Winning with Data Science shows how to adopt a customer mindset to capitalize on the hidden value of business data

January 03, 2024: In an era where companies and organizations rely on data science, the alarming reality is that approximately half of businesses lack the essential data literacy skills required for unlocking its full potential. Moreover, only 25% of workers feel confident in their data proficiency. Data science — along with its companions: artificial intelligence, predictive modeling, and machine learning — holds the promise of becoming a decisive competitive advantage. However, realizing value from data science investments hinges on upskilling people to work with data… fast.

WINNING WITH DATA SCIENCE: A Handbook for Business Leaders (pub date: Jan 23, 2024 | Columbia Business School Press) by Howard Steven Friedman and Akshay Swaminathan is a friendly fictionalized account that provides readers with a basic understanding of data science and underscores the importance of using a customer mindset when working with data science teams.

Friedman and Swaminathan walk readers through the full scope of data science projects by following the stories of Kamala and Steve, two fictional professionals collaborating with data science teams to achieve their business goals. Steve works in consumer finance and is assigned projects in the Fraud, Recoveries, and Real Estate departments. Kamala is a junior executive at a health insurance company whose role straddles clinical strategy and marketing and needs to balance delivering good patient care with keeping her company profitable.

Along with Steve and Kamala, readers of WINNING WITH DATA SCIENCE will learn fundamentals of data science and how to adopt a customer mindset when working with data science teams. Rather than trying to become data science experts themselves, Steve and Kamala both set out to learn from the data science teams in their respective companies, providing equally critical feedback and expertise from their sides of the business along the way.

WINNING WITH DATA SCIENCE assumes no prior experience and equips readers with knowledge about programming languages, hardware and software tools, data science project management, model construction, and model selection for various projects, as well as addressing topics like data ethics. Each chapter concludes with key questions and takeaways to facilitate understanding.

This book is indispensable for anyone collaborating with data scientists, regardless of their career stage.

About the authors:

Howard Steven Friedman is a data scientist, health economist, and writer with decades of experience leading data modeling teams in the private sector, public sector and academia. He is an adjunct professor, teaching data science, statistics, and program evaluation, at Columbia University, and has authored/co-authored over 100 scientific articles and book chapters in areas of applied statistics, health economics and politics. His previous books include Ultimate Price and Measure of a Nation, which Jared Diamond called the best book of 2012.

Akshay Swaminathan is a data scientist who works on strengthening health systems. He has more than forty peer-reviewed publications, and his work has been featured in the New York Times and STAT. Previously at Flatiron Health, he currently leads the data science team at Cerebral and is a Knight-Hennessy scholar at Stanford University School of Medicine.


“Engaging in data science requires diplomacy for maximal impact. Namely, understanding the norms and priorities of data professionals helps you to spot risks and opportunities. As experienced, trusted data science advisors, and by providing valuable examples, Friedman and Swaminathan open a new data-driven world that spans every single industry vertical.”
— Armen Kherlopian, CEO and Partner, Covenant Venture Capital

“Winning with Data Science is refreshingly practical and clear. It’s also fun and empowering. After reading it, you’ll be more savvy about working with data teams and more valuable to your company. You may even become the envy of your colleagues (and competitors), who will wonder how you got so smart.”
— Steven Strogatz, Cornell University, and author of Infinite Powers

“Friedman and Swaminathan have taken the complex topic of data science and made it accessible to everyone. Their creative use of characters, situations, and meaningful examples serve to demystify how to think about the field, how to use data science to solve everyday problems, and how to interact with data scientists to ensure successful projects. An excellent read, even for people who (think they) know a little about the field of data science!”
— Melvin (Skip) Olson, Global Head Integrated Evidence Strategy and Innovation, Novartis Pharma AG

“Winning with Data Science addresses a critical but often ignored obstacle in data science: the knowledge gap between business stakeholders and technical teams. This book cuts through data science buzzwords and empowers readers with the knowledge to cultivate thriving data cultures. Distinguishing itself from others, this book prioritizes effective communication and collaboration within the data science sphere, facilitating deeper discussions on intricate technical subjects.”
— Jeff Chen, Senior Vice President of Data Science, Viaplay and former Chief Data Scientist at the U.S. Department of Commerce

“A terrific work. Winning with Data Science expertly takes readers through daily ‘data lives,’ struggles with business problems, and the data science concepts that can help address them.”
— Paul W. Thurman, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and author of MBA Fundamentals: Statistics

“Friedman and Swaminathan provide a deep understanding of data science methodologies to managers, striking exactly the right balance of complexity and accessibility.”
—Kim Sweeny, Principal Projects Officer, Institute for Sustainable Industries & Liveable Cities, Victoria University

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