In my job, as a digital enablement agent at Siemens, I frequently receive emails from data science conferences inviting me to attend.
A procurement person by profession and a KNIME user by passion, I introduced using data science to procurement at Siemens. The new insight we gain from applying data science techniques and digitizing our processes enables us to improve our negotiation strategies and results and remove many redundant and repetitive procedures.
But my journey into data science began when I attended a data science conference. I’d heard about KNIME as a no-code/low-code data analytics platform and wanted to find out more. So I responded to one of those emails and signed up for the KNIME Spring Summit in Berlin, 2019. My goal was to dive deeper into data science.
Fast forward to today and I am now a KNIME certified trainer, teaching my team at Siemens how to use data science, and publishing educational data science videos and podcasts.
So what made me get from “I have heard about this tool called KNIME” to “I can teach you KNIME”?
The KNIME Summit is what started it. Being together in the room with people who use data science in their jobs, being together in the room with expert teachers of data science, was invaluable. The onsite training sessions created a momentum that would not have been possible in a virtual setting. Having direct access to peers and trainers is the best way of learning.
Thanks to my 1st experience attending a KNIME Summit, my team has reduced the time spent on manual, repetitive processes by 94.4%. What previously took 3 hours now only takes 10 minutes. Let me tell you why that initial experience was so valuable.
Reason #1 Trainings
Some conferences are tailored more to business people, other conferences are geared towards data practitioners with hands-on workshops and training courses. The KNIME Summit typically offers a mixture of training and presentations. The 2-day pass gives you access to presentations by industry leaders and workshops, while the 3-day pass adds on full day data science training courses.
Do you want to hear how other data experts in your industry are tackling projects similar to yours? Do you want to hear what leaders in data science think about what lies ahead, find out about new products, and have discussions with peers? Then the 2-day pass is right for you.
If you’re at the beginning of your exploration into data science or you want to develop your data science skills further, I can recommend the 3-day pass, to add on the trainings.
Back in 2019 I took a course on no-code text mining with KNIME. I learned how to extract text. I learned about stop words and what lemmatization means. During the courses I could discuss these concepts with the tutors; I love the forum and the KNIME community, but onsite, I could ask my questions related to my work the moment an idea came up and get immediate expert responses. That's just awesome. It’s also what sparked an idea about how I could become a better negotiator.
When I got back to the office, I used my new knowledge to build a workflow that automatically crawls my suppliers’ job boards on their website, to see where they were growing. Prior to using KNIME I had to do this manually. Can you imagine how tedious it is to read 300 job ads manually and extract information? After reading 10, I couldn’t remember the content of the first one I read anymore. So learning how to do this automatically helped me focus.
Imagine the scene at the negotiation table, with the supplier and I haggling over our requirement to get the best resources: I was able to tell them I knew they were searching for experienced project managers. That they obviously didn't have enough resources. Plus that I of course expected not to get a "newbie".
The insight helped me become a valuable partner at the negotiation table. I achieved my negotiation goal: we got the best people the supplier had right from the start and also saved my company money.
Being able to use KNIME immediately, without having to learn how to code, was a very pragmatic way of getting started. I was able to implement my learnings from the Summit course immediately in a real-life work context. The learning process is rich, effective, and quick.
This year, in Austin, I’m taking the course “Low Code Data Extraction and Visualization” to help me sharpen my viz skills to better tell data driven stories.
Reason #2 Interesting Sessions
This is the core of a conference.
Things like a nice dinner, a beautiful venue, outstanding events (imagine Phil Winters as Albus Dumbledore) –
– these things are all well and good, but the keynotes, the case studies, the "this is how we did it" appearances make or break an event. The sessions at the Summit I attended in 2019 gave me tips about using KNIME and helped me learn new data science techniques. Seeing how other companies are using data science inspired me to translate that to my own work.
Let me give you a few examples:
Formatting Excel files! I learned about the then new Continental Excel Formatter nodes in Continental’s talk, by Arne Beckhaus: A Business User’s Logistic Case: From Deterministic Analytics to Colorful XLS Reports. This solved one of the most burning questions I get in my own organization – Nice, Phil, but it’s a flat table. Can't we style this somehow?
In addition to finding answers to questions, some presentations lit up some huge light bulbs in my head. For example, German hair products manufacturer Henkel shared how they used KNIME to individualize a hairdressers service offering to their customers in their Smart Salon Concept. And in return, they make more revenue and strengthen customer loyalty.
This helped me to understand that KNIME is so much more than "just" an ETL tool. That it can do more than automate boring and redundant spreadsheet work. I finally understood that you can take what you learned in this ETL "entry level" work. And then use KNIME to develop predictions.
Another presentation that I was able to learn from and apply to my own work was a talk by the Landesbank Baden-Würrtemberg. This state-owned German bank uses KNIME's text mining capabilities. They analyze 1,000s of pages of finance reports from publicly traded companies. They want to find the "interesting parts" in these walls of words so their talk at the Spring Summit was about how they have automated the extraction of balance sheet information.
I translated this into analyzing huge supplier documents. Just imagine running a bidding: On the final day you have 10 suppliers submitting 50 to 100 pages each. And you have 8 working days to find out who gets to the next round. By processing the data automatically, this has the opportunity to be a big time (and money) saver.
My talk recommendation at this year’s Fall Summit is to go and see the presentation “Siemens Healthineers creates a data-as-a-service with Snowflake and KNIME” by Marcel Meyer, Head of Data Governance and Management.
Reason #3 Networking
Network is often overseen or at least devalued as a "soft thing". But don't be put off – networking is super important! During the 2019 summit I was able to network with quite a few new companies also outside of the "I know them" space. Two companies I connected with at the summit were investing in upskilling their people in KNIME.
When I say "connect" I don't mean the mumbled "hmmm... yes, that was a nice keynote" comment in conference breaks while enjoying the fantastic food. Connection for me meant something different.
We exchanged contact details and arranged a joint sessions a few weeks after the summit to swap ideas on how to develop a "data community" within a large enterprise. Arne Beckhaus, from Continental, invited me to visit him and his team. I showed him the educational videos I created to “KNIMEify” my colleagues, and Arne and his team discussed how they are upskilling teams at Continental. This exchange was extremely helpful for us to advance our digitization initiative.
We soon kicked off “Robotic Land” – a network to bring together colleagues who share a passion for automation and data analytics. I'm sure that without that inspiration, it would have taken me a lot longer. A lot longer – as in several months more. Since then, our data community has grown to the extent that we’re now setting up a KNIME Certification Program at Siemens.
My recommendation is to also visit the KNIME partners at this year's exhibition. You can grab a lot of info nuggets and interesting material there from partners such as AWS, Snowflake, HupData, and more.
Reason #4 A Supportive Community
We had the opportunity to also speak on the main stage about our digital community. I shared a use case of automating a report in our talk, A Journey from Community Building to Quick Wins.
During that session one listener in the audience tweeted about my results. Wow, what a confidence boost.
That confirmed to me that this "whole KNIME thing" was the real deal.
The feedback from discussions during the conference and comments about my talk on social media from the community confirmed that other people saw the same benefits. They felt the same way. They experienced the same passion. And they even feel motivated to share it with their networks.
The Summit is a great opportunity to meet more of the KNIME community. On my path to learning KNIME I have found the help from the community to be extremely valuable. I now always advise my colleagues to immediately sign up for a KNIME Forum account. It gives you access to valuable expertise: data scientists at your fingertips! I appreciate the friendly and helpful atmosphere on the Forum. Even if your question has already been asked multiple times before, the community is there to help you start your data science journey.
There's so much more to KNIME than what you see at first sight!
I can recommend sharing your experiences at the KNIME Summit this year publicly with your network. This not only establishes you as an expert, but helps spread the word about KNIME and bring even more experts into the community.
Will We Meet Each Other This Year?
Now that the KNIME Summit is back in Austin, I will definitely go. And you should, too. If you read this far, you hopefully have enough reasons to convince your boss. Tell her how much your organization will benefit.
Oh, and by the way, make sure to say "hi" if you liked this article. I plan to run a livestream from the event. So we can meet there onsite and online. Looking forward to seeing you in Texas (yeehaw!)