Interview with Fergus Weldon, Head of Data Science, Trainline, speaking at Dublin Tech Summit, Thursday, on the FutureXTech stage at 4.50pm on Thursday 19th April.
1 min pitch for what you are doing now?
I head up the data science team at Trainline. My team of data scientists work on a range of projects across the business, using vast quantities of travel data (our customers take over 127,000 journeys with us every day) to create smart innovations that enhance the travel experience. As well as creating customer-facing innovations, we also work on a variety of internal projects helping out pretty much every team across the business, from security to marketing.
How was the last year, what worked well, what didn’t move as quickly as you would have liked?
Over the last year our data science team has attracted incredible talent to grow rapidly, and, working closely with our team of data engineers, we now have enhanced capabilities to work on even more exciting projects. This has resulted in some brilliant features to help our customers travel more seamlessly, including our Price Prediction tool, the first of its kind in the UK, which predicts how long customers have to buy an Advance ticket at a certain price before it gets more expensive. It’s been great to see how much value this adds for our customers and how it has become a core part of the Trainline app.
However, as with any team that rapidly expands, it has resulted in a steep learning curve! I’ve had to reflect on and adapt how I lead the team to maintain velocity. Leading a large team brings with it a new set of challenges and the key one has been how to coach the team to allocate their skills and resources in the most productive and effective way.
What are your plans for the future?
We’re constantly looking for new ways we can use data to make our tech even more innovative. That can take a number of different forms, whether it’s predicting prices, helping customers pick the best journey or enhancing our voice capabilities. We are champions of smart, sustainable travel so we’re always exploring new ideas that have the potential to make the rail and coach experience even more enjoyable.
What will you be talking about at this event?
I’ll be talking about big data and AI on the FutureXTech stage at 4.50pm on Thursday 19th April. Specifically, I want to discuss one key thing: the true definition of AI and big data, why the tech industry should stop being so liberal with these ‘buzz’ terms, and the role they will play in future innovation.
What inspired you to attend it?
No Irishman needs an excuse to return to Dublin! I studied at Dublin City University, but I often struggle to find the time to come back, so it’s great to be visiting again. Dublin has had a really vibrant tech scene for years and has had a big impact on my career. When I was studying here 15 years ago I benefitted from the tech investment that was being poured into the city, so it’s great to be returning to see how that scene has continued to blossom over the years.
Which influencers and websites do you follow to keep up to date with the latest developments?
I keep myself and my team up to date with the latest news from the likes of Google DeepMind, Amazon and other data and tech giants. I like to think that if Elon Musk can put a car into space, we can continually push the boundaries of making journeys here on Earth smarter and more tech-savvy – so keeping up with those (literal) moon-shot tech projects can be inspiring. All my reading is done online, the only print subscription I have is WIRED Magazine.
How can people find out more about what you are working on?
Our engineering team keeps a blog which is a great place to find out more about our work. Our social channels are also a good way to keep up with the latest from the business. And, if there are data scientists out there looking for a new challenge, I’d encourage them to simply get in touch or say hello at Dublin Tech Summit!