Monday, January 28, 2013

Data scientists are in demand: but sexy?

The Harvard Business Review claims as much.  'Data scientist' seems like a catch-all marketable title that many quantiative researchers can fall under if you're speaking to someone outside of academia.  As a computational biologist, I will vouch for HBR and tell you they definitely hit home with several observations in this article.  Here's a bit of what 'data scientists' can do:
More than anything, what data scientists do is make discoveries while swimming in data. It’s their preferred method of navigating the world around them. At ease in the digital realm, they are able to bring structure to large quantities of formless data and make analysis possible. They identify rich data sources, join them with other, potentially incomplete data sources, and clean the resulting set.
Why they do it:
The data scientists we’ve spoken with say they want to build things, not just give advice to a decision maker. One described being a consultant as “the dead zone—all you get to do is tell someone else what the analyses say they should do.” By creating solutions that work, they can have more impact and leave their marks as pioneers of their profession.
And how they like to do things:
Data scientists don’t do well on a short leash. They should have the freedom to experiment and explore possibilities. That said, they need close relationships with the rest of the business. The most important ties for them to forge are with executives in charge of products and services rather than with people overseeing business functions. As the story of Jonathan Goldman illustrates, their greatest opportunity to add value is not in creating reports or presentations for senior executives but in innovating with customer-facing products and processes.