Training a Whole Generation of Data Scientists

Data Science is the hot topic right now in the data world. With the explosion of big data in the corporate world and the unfathomable amounts of data created from modern technologies and social channels data science may be the wisest people investment you make this year.

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  1. If you enjoy this article, check out the blog post "Does the Corner Office Value Data Science (or scientists)?"

    Data scientists work as liaisons to all members of the organization, using data to provide solutions to business problems and analyzing data sources to predict issues before they even happen. A quick search on for data science jobs shows a rising interest in the profession across a broad range of companies and industries. There’s only one problem: there is a significant shortage on data science talent. A recent EMC poll states that over 2/3 of the data scientists surveyed believe the demand for data scientists will outpace the supply of talent. Some have even joked that this rare breed of data experts doesn't even exist.

  2. The potential impact a data scientist can have on a business has become universally recognized, and begs an obvious question. How will this shortage be addressed? We see a couple of indicators that the shortage may not last long.

    To start, a number of universities have actually begun teaching courses in data science. Some of these schools include: New York University, Stanford University, Northwestern, George Mason, Syracuse, University of California at Irvine and Indiana University (source). We expect this number to rapidly grow in the coming years as demand builds in the private sector. Second, kids today are growing up surrounded by technology. Even from my perspective as a 23 year old, kids today are becoming remarkably adept with technology at an early age. My dad used to get mad at me in 9th grade for never bringing my first cell phone out with me, but today a middle schooler’s cell phone acts as an extension of their body, earning them the nickname Generation HD (Head Down). This new generation may have learned how to navigate their parents’ iPads before they could navigate the living room floor upright. Granted, children still aren’t analyzing data sets, but their familiarity with technology greatly outweighs past generations and they're growing up surrounded by forms of data science as big data has become ubiquitous in our daily lives.

  3. Recently, we hosted a webinar series titled, “Data Scientist: Your Must Have Business Investment NOW.” We were fortunate to have three widely respected data scientists on the panel: Gregory Piatetsky (@kdnuggets), President of KDnuggets; David Smith (@revodavid), VP Marketing of Revolution Analytics; and Carla Gentry (@data_nerd), Data Scientist at Analytical-Solution. You can check out the replay here.
  4. As a twenty-something, I have recently become intrigued by the topic of data science and was excited to hear the perspective of three experts in this field. What I found truly interesting was how each panelist had such different backgrounds, yet still ended up as a highly sought after data scientist. We asked each to provide a definition of data science, and it was amazing to hear the diversity of their opinions. Despite the differences, there was a theme in their definitions, which was that the position of data scientist requires “curiosity”. No matter your background or level of training, if you’re not naturally curious then data science may not be your ideal career aspiration.
  5. "Data Science teams need people with the skills and curiosity to ask the big questions" - DJ Patil
  6. But here’s a thought. Today’s children may fix that shortage problem sooner than later. They are innately more advanced in technology than any generation before, and curiosity is a universal trait of their age. With continued focus of the public/private sector partnership on equipping them with hard skills their curiosity can be honed into powerful engines of insights. So what do you think? Are data scientists mythical creatures, like unicorns, or is the talent gap already poised to close?