By Anjul Bhambhri, Vice President of Big Data Products at IBM
Data scientists are part digital trendspotter and part storyteller stitching various pieces of information together. These are people or teams at organizations that sift through the explosion of data to discover what the data is telling them. They figure out “what questions to ask” so that relevant information hidden in the large volumes and varieties of data can be extracted. In today’s uncertain economy, there are 10,000 job openings for this role from a broad variety of companies – from deal-of-the-day websites, retailers and consumer goods companies.
Often I am asked what are the job responsibilities and where does the role reside in the organizational chart. Regarding the job description, the data scientist analyzes the massive amount of data available to companies today and uncovers key insights that result in new actions leading to better business results. Data scientists frequently work with executives and provide critical counsel on how to maximize value. I see the position as a change agent since the individual innovates the way organizations leverage information and incorporates new actions into the operations. Regarding where the position sits, data scientists can report directly into C-level executives or be within business units who frequently use data.
Data scientists often work across organizations with both business and IT departments. Individuals successful in the role should be able to get IT to deliver a data platform that allows business users to ask the questions needed to make the right business decisions. They have to focus on what the data is telling them rather than spending time on the day-to-day operational aspects of data management. It is this ability to collaborate and influence that distinguishes great data scientists from good data scientists.
It is desirable for the individuals who want to pursue the career to have some background in modeling, data mining and analytics. It is not that this functional expertise guarantees success. In fact, it is the ability to be creative and analytical, and the willingness to explore new sources of data both within and outside the enterprise that is critical.
Data is not useful until we identify patterns, apply context and intelligence. The data scientist, as an emerging career path, is at the core of organizational success with Big Data and for humanizing the data to help businesses better understand their consumer.