Demystifying the Data Scientist Role

Data magic hat and wand

Digital Analytics Power Hour Attempts to Reveal the Elusive Data Scientist

We all know that a data scientist is not just an analyst who lives in California, but role definitions remain elusive still. On a recent Digital Analytics Power Hour podcast, Tim Wilson, Moe Kiss, and I (Michael Helbling) had the chance to talk with Ian Thomas the Chief Data Officer at Publicis Spine. Ian has written a series of blog posts on this topic, and it was great to explore this concept with him.
During the conversation, there emerged two distinct points of view on what a data scientist is. Folks with advanced degrees occupying one camp and Analysts turned data science practitioners inhabiting the other. In addition, there are companies out there that have just gone and renamed everyone working in their analytics group Data Scientists. This helps no one.
Before we go a minute more, let me go on the record as a fan of data science and data scientists, but as with all things I too find myself struggling with what is the proper application, usage, and approach for identifying and evaluating someone in this field?
For the individual, being called a data scientist is a highly desirable outcome. Not only because of the talent demand but also generally higher salaries. This actually brought on a very interesting conversation about the likelihood of men vs. women to profess competence in Data Science whether they were indeed, or not. Interestingly enough there seems to be data to support this in the latest Stack Overflow Developer Survey, where it was revealed that there are distinct differences between genders in how they self-assess their own competence.
All told, we have a long way to go still to really see this topic get truly demythologized. From a business perspective, we need to continue to assemble accurate definitions and skill requirements for the role, and those of us who choose data science as a profession we need to find ways to encourage inclusive participation in data science without skewing too pedantic, but also not forsaking the crucial skills necessary to successfully function.

Multiple Search Discovery employees have chosen to pursue their interests and enthusiasm for their respective disciplines by creating or co-creating podcasts. While these podcasts are independent initiatives separate from Search Discovery’s corporate efforts, we are proud to have team members who are committed to sharing their expertise and engaging in these discussions. Check them out: Michael Helbling and Tim Wilson are part of the Digital Analytics Power Hour team, Noah Omri Levin is the creator and host of Digital Marketing Life, and Jake Stoops runs the Page 2 Podcast for SEO.

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