Regular AllAnalytics.com readers might recognize this phrasing from our current Point/Counterpoint debate blog on the value of analytics-related certification. Scott Larsen, an independent consultant, exhorted readers, "Go and do something valuable instead of studying for a certification exam." Harkening back to his days as a data analyst at Google, he explained:
When I participated in hiring committees at Google, lots of certifications was generally considered a negative signal. Usually this came from a feeling a mal-prioritized time -- is there nothing better the job candidate could have done with his or her time? Why not accomplish something? You learn so much more by actually getting dirty doing things than you do studying for a test -- show us where you got dirty and what you learned and what you contributed.
Larsen's advice smacked me upside the head as I read about two data-mining competitions GE recently launched on Kaggle. Could participation in such competitions end, or at least diminish, reliance on certifications as a measure of knowledge? I like this idea -- a lot.
As we've previously explained, Kaggle is a data science marketplace that brings together companies or organizations with business challenges and folks with the desire to tackle them. These challenges are always about bringing out-of-the-box thinking to bear, whether to solve society's thorniest issues, address major industry gotchas, or just have a bit of fun with numbers.
In one new challenge, for example, GE aims sky high -- literally. In tandem with Alaska Airlines, it launched the Flight Quest challenge to address what it says is a $22 billion-a-year problem airlines face in managing efficiency. As a GE Aviation director explains in the video below, the goal is to develop an algorithm that delivers real-time flight profiles pilots can use for en-route decision-making. When pilots have such insight at their fingertips, they can make flights more efficient and reliably on time, or at least that's the stated intent.
The second of GE's latest quests deals with a more down-to-earth concern: healthcare. In its Health Quest, GE is working in partnership with Ochsner Health System to "promote an improved health care system experience for patient and family." But this challenge is about operational improvement, not medical care. The aim is to figure out ways to reduce the "$100 billion wasted annually in healthcare inefficiencies, distracting facilities from their primary focus -- patient care," GE said on the challenge site.
These are but two of many examples of the data-mining competitions going on right now on Kaggle, not to mention other venues. I call them out for their newness -- GE launched each within the last week -- and not because there's anything especially compelling about putting your mind to work in solving flight or healthcare inefficiencies. Neither is a bad goal, to be sure, but my point is that either could provide a great showcase for your talent. Even if you don't win a competition, being able to play around with the big-data sets available to contestants could be well worth the effort.
Next time you're tempted to sign up for a certification class, perhaps you ought to first take a gander at Kaggle. It'll make a great addition to your résumé -- and, who knows, you just might end up with some prize money, too.
Do you have any experience with data-mining competitions, of any size or scope? Share below.