manager under the Data Science & Artificial Intelligence Division (DSAID) in GovTech. As part of the team’s overall capability development initiatives to upskill public officers in all things Data Science and AI, she leads the Data Science Connect (DSC) and Data Arcade Tournament (DAT) events together with her team, uplifting agencies in their data transformation journeys.
QUICK TIPS FROM MINDY
- Be genuine
- Be responsive
- Create added value for stakeholders while staying true to the Community’s interests
Join the community: DSC Community
Kindly note that the DSC Community is only open to public officers serving the Singapore Government. Only valid gov.sg email addresses will be accepted.
Why is community-building important to you?
I will elaborate using the acronym DSC, which also stands for the community that I manage. D stands for dedication. My greatest motivation for community-building comes from the members’ dedication towards a common cause; in my case, upskilling themselves in the domain of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. The passion the officers have displayed is contagious. You cannot help but be inspired by their drive, and constantly think of ways you can better support their endeavour. Next, S is for Support System.
“No man is an island. To learn and grow, we often tap on others for support and advice, especially in the areas we are lacking in. You have to put yourself out there to avoid limiting your perspectives and potential.”
C stands for Connect. The beauty of community-building lies in the vast network placed in your hands, allowing you to act as an effective hub that connects different officers and agencies in the community. It gives me a sense of achievement knowing that the members can meet like-minded friends as a support group they can tap on through our various engagements.
How did you build and grow the DSC Community?
The community started in April 2017, and I joined about a year later. The first step taken to build the community is maintaining our membership database. The team kicked off the first community meet up with a group of like-minded people and spread the word to their peers. We also tapped on a social media platform that has been cleared for public officers’ use to engage and interact with our community.
“If you are building your community within the Singapore Public Service, do check out the existing Workplace group (for public officers only) to increase interaction with your members. The internal platforms have been cleared so it is relatively safe to run events and campaigns within a closed environment!”
The second step is to understand your audience. We divided the community into two segments – data science enthusiasts and practitioners. As the community matures, you can look at introducing more targeted initiatives. Some of the initiatives we have rolled out include masterclasses targeted at the practitioners and round tables for thought leadership sharing across the public sector. We also introduced Speed Dataing, fire chat sessions organised by community members on any Data Science and Artificial Intelligence topic they are passionate about. However, the latter can only be achieved after the community has warmed up and feels more comfortable about contributing.
The third step is to be consistent and hold regular community engagement events, collecting feedback from the members to fine-tune your engagement programmes. Data Science Connect, our community meet up sessions started with exclusive sharing from within the public sector. From the feedback received, we found out that the community is also interested in what lies beyond the public service. Since then, we have sharpened our events to introduce more elements of exposure to the industry via sharing from guest speakers and involving industry partners for our visual analytics competition to encourage further upskilling. These new initiatives have received positive feedback and ratings from our members.
What are some good platforms/channels/social media that a beginner community can try?
Besides using Workplace and electronic direct mailers (eDMs) to engage the communities, there are also other good channels such as LinkedIn and TikTok. LinkedIn is a great platform to look for potential community members or industry speakers for your events while TikTok is a good up-and-coming video marketing platform to promote your various engagement activities in a fun and effective way.
What was the first initiative that you planned for the community?
I still remember vividly my first encounter with the community! It was Data Science Connect 6 which also happened to coincide with the first anniversary of our DSC community Meetups. I recalled the execution was challenging; we used a new venue for the first time and ambitiously organised an additional roadshow to highlight training programmes for our members.
“A classic case of doing too many new things and trying to fit them all in a single day. Luckily, the turnout was exceptional! We received great feedback that was valuable in helping us shape other initiatives we had for future events.”
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Looking back, I would have chosen a venue with a bigger capacity to accommodate more officers. It was a celebratory event with much joy, but we had to turn down several members due to space constraints. In those days, we could only compensate members turned away with post-event resources without a glimpse of what went on during the event. We have since improved in this area. Currently, besides housing post-event resources in organised resource depositories, we have also introduced on-demand videos shared on Workplace for those who missed the events.
What is the biggest challenge you faced thus far in your community-building efforts?
During the first run of the Data Arcade Tournament (DAT) at PIXEL in 2018, we were seriously short-handed. While we were challenged by our lack of experience and reference, we overcame it with team spirit! Everyone rolled up their sleeves and went the extra mile to take on multiple hats to pitch in. For instance, our Hackathon in-charge was supposed to take care of the contestants, but he had to double-up as a technician as well to resolve the WiFi issues. Over the years, we have given ourselves more leeway. In 2018, we started planning only three months in advance. Now, we plan the DAT six to nine months in advance. As participant numbers have more than doubled in recent years, our team has also expanded accordingly.
“We are also bringing DAT to the agency level where we support public agencies to hold their own mini analytics competitions using their datasets. The planning for the next Data Arcade Tournament 2022 is already underway and we are open to agencies to partner with us."
How do you manage difficult members/partners and keep your community safe and open?
There are very few such cases, but we are firm in our stance and adopt a cordial approach. Most often, it is how we deal with rejections due to sell-out events. Usually, we point them to on-demand resources or resources outside of the community for assistance especially when our beliefs and values diverge.
How do you encourage your members to interact, especially for virtual sessions?
Unlike physical events where community members can grab a drink during tea breaks, they are unable to do so for virtual sessions. Fortunately, we found success with the introduction of some Augmented Reality games and fun activities as ‘commercial breaks’ with small tokens (pens, notebooks, or small gadgets) to excite the community between sessions. We also conduct a live Question & Answer segment in the comments section to encourage interaction, so sessions do not feel one-way.
What does success look like for you?
We are driven by data, and we are avid fans of feedback metrics to measure our success. A key marker of success for us is the tracking of numbers at our events – whether there is an increase in the number of attendees, retention rates for our community Meetup, and tournament participation numbers.
“Progressively, we are looking to also measure success in a qualitative manner such as examining the outcome and impact our initiatives have on an entire agency.”
How do you attract new community members and retain existing ones?
We attract new community members through word of mouth! As the saying goes, “Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers”. Similarly, when you treat your community members right, they will be your best advocates.
Last updated 24 December 2021
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