A recent article in Forbes hints at the idea that big data scientists are a breed on the verge of extinction…if they even exist at all. The story claims, while data scientist was just voted “best job in America,” the work is in jeopardy because good data scientists are “unicorns” … they’re just too good to be true.
On the plus side for the article, the criteria listed are on point. The best data scientists will possess skill sets including coding, statistics, machine learning, database management, visualization techniques, and industry-specific knowledge. However, the article says that may be “impossible” to find. Let’s break that down.
Coding. Okay, this is the basics of any computer-related field, but you want data scientists who are creative, flexible and adept at coding. You want experienced experts, not newbies who are just learning the trade. There are tons of experienced coders out there.
Statistics. While it’s not entirely in the same field as coding and computer science, the study of statistics seems a fairly plausible pursuit for someone interested in coding and computers, especially with an eye toward data science. So, coders who know stats? Not at all unlikely.
Machine learning. “Thinking machines” and supercomputers may not be mainstream in the consumer-driven marketplace, but they are nothing new or out of the ordinary in the modern workplace, particularly when it comes to industries and applications related to data science.
What about database management? Well, if you have someone applying for a data science position, it seems that would be a given. So, is the argument there aren’t enough qualified database managers with coding and machine learning backgrounds? If that’s the case, it seems like you may want to assemble a team and resource them to work together. Isn’t that what people do in every other field of business?
Visualization techniques? Again, you could find a specialist here or look for a team member that has this as well as other experience. No one person need have it all. That’s the major fallacy in the article. While there may be a relative shortage of Swiss Army data scientists, people who possess every possible skill set you need to operate properly, were you really planning to hire just one guy and put it all on him?
The best data science is a team endeavor. This is especially true when you include the final attribute mentioned by Forbes: industry-specific knowledge. It may be tough to find a qualified data scientist who is deeply familiar with your industry, but if you have people on your current team who are, why not pool resources, let them teach and cross train each other … or you could depend on a team who had already done that math, who understands data science and can resource the entire team you need right now.
Whether you choose to hire or to outsource your data science needs, don’t buy the rumor that you can’t get good help these days. Prime data scientists are out there, and they are ready to help you get the most from your data right now.
David Milberg is an investor in NY.