March 11, 2016, by Carla
What You Need to Know About Being a Data Scientist
By Katie Bonner, employability officer
It’s really easy to do data science badly.
You don’t need to be a genius.
You’ll never be able to talk about data science to anyone who doesn’t work with it.
These were just a few of the key takeaways from Spotlight On… Data Science, an event I hosted earlier this month. As today marks the start of British Science Week, let’s look back and explore what it takes to be a data scientist in a bit more depth.
The five strong panel represented academia, retail, banking, web security and logistics. They presented several case studies, exploring how analysing huge amounts of data can assist with problem solving. One firm used data to discover 2014’s best HGV driver, while Boots described mapping genomes by targeting deals at Advantage Card holders.
So what does it take to become a data scientist?
You don’t need to have a stellar academic record
If you’re reasonably intelligent, enjoy solving problems and are interested in data then you’ll be fine. You just need to have an interest in what you’re working on and a reasonable amount of computer savviness. You will be expected to know some programming languages so brush up on R or Python as a starter.
Communication is key
You need to be able to explain what you’re doing to people who don’t understand the mechanics behind analysing data. Being able to tell a story or show the value of your work is crucial, as is being able to approach other departments you’re working with to help solve their problems.
There has never been a better time to be in data science
The Gartner Hype Cycle drives demand for technically able individuals from management and CEOs. The job market is competitive with businesses competing for candidates rather than the other way around. All our panel were hiring; there just aren’t enough people with the right blend of skills for the roles.
There is an idea that data scientists are unicorns; do they exist? Having the right blend of team work, communication, coding and problem solving seems to be an elusive mix, but they are out there. We found five just to speak at this event. With about 60 people interested in the audience, they’re hardly mythical creatures, but they are all very unique.
Image Credit: Luckey Sun
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