Saturday, 4 April 2015

What makes for an ideal Data Scientist?

There have been bunch of definitions of data science and the skills required for this... an oft quoted one is by Drew Conway- the key being the integration of skills from diverse areas- math and science skills, technical wizardry and finally business expertise

While I agree to this conceptually, I am not sure if most businesses would actually land talent with a perfect blend of the three. Then the conversation shifts to how do we build a team where we can get many these skills across multiple roles- but still ensure that conversations don't get distorted - the last we want is the business need to improve campaign management, get bogged down to an esoteric conversation on whether we use Pig or Hive, or discussing the various parameters of the statistical model. These are critical and have their place- but clearly the most important role is to fully appreciate the business need and real priorities and go about exploring how that need could be realized.

This implies two key principles that we have seen work in my organization
a) the business interfacing is the critical skill- the individual would need to get a true appreciation of the business objectives and understand the various data sources that could be leveraged (along with associated data access/ quality constraints). the individual would also need to be able to present the results in the right context- with the right level confidence and humility
b) the analyst needs to have T-shaped skills- a fair bit around business domain and  also around the technical aspects of data handling and also on the pros and cons of the various statistical models (more on that in subsequent blogs)

Three key attributes for the data scientist needs to be
a) willingness to learn- inevitable they will need to constantly pick up and engage with expertise in various fields
b) curiosity to ask and challenge traditional beliefs- you would be surprised how many experts concede that their heuristics might be questionable in the present circumstance
c) excellent communication capability- both during understand the need and also while communicating the findings in a meaningful and mature manner

let me know if this makes sense to you


  1. Hi,
    I am trying do write a personal statement for Masters in Health data science .
    I need some guideline for that .
    Please tell me how to explain my career goals .