A year ago I might have found it challenging to really answer this question. The first time I had heard of the term data science and a data scientist wasn’t that long ago. And I have been doing some pretty advanced analytics for close to 20 years now. I know the term has been around in academic and research circles awhile longer, but 2014 is the first time I ever saw a job posting for data scientist in big business.
So what is data science? Besides simply being the study of data, it generally refers to using complex models, machine learning, predictive and prescriptive analytics and powerful technology to analyze business data in much greater volume, velocity and variety then possible a few years ago.
And of course the ones charged with doing the data science are data scientists. They understand math, statistics, and theories that can be applied to business data using new technologies and methodologies.
The biggest challenge to being a true data scientist is that you have to be adapt at both technology and working with people. Being a business data expert, knowing how to code and doing higher math are only half the job. You have to also share your data, communicate it in ways that drive action, share and engage with non-data centric people. It’s hard to find people who are good at both.
Image from Forbes Magazine.
In addition, whole some data scientists are educated to be data scientists, very, very few actually have any kind of degree in data science. That kind of degree really didn’t exist until very recently. Instead most data scientists have advanced degrees is related subjects and have migrated into the business world do to market demand.
That demand has been growing at a staggering rate the past few years as every day we generate more and more data across the planet. President Obama first employed a data scientist for his campaign in 2012. The White House now has a chief data scientist position.
If you were to compare results from job board searches form 2012, you’d see maybe 100 data scientist job postings. Now its easily in the 1000’s. So that’s why the job market for data scientist is one of the hottest around. Lack of training programs, having both tech and people skills, and the booming demand due to unending new data to being analyzed.
Some people ask me if I’m a data scientist I am careful with my answer. True data science is not something I am academically prepared for nor I have never published anything in a scholarly journal. But my real world experience working with data has made me an expert on many aspects of data science.
I guess I feel more like an analyst, but a freakin awesome analyst who can do a lot of things using data that are super important to a business.
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