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What Is A Data Scientist?

This new buzz word, data scientist, seems to be all over the place. I see in AdAge how companies like P&G are hiring these folks.  Well, for over a year, I’ve been on a search to find the elusive data scientist and I’ve gotta tell you, it’s a rare bird. It reminds of the elusive bird, Kevin, in the movie “Up” – that rare breed of mathematician, computer programmer and business professional. Well, here’s my point of view on the topic – in this race, we don’t win in free agency but in the draft.

I live in Washington DC.  And I hate the Redskins. Dan Synder has been great for me, because he fundamentally tried to build a football team through free agency.  Well, although the Florida Marlins did it in baseball (for only one year), it’s really hard to build a championship team purely through free agency – note the Miami Heat drafted Dwayne Wade 5th overall in 2003.  Well, until they traded the farm for RGIII, they haven’t really invested in the draft. 

My point in this is that there are a few gems available in the data scientist free agency community, but the reality is, the talent stream is light. Therefore, here’s my big idea, we need to draft and develop the talent rather than hire it. 

So I read about how IBM is hiring 500 data scientists in Columbus for its new big data center and I’ve gotta call bulls#@. Seriously, where are they getting these folks?  Case in point, go try to find an MS in data science in any accredited university today.  Seriously – try to find it – because it doesn’t exist!!!  We need to find analytic minds that have a predisposition to programming and technology and I’m telling you, that skill set is rare, unless we start to foster a community where it can thrive. And I’ll be the first to tell you that going forward, it’ll be in high demand, even higher than today.

Image: Disney | Pixar UP

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