Data Scientist: The hottest job you haven’t heard of

Maryalene LaPonsie describes some novel job called Data Scientist (although we’ve known about it for a while) and their role in competitive intelligence:

Competitive intelligence is poised to offer data scientists increasing job opportunities in coming years. SCIP reports that the market for business intelligence is worth approximately $2 billion annually, and Garrison says that many corporations now operate their own competitive intelligence divisions.

Plus there’s a shortage of an estimated 140,000 to 190,000 people who are qualified for the openings available (not all in business). What you need to know to get hired:

As part of a relatively new field, data scientists may come from many different backgrounds. Garrison says that employers are often looking for two things when considering a job applicant. “The first part is the technical background,” he says. Companies may want professionals with an industry background who are familiar with its specific jargon and trends. “If you want to work for a pharmaceutical company, you might need a degree in biochemistry,” he explains. Other jobs may require only a general degree in business.

In other words, you need to know statistics and know or be able to learn about the subject matter. Programming skills are a plus. Actually, programming is required. I don’t know any data scientists who don’t have that skill. I hear there’s some book to help you get started though.

[AOL Jobs via @alexlundry]


  • Basically, all we’re talking about is somebody with a degree in Information Sciences with a strong business background – who knows their stuff. That business background means, basically, ‘experience’. I would liken this to a Data Architect who also knows the business at hand thoroughly – kind of Systems Analysts Gone Wild. But it’s more than the Pachinko Brain that makes for a great Database Designer, and different than the administrator and programming skills that give us a great Data Warehousing consultant. It needs that rare bird – a business exec with monster technical skills. You have that? You’ve got a business poised for success.

    These are positions that probably will (but should not be) filled by people with formal education and technical backgrounds because of the technical requirements, rather than people who’ve been in the business a long time. This kind of thing is simply not appropriate to newbs arriving with grad degrees, however prestigious. And unfortunately, that doesn’t really leave a whole lot of people to choose from. Like Western Medicine, we’ve specialized ourselves right out of the kind of holistic sensibility this kind of position would require. Although now retired, I could name you perhaps 3 or 4 genuinely qualified people out of the thousands I have worked with over the years. The reason? Because those few of use were in the business world in non-technical positions long before business became so casually automated. We HAD to know the business hands-on at its roots. What is described in this article is neither science nor art, precisely. It’s a kind of mental style and business approach that evolves over a period of decades, and can’t exactly BE taught.

    But hey, don’t mind me. I’m just an old retired second-generation computer geek watching the 3rd and 4th generations try to figure this thing out. In order to school them the way I was schooled from childhood by my 1st-generation parent geek, we’d have to completely rework our entire educational system from the ground up (a story for another day).

    I predict they youngsters are going to miss the mark fairly often – though not because I think they are untalented or unintelligent. I think it will happen because there’s nothing forcing them to expand their thought beyond the textbooks that never existed when the Information Age took off. If you grow up believing you can quantify and sort all business experience on a computer, you lose. It’s like…thinking you can win at Indy because you kick butt in a video game based on Indy racing. One is real life with actual engines and wrecks and competitors, and the other is a mere shadow of that experience. The video gamer will get her helmet handed to her at Indy…but a real Indy driver will probably succeed with the video game which is only a simplified version of what that driver knows in the real world.

    Somebody growing up in the present pervasively-virtualized paradigm will just naturally lack the actual sweat and exhaust experience, and the actual style of thought that comes with it. Don’t get me wrong – that ‘virtualized’ kid will being some amazing new ideas to the world! But that kid doesn’t know metal-bending manufacture or agriculture from her elbow. So, they’ll lose where the reality is the major asset being sold and only win where the data itself is the major product being sold. I don’t know that the world will necessarily become a better or worse place because of it. But I will predict the demise of a whole lot of businesses which will jump onto this highly-idealistic train not understanding the risks and then hiring the wrong people because of it. It’s not going to be any different than the stuff we have all seen trying to function in other technical positions when the people who hired us have absolutely no idea what it is we actually do for a living.

    On the upside, those few who get it and really pull it off will easily dominate their competitors. I wouldn’t want to be in the crown-making business right about now, though. There isn’t going to be a very wide market for them.

  • it’s reassuring to know there is at least one market of employment that is increasing rather than disappearing.