Data scientists: a new generation of influencers
We spoke to three data scientists, all at the beginning of their careers, about what makes this such an engaging and rewarding industry – and what advice they would give to anyone considering it as a career.
It is impossible to ignore the influence that data has on our daily lives. Whether we type something into a Google search, upload a photo to social media or swipe someone’s profile on a dating app we are contributing to the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data generated every day – and that pace of data generation is only accelerating. Perhaps it is no wonder then that business is struggling to keep up. Demand for data scientists across every industry is booming and it is predicted that by 2020 data science will account for 28 per cent of all digital jobs globally.
In a year or so there will not be a single industry in the world that doesn’t need data scientists. There is an immense amount of opportunity out there – you just need to find it.
However, it is not only the growing need for talent that gives data scientists such influence. Data is at the heart of almost every decision a business takes and being able to collect, analyse, interpret and communicate that data puts you in an invaluable position to your company.
You will create a lot of code – it needs to be clean, reproducible and stored safely. If someone else picks up your code in a few months or even a few years it needs to make sense to them immediately.
Fernando Egoavil Cisneros is a Forensic Data Analyst at EY. Working on anything from machine learning models to help with fraud detection to finding new solutions to supply chain and distribution challenges, Fernando highlights variety as one of the best parts of his job.
“I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have about data science is that it’s going to be hardcore coding all day, every day but it’s actually a very social job. You need to communicate very thoroughly to find out the requirements of the project you’re working on – otherwise it doesn’t matter how great your model is, no one is going to care if it can’t solve their problem. You also rarely work alone so people skills and good teamwork are essential to any data science job.
“For me the best thing about my job is that it’s so varied. Even if you’re working for one company on one project and you know the data sets by heart, every day is different. It’s like you’ve drawn the map of a territory – you know roughly where everything is but it’s not the same as going in and seeing it for yourself. You’ll find new roadblocks and things you haven’t encountered before and it’s always a new adventure.”
Getting those new insights for the people I work with has a massive influence and it’s really rewarding to know I’m a vital part of the business.
Omar Kawi works for the University of Sunderland and Rokshaw as KTP Associate (Data Science). His role involves working with medical and pharmaceutical data to support the research goals of the university’s Knowledge Transfer Project.
“My job isn’t just about collecting data, it’s about showing people what is behind that data. Getting those new insights for the people I work with has a massive influence and it’s really rewarding to know I’m a vital part of the business.
“Obviously having a strong technical and programming background is useful for this role but it’s also about your personality. You need to be logical and interested in problem solving, and creativity is really important too."
Dimitrios Gousis is a Junior Data Scientist at tech company, JustPark. Working in a small team means he is exposed to projects in every part of the business – from pricing and strategy to customer experience and growth.
Work with as many different data sets and scenarios as you can…you’ll really benefit from using real life data and that experience will make you more valuable to an employer.
“As a data scientist I have to see a piece of data and understand quickly what might be behind it that could be meaningful to the company. That’s a key skill – following your instincts on the best paths to follow.
“It’s a creative process and when I start a new project I’m looking for the opportunities behind that project. It’s exciting to think I’m taking data that may not seem useful at all and turning it into something that can help us deliver better products to our customers and support the company to grow.”
Data science is a new field and trends are changing all the time. You need to read the latest industry news and keep yourself up-to-date.
Fernando, Omar and Dimitrios all started their careers within the last two years. So what advice would they give to those about to begin their data science journey?
For Omar, it’s all about getting as much experience as possible. “Work with as many different data sets and scenarios as you can – try building your own projects, not just the ones you’re given during the master’s programme. You’ll really benefit from using real life data and that experience will make you more valuable to an employer.”
Keep your organisation skills sharp, Dimitrios recommended. “You will create a lot of code – it needs to be clean, reproducible and stored safely. If someone else picks up your code in a few months or even a few years it needs to make sense to them immediately. Also, data science is a new field and trends are changing all the time. You need to read the latest industry news and keep yourself up-to-date.”
Fernando emphasised the importance of being open to every opportunity. “In a year or so there will not be a single industry in the world that doesn’t need data scientists. There is an immense amount of opportunity out there – you just need to find it.”
Find out what opportunities could be open to you with the MSc in Data Science from the University of London.