8 Comments

Summary:

Data is playing a bigger role in our work, requiring that organizations and individuals learn to work with Big Data to stay competitive. The role of data scientist is emerging in organizations wanting to take advantage of this data flow.

scientists

Data is playing a bigger role in our work, prompting the creation of the data scientist role (not as scary as it sounds) and requiring that organizations and individuals learn to work with Big Data to stay competitive. Think of all the text, images, video streams, and transaction logs added to the Internet and intranets every minute via social media, online shopping, and just work. A wealth of information is in this largely unstructured data and a lot of this information is good only for a specific time. The role of data scientist is emerging in organizations wanting to take advantage of this data flow.

In the broadest definition, a data scientist is someone who enables the exploration and discovery of what is this massive data flow is telling us.

I spoke with Anjul Bhambhri, IBM’s Vice President of Big Data Products and the 2009 recipient of the YWCA of Silicon Valley’s “Tribute to Women in Technology” Award. She has 23 years of experience in the database industry with engineering and management positions at IBM, Informix and Sybase and very broad view of what a data scientist can be:

What we are seeing here is that this [data flow] has created a role that needs a discipline — data scientists who explore what is happening outside the organization and gain insights to the business and pass it on to decision makers and other interested parties. We need to make this a part of our regular exploration.

In the old days, and for many organizations today, business analysts would ask a question and IT would provide the answer after figuring out how to structure the queries. Bhambhri says:

Now the IT group has to make sure that their data platform is all inclusive (not just internal databases and repositories); they must integrate data from all sorts of sources — but in this case they don’t know what the questions will be. IT has to provide data without knowing what the business folks are going to ask. And the business folks need the ability to explore, play around, ask ad hoc questions, and then see trends — maybe then they go back to IT with set questions for formal reports.

The new role of data scientist is helped by a background in statistics and math, but Bhambhri does not think it is mandatory. Advancements in available tools that expose the data and allow for visualization of the data have opened the process such that people can focus on their own business domain expertise as they formulate their questions. (See Ryan Kim’s coverage on some of these big data tools.)

Are you ready to be a data scientist? What does it take?

Pete Warden is a frequent commentator on Big Data issues.  He says:

There is no widely accepted boundary for what’s inside and outside of data science’s scope. Is it just a faddish rebranding of statistics? I don’t think so, but I also don’t have a full definition. I believe that the recent abundance of data has sparked something new in the world, and when I look around I see people with shared characteristics who don’t fit into traditional categories. These people tend to work beyond the narrow specialties that dominate the corporate and institutional world, handling everything from finding the data, processing it at scale, visualizing it and writing it up as a story. They also seem to start by looking at what the data can tell them, and then picking interesting threads to follow, rather than the traditional scientist’s approach of choosing the problem first and then finding data to shed light on it. I don’t know what the eventual consensus will be on the limits of data science, but we’re starting to see some outlines emerge.

These are exciting times as advances in technology are opening up new roles for people in organizations. Are you one of the many who are asking for more and better data to do your job?

Image courtesy of Flickr user x-ray delta one.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. Sounds like someone somewhere could use my theory of meaningful word distributions in texts. Too bad I can’t seem to find anyone interested in creating the program necessary to do it, even though everyone agrees it’s a great idea. Match me with a programming team, and I have some very good ideas on how to automate data mining.

    1. Hi Troy,
      Have you considered teaming up with your local university? The students may be great programming resources and their advisors in qualitative research could be helpful for tying your methods to known problems.

      1. Hi Terry,

        I have several numbers of career opportunity as Scientist (Immunology & Microbiology) based in Singapore. Would you mind to share this info? where can I post this information, so that all scientist can have access to it? Look forward to have your kindly response.

        Regards,
        Pancanita (+64 – 816706284)
        panca_nita@yahoo.com

  2. The Consulting Bench Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Consistent with this article, we are seeing tremendous demand for consulting professionals with experience in Business Intelligence, Data Analysis and Data Warehousing. When consulting firms are chomping at the bit to hire these folks, you know it is a hot topic. Expect salaries in the field to rise.

    Iain
    http://www.consultingbench.com
    Careers in Consulting

    1. Ian, what would you like to see added to an MBA curriculum that would make candidates perfect for your stakeholders?

  3. Dalila Benachenhou Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    “They also seem to start by looking at what the data can tell them, and then picking interesting threads to follow. ”

    That’s what I do. My data are un-structured, they come from many sources, and in many cases, they appear to be just noise until I gather them, organize them and create the story from them.
    You can see some examples of my work at:
    femvestor.blogspot.com

    1. Dalila, Thank you for sharing your link. Interesting visualization. Far cry from the tables of stats I’m used to seeing.

  4. Pancanita Manalu Friday, October 7, 2011

    JOB OPPORTUNITY;

    A leading FMCG company is urgently looking for:

    1. Senior Scientist Immunology
    2. Assistant Scientist Immunology
    3. Junior Scientist Microbiology

    Qualification;
    1. Ph.D Immunology (related experience)
    2. Bachelor or Master Degree in Immunology (OR Junior Academic level with related experiences)
    3. Bachelor Degree in field of Microbiology (related disciplines – food microbiology, molecular ecology, and molecular biology – with related experiences in microbiology)

    Send CV to; lifesciencejob@peoplesource-solutions.com

    Pancanita (+64 – 816706284)
    panca_nita@yahoo.com

Comments have been disabled for this post