So You Want to Be a Data Scientist?

By | Tuesday August 26th, 2014

So, you want to be a data scientist?

Congratulations!  You have made the right decision.  You have just chosen a career that will present you with diverse challenges, an interesting life and one that will be in high demand in the short and medium-term future.

The other good news is that if you possess certain key skills, you can just go and call yourself a data scientist.  After all, all these data scientists that you hear about all the time don’t have a degree in Data Scientifiking.  They declared themselves data scientists and got someone to pay them to do what they enjoy doing.

So, what does a data scientist do?

My definition: they specialise in getting convincing answers to important questions using data that is not easy to get and/or not easy to analyse.

This requires a certain way of thinking.  If you are not sure what I mean, check out the talk from Talithia Williams here to find out how a data scientist thinks (in this example, the talk is about health, but it’s her thinking patterns that make her a data scientist.  One can assume she would probably use the same approach with regard to her nutrition, shopping etc.).

Now that you know what data scientists do, what skills do they need?

I expect a successful data scientist to have equal measures of the following:






With extra emphasis on Chutzpah.

If you have all of the above in spades, you are probably ready to become a data scientist.





The rest of us may need training and education (I am happy to share privately my definition of the difference between training and education…).

Several universities have embarked on data science courses.  This could be a great place to start.  Once graduates of these courses get to the market, they will have an advantage over those without formal data science qualifications.

A great way to get “the feel” without paying anything is to take the free data science series of courses from John Hopkins University, offered free on Coursera.  Let me write the key word again: Free!!  It is an interesting curriculum, good fun (if you are that way inclined) and full of practical exercises and useful advice.  Have I already mentioned that it’s free?

So, good luck with your new career; you have just chosen the sexiest job this century.

Ben Bor is a Senior Solutions Architect at Teradata ANZ, specialist in maximising the value of enterprise data. He gained international experience on projects in Europe, America, Asia and Australia. Ben has over 30 years’ experience in the IT industry. Prior to joining Teradata, Ben worked for international consultancies for about 15 years and for international banks before that. Connect with Ben Bor via Linkedin.

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