skills

Is data science still among the sexiest jobs of the 21st century?

It was in a 2012 Harvard Business Review article that data scientist was declared “the sexiest job of the 21st century”. Is it still true six years later?

I’ll spare you the torment and give you the answer, which (naturally) appears at the end of the article:

The role of data scientists is and will remain a sexy profession for some time, partly due to its relative exclusivity, and the field of data science itself will no doubt remain an exciting space.

You may find the middle of the article a little more useful, as it lists qualities of good data scientists:

A good data scientist should be:

  • Adaptable: Data scientists must be willing to constantly upskill themselves to master advanced machine learning skills such as deep learning. While technical skills are fundamental for data scientists, it’s crucial for them to master communication skills too so they can easily interact with domain experts or business developers. Data scientists will need to develop a better understanding of the overarching business strategy and business challenges in real-world scenarios to create solutions for real problems.
  • Statistics at the heart: Data scientists must have quantitative capabilities to figure out multifaceted trends within a data set that may entail more than one million rows.
  • Detail-oriented: Data often have errors and discrepancies, and data scientists must identify and correct incomplete, incorrect or inaccurate data. It’s critical that data are clean, high-quality and unbiased to ensure the best output upon which to make business decisions.
  • Good programming skills: Programming skills, together with statistics, are critical. For statistical analysis to happen, data scientists need to know programming languages (such as Java, SQL, and Python) to break down the data set in more digestible formats.
  • Business knowledge: While it is important for data scientists to be technically capable, they must also be business savvy and understand the organisation’s business goals and objectives, so they can analyse the data to support business success.

The most in-demand skills for data scientists

Here are the two key graphs from the article:

From the end of the article:

Based on the results of these analyses, here are some general recommendations for current and aspiring data scientists concerned with making themselves widely marketable.

  • Demonstrate you can do data analysis and focus on becoming really skilled at machine learning.
  • Invest in your communication skills. I recommend reading the book Made to Stick to help your ideas have more impact. Also check out the Hemmingway Editor app to improve the clarity of your writing.
  • Master a deep learning framework. Being proficient with a deep learning framework is a larger and larger part of being proficient with machine learning. For a comparison of deep learning frameworks in terms of usage, interest, and popularity see my article here.
  • If you are choosing between learning Python and R, choose Python. If you have Python down cold, consider learning R. You’ll definitely be more marketable if you also know R.

Four Ways the Data Scientist Has Evolved in the 21st Century

These four ways are:

1. Data science is more applied than ever. What can be built and fit over a real-life scenario has the dreadful requirement of mattering. Modeling for modeling sake is no longer a thing, and best-fit diagnostics are less important than best-fit for the situation. If a model goes unused, it serves no purpose. We can no longer tolerate or afford the luxury of building models purely for R&D purposes without consideration of utilization.

2. The skill of computer use seems to have taken over the knowledge of applied statistics. Understanding the interior workings of the black box has become less important, unless you are the creator of the black box. Fewer data scientists with truly deep knowledge of statistical methods are kept in the lab creating the black boxes that hopefully get integrated within tools. This is somewhat frustrating for long time data professionals with rigorous statistical background and understanding, but this path may be necessary to truly scale modeling efforts with the volume of data, business questions, and complexities we now must answer.

3. Data scientists are not weird anymore. We’re seen as strategic inputs to the decision-making process, and our craft is becoming much more understood. This trend is evidenced by C-level positions at large companies, vertical alignment and paths for data scientists, and inclusion at the highest levels, as well as the many academic programs and emphasis now available globally. This appreciation and positioning can sometimes make the field appealing for what seasoned data scientists might call the “wrong reasons” such as corporate fame and value. I would argue that we really want professionals in the field with a thirst for the truth – the science should be about empirically answering questions, and powered by truth-seekers at their heart.

4. Data Science is becoming more widely recognized as both art and science. Understanding the importance of the human – machine integration and complementary decision-making skills from each appears to have made its way more squarely into our field of understanding.

Statistical Significance, the Null Hypothesis and P-Values Defined & Explained in One Minute

And finally, some material that’s more than just hand-waving: a quick explanation of what the null hypothesis and p-values are, all done in a minute, courtesy of One Minute Economics:

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ignition_switch As I mentioned in an earlier post, Ignite Your Career is Microsoft’s webcast series on career, skills and personal development. Having a plan and “sharpening your saw” are two of your three best hedges in these uncertain economic times, and they’re what Ignite Your Career is all about.

(In case you were wondering, the third hedge is to have a solid network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances in your areas of interest. That’s what gatherings like EnergizeIT, DemoCamp and Coffee and Code are for.)

Ignite Your Career is about your career and “skills portfolio”, so the topics covered in our webcasts aren’t Microsoft-specific. No matter what platform(s) you work on, no matter if you’re a developer, sysadmin, administrator or manager, if you work in technology, you’ll find value in Ignite Your Career. As for Microsoft, we’re part of the tech ecosystem, and an ecosystem with vibrant, thriving techies is a healthy one, regardless of the tech they choose.

The first Ignite Your Career webcast takes place this Tuesday, March 3rd, from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Eastern and the topic will be Industry Insights and Trends. Here’s the abstract:

The nature of technology is one of continual change; a fact of life for professionals in the ICT industry. As a result, you need to be on top of what is happening in the industry in order to position yourself and your organization to benefit from these trends. This panel discussion will arm you with the information you need from experts in the ICT industry in order to stay on top of your game.

Here are the speakers:

joel_semeniuk Joel Semeniuk
Joel Semeniuk is a founder of Imaginet, a Canada-based Microsoft Gold Partner. He is also a Microsoft Regional Director and MVP in Team System, and INETA speaker, and has a degree in Computer Science.
 
 
jeff_kempiners Jeff Kempiners
Jeff Kempiners is Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Avanade Canada. As CTO, Jeff is responsible for the strategic direction and adoption of the Avanade Solutions Portfolio within Avanade Canada. A seasoned leader, Jeff has more than 12 years of experience in IT management and consulting.
 
jay_payette

Jay Payette
Jay Payette has been consulting public and private organizations in the field of technology for over 5 years. He currently works for the Ottawa office of Accenture in the Systems Integration and Technology practice.

 

All Ignite Your Career webcasts are absolutely free of charge. You’ll need a Windows Live ID (also free; if you have MSN Hotmail, MSN Messenger or Passport, you already have a Windows Live ID) to sign up to see the webcast.

Some links you might find useful:

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The Interview Question You Should Always Ask

by Joey deVilla on January 28, 2009

This article was originally posted in Canadian Developer Connection.

sullyFrom looking at Microsoft’s surveys of Canadian developers and plain old talking to people (something I love to do), it seems that many people who call themselves “developers” wear many hats, one of which is “manager”. If this is the case, I’ll bet that the title of this article has piqued your curiosity.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. According to the Harvard Business blog, the interview question you should always ask is:

“What do you do in your spare time?”

The example they cite is Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the celebrated and heroic captain who successfully landed an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River after both engines were knocked out by what pilots call “bird strikes”. What does he do in his spare time, when he’s not flying passengers around?

  • As a boy, he built model aircraft and aircraft carriers.
  • As a teen, he got a pilot’s license and flew gliders. Without its engines, the Airbus effectively became a big glider.
  • He was an accident investigator for the Air Line Pilots Association.
  • He’s worked with aviation officials to improve training and methods for evacuating aircraft in emergencies.
  • He runs a consultancy called Safety Reliability Methods, which helps companies improve their safety, performance and reliability.

In short, “Sully” is all about flying – and doing so safely. You might even say it’s an obsession of his.

Here’s what the Harvard Business blog article has to say about one’s obsessions:

Obsessions are one of the greatest telltale signs of success. Understand a person’s obsessions and you will understand her natural motivation. The thing for which she would walk to the end of the earth.

The article goes into more detail, but its general gist is that what a candidate does in his or her spare time might be a good indicator of his or her fit for the position. Looking for a star developer? It’s probably one who’s got a hobby programming project on the side. Seeking an ace IT pro? Someone who’s converted an old computer into a home entertainment unit might be a good pick.

You might want to go beyond the article’s focus on hiring others and turn it around: what do you do in your spare time? Do any of you extracurricular activities suggest that you’d be good at your job?

[The photo of Captain Chesley Sullenberger is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and was taken by Ingrid Taylar. It is under a Creative Commons “Attribution 2.0” licence.]

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Local tech evangelist David Crow points to The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need. Unlike What Color is Your Parachute? or Who Moved My Cheese?, Johnny Bunko is in manga form — that’s right, it’s a Japanese-style comic book.

An unusual book needs an unusual promo, and Johnny Bunko is no exception — it’s got a trailer!

In a review at Amazon, Donald Mitchell provides a quick summary of the book:

Most career writers when they want to simplify a message use a fable, with a few illustrations that show the key perspectives. The fable is clearly secondary to the details.

In The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, the story is more interesting than the advice. Having read a lot of Mr. Pink’s writing, I thought I knew what he would probably advise. But I didn’t realize that he would make the story so interesting, and that the manga format would add so much power to the story telling. Nice work!

What’s the advice? Let me rephrase to make it clearer to you:

  1. Don’t be rigid about planning out each step well in advance . . . it’s not possible to do.
  2. Build on what you’re good at (Peter Drucker originated that one) and avoid relying on what you aren’t good at.
  3. Focus on what you can do for others (start with the boss) rather than what’s in it for you (you can read more about this in How to Be a Star at Work).
  4. Keep at it. Practice makes perfect.
  5. Take on big challenges and learn from them.
  6. Make a difference.

I think I’ll pick up this book — it’s pretty cheap, and I’d like to see how Daniel Pink uses the manga format to advantage.

More Advice from Daniel Pink

Here are some video clips featuring Daniel Pink some pretty interesting giving career advice…

Abundance, Asia and Automation

Pink says that the really useful skills are those that are hard to outsource, hard to automate and that serves a need that goes beyond functional. And those skills are the right-brain ones — the ones often derided as “soft skills”.

Help! My Resume Has Too Many Jobs!

Don’t worry if your resume looks like it has too many jobs on it — the world of work today doesn’t give out prizes for lifetime service. These days, it’s about whether you can solve their problems.

Exercise Creativity at Your Job

The old adage applies: “It’s often better to ask for forgiveness than permission.” And from my own experience, I can tell you that he’s right.

Choosing a Major

Follow your interests — don’t choose a major based on what kind of job you think you’ll get after you graduate. The job market is likely to change! Follow your passion instead. You should also work on your “high concept” and “high touch” skills.

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