The following article originally appeared in the Career Advancement Management Report, Volume 38:
Companies are collecting mountains of digital information that they are using to create more effective marketing campaigns, improve manufacturing and order fulfillment departments, develop products, improve quality control and assurance, and otherwise better operate their businesses and serve their customers.
This information ranges from in-house data and reports, to customer tweets and blog postings, to customer activity at Web sites. Data scientists assess the information, and then explain to company executives how it can be used to make better business decisions, reach more customers, or provide better services.
The Wall Street Journal reports that “top data scientists can command multiple job offers with salaries well into the six figures and sometimes even seven figures.”
Eric Haller is the Executive Vice President of ExperianDataLabs. Experian helps businesses manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers, and automate decision making. It also helps people to check their credit report and credit score and protect against identity theft.
In 2015, Experian was named by Forbes as one of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies.” Haller discussed the fast-growing career of data scientist with the editors of the CAM Report.
Q. How did the career of data scientist develop?
A. The role of the data scientist emerged as a result of the vast amount of data companies are acquiring. The problem: most of this data is jumbled, indistinct information. How, then, can a company use this for its own benefit? It was obvious there needed to be someone companies could rely on to take this data, build connections and correlations, and assemble insights useful for the growth of the company.The result: the rise of data scientists.
Q.What makes the career of data scientist such a hot profession? What will aspiring data scientists find fun or interesting about this career?
A. Individuals in this profession are innate explorers.They are always reinventing the wheel; coming up with new approaches to old challenges; finding solutions to vexing problems. And they do so by listening to hard data. Couple this with their analytical background and one can see what makes data scientists so attractive to the business world.
Data scientists are the wizards making seemingly unattainable ideas and goals a possibility for companies—companies that need risk assessments; companies that strive to better optimize their marketing towards key consumers; companies that could use improvements to their digital consumer user experience.
The realm of possibilities is seemingly endless for data science. Take for example these ongoing ventures. At the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore physicians are perfecting cancer treatments using successful plans of past patients. In Kansas City researchers are maximizing the productivity of area lands by studying detailed soil data. And in Indiana the state government is analyzing population data to prioritize funding for the most effective programs, including those that reduce infant mortality rates. Across the nation examples like these abound.
The common thread? Big data—or the accumulation of data too large and complex for processing by traditional database management tools. In each instance, data scientists are helping to solve some of our most vexing public, societal, and corporate problems.
Every day, from every corner of the world, Experian is working to attract this talent and utilize them to help a host of companies, from financial institutions to healthcare organizations, make strategic decisions towards sustainable growth. No matter the project or task, data scientists are
constantly examining problems and discovering solutions that are good for businesses, consumers, and society.
Q.What are the key traits of successful data scientists?
A. Perhaps the most important skill necessary to succeed as a data scientist is effective communication and advocacy for a position. Data science is a brainy, technical field. While scientists working in the field understand the complexity of the information they study, it is highly unlikely that their client does.
Data scientists must therefore be able to think and communicate like business people—to bring the conversation down to a level anyone can understand. It is the only way they are able to successfully deliver and implement their findings.
Q.What’s the best way to prepare for this career?
A. Take a free online class
– Free online courses from top universities or top subject-matter experts are available via sites such as Coursera, Udacity, and edX.
– You can download a public dataset from Kaggle,which hosts open data science competitions. (Competitors are given a data analysis problem to solve and there are cash prizes for winners.)
Join a LinkedIn group
– Join groups associated with data science on topics such as big data, analytics, machine learning, and data management.
Get to know working data scientists
– Use these groups and educational opportunities to look for opportunities to network with people working in data science, either in person or remotely if you aren’t in the same location.
Q.What’s the future employment outlook for data scientists?
A. The need for data scientists will only continue to grow in the future. A report came out a couple years ago that estimated by 2020 the amount of data globally will grow ten-fold from today. That’s a tremendous amount of data. Raw data. Untapped potential. This alone puts the importance of data science as a profession into perspective. Data scientists are the pioneers
going “where no man has gone before” for the good of our future.