Thursday, November 10, 2011

My learning as a Data Scientist

So apparently the new en-vogue title is Data Scientist.  I can now include that to my already expanding list of titles.  In the past I've been known as an Engineer, Operations Analyst, Production Control Specialist, and an Analytics Analyst.  Now I'm considered a Data Scientist.  It's all the same to me.  My training and expertise has allowed me to problem solve many challenges within organizations.  The title doesn't matter.  There are opportunities for people with my skill set.

A recent blog post by Kontagent Kaleidoscope about Big Data is Useless without Science got me thinking about my role as a self-proclaimed Data Scientist.  The blog article points out a need for the science of better decision making.  Organizations are looking for people to help them turn their data mines into information gold.  I've definitely learned a lot over the years as a Data Scientist and I thought I would list some of those learnings.

1.  Organizations Don't Know What a Data Scientist Can Do

The idea here is marketing your own talents.  The Data Scientist needs to put their methods and work out there for the organization to see and touch.  This means working with the peers and management in the organization.  The Data Scientist needs to be able to eloquently relate methods, problems, challenges and how they can be solved.  Important skills here are personal marketing and communication.  I know this goes against the grain of many numbers geeks like me.

2.  Problems Don't Solve Themselves

Opportunities for solving real problems in an organization are always around.  The trick is being in the right place at the right time to be able to solve those problems.  Organizations have hoarded a lot of data and many times they don't even remember why.  The Data Scientist needs to turn into a Data Detective.  Explore all aspects of the organization.  Interview different departments and see how they tick and ask questions like "What keeps you up at night about your job?".  I was often surprised how a simple solution would go a long way to helping someone else out.  This develops true collaboration and leads to bigger problems to solve.

3.  Always Continue to Learn New Things

The world is constantly evolving and there are always new tools, tricks, methods, algorithms, software and mechanisms.  The Data Scientist needs to be able to adapt to new technologies.  I've found its best to stay current with whats new in order to stay sharp and meet new demands.  The internet can be your friend.  Even keeping up with a favorite list of blogs can help with staying current.  Times change and so do organization's needs.  Perhaps this is just me but I love learning new things as it creates a fun diversion and improves my skill sets.


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Anonymous said...

I agree, that the term "Data Scientist" is yet another label to add to the pile of many. One thing that is a little different about it though is that it's a term that the general public might actually get.

It's a shame that there are so many titles for Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. If anything I think it ultimately dilutes the strength of our brand.

Thanks for the article - it's nice to see a like-minded view.

Jason Goto

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Great article, I agree with jasongoto that the term "Data Scientist" is just a nice, fancy new word to tack onto already existing titles, a way to make positions sound more extravagant than they really might be. Don't get me wrong though -- Industrial Engineering and Operations Research is insanely important, it's just ridiculous how many new names they give the job title.

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