Okay, I read an article in LinkedIn/Pulse about an HR specialist spending the past year working with data to see if he could see any trends. I’m sure most data scientists would take offense at the HR person calling himself a data scientist – it is all going to lie in one’s understanding of the definition of data scientist.
The latest definition I read is that a data scientist works on a more strategic level, determining the process, equipment, software, the types and layout of the incoming data. He will understand the business issues and will form the kinds of questions that needs to be asked. I think.
The HR person was really talking about performing analysis, which we’ve always had. That’s nothing new. What is different today is the size, speed and types of the data. But we’re still doing analysis. The point that he was laying out was that anybody could do analysis as long as he has access to some kind of data and Excel.
Occasionally I’ll read stuff about what data scientists do and I’ll think, I kind of do something like that. If they talk about trying to pull data into a usable form, I think about my travails in using OneSite downloads and say to myself, I kind of do that. If they talk about cleaning up data, I think about the times I have to correct the data entry into consistent spelling and think, I kind of do that. If they talk about how to structure the data tables for future use, I think about the times I had to decide what kind of data I wanted to get into Access and think, I kind of do that. The only thing I don’t really use is R and Hadoop. I use Excel instead.
There’s a lot of breathless talk about Big Data and data scientists and how in the coming years there will not be enough data scientists. If you are looking for people to do the analysis, you already have them because we’ve always had analysis. If you are looking for someone to guide you on the strategy to handle the volume, speed and kinds of data, a data architect, IT specialist or data scientist would probably be the person. But I don’t think there will be a shortage; you just have to know what you are looking for. You may have to have two people collaborating together, an IT person determining the structure and an analyst asking the questions, but you most likely have them. It’s a new field and is open to trial and error to find the way.
Instead of just blindly following the media (social media?) hyperbole, just think about what you are trying to achieve and see who has the capability to figure this out. You might already have the people inside your organization. They may even look like misfits.