A2 Radio: The Evolving Role of Data Scientist

It's funny how one little bit stands out from a complicated work. Consider the one brief scene that you remember from a movie, or maybe one lonely line from a book. Some of us remember, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Others recall, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done." But we might forget everything that happened in the 500-plus pages between those opening and closing lines of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.

Granted, the 2011 McKinsey report Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity might not have the literary legs of a Dickens work, but it did set the stage in terms of defining the role and the importance of a data scientist.

Six years later, however, most of us remember just one paragraph, the doomsday prediction of a data science talent gap, which we immediately paired with the Tom Davenport declaration that data scientist is the sexiest job.

It's time to look at just how sexy the data science role turned out to be, and whether the data science talent gap really will put on chill on corporate analytics initiatives in 2018, just a few months from now. All Analytics Radio will host an interview with John Reed, senior executive director for recruiting firm Robert Half Technology, Thursday, March 23, at 1 pm (EDT).

John Reed
John Reed

Reed has insight into just how important data scientists are. He has at his fingertips data from his company's annual salary guide, and, yes, "data scientist" is among the fastest growing jobs when it comes to salary. But there are other tech and data jobs that are growing, too.

We will look not only at what data professionals earn but how their role has changed in the past few years. Most employers long ago gave up the idea of hiring "unicorns" who offered exceptional tech certifications, business experience, and personal communication skills. Some companies are looking for candidates who meet most of the job definition, and fill in the missing skills with a second employee. Others are relying on citizen data scientists.

But we also will examine the day-to-day role of data scientists, the impact they are having on their organizations, and how the data science concept is viewed by organizations. It wasn't that long ago that data science and analytics were little more than advisory functions sitting somewhere only tangent to IT and the business unit. In a few short years that has changed, with analytics moving to the core of so many businesses, and even our personal lives.

So, join us on Thursday for the discussion with John Reed, and bring your own comments and questions to share on our text chat board as you listen. Register now.

James M. Connolly, Editor of All Analytics

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than two decades. As editor of All Analytics he writes about the move to big data analytics and data-driven decision making. Over the years he has covered enterprise computing, the PC revolution, client/server, the evolution of the Internet, the rise of web-based business, and IT management. He has covered breaking industry news and has led teams focused on product reviews and technology trends. Throughout his tech journalism career, he has concentrated on serving the information needs of IT decision-makers in large organizations and has worked with those managers to help them learn from their peers and share their experiences in implementing leading-edge technologies through publications including Computerworld. Jim also has helped to launch a technology-focused startup, as one of the founding editors at TechTarget, and has served as editor of an established news organization focused on technology startups and the Boston-area venture capital sector at MassHighTech. A former crime reporter for the Boston Herald, he majored in journalism at Northeastern University.

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Re: data scientist
  • 3/29/2017 3:20:49 PM

Yes, it's always interesting if not educational to see how what we remember from the past, in predictions and "words of wisdom" actually turn out a decade or more later. The present and the future can be wildly different or ironically the much the same.

Re: data scientist
  • 3/29/2017 12:24:22 PM

LOL Joe,

That's too accurate.

Surprising that we're still waiting for the big sites in this space (Indeed, Linked In, GlassDoor, etc.) to develop algorithms that can actually match candidates with openings.

Re: data scientist
  • 3/28/2017 7:48:10 PM

@rbaz: Yeah, but in many cases, they create and foster that problem themselves.

"And the person should at least kind of know what they're doing."

"Okay.  How many years of experience should they have?"

"Um, I dunno.  Just so long as they can do the job."

"Right.  But how many years experience should they have with this particular skill?"

"I don't think we need to quantify..."

"How many years experience?  We can't post the job without that."

"Okay, um, 5 years."

"And how about years of experience with this other skillset?"


Re: data scientist
  • 3/28/2017 11:28:11 AM

'Just about everybody knows this... ...except the HR department. Which is the whole problem.' I have yet to encounter an HR department that's in lockstep with everyone in the hiring process. HR for the most part is guided by the job request description with no working understanding of the position.

Re: data scientist
  • 3/27/2017 10:48:24 PM

> I like what a CIO told me last week, that if a candidate has that basic core tech competency you can teach them the specialized tech skills that the company needs. What you can't teach them are the soft skills like personal communication, problem solving, and business sense. 

See, this is no different than how it's been forever for just about all jobs (let alone tech).  C-suiters know this.  Front-liners know this.  Just about everybody knows this...

...except the HR department.  Which is the whole problem.

Re: Dicken's Wisdom Still Rings True
  • 3/27/2017 10:45:32 PM

Cloud consultant Jeff Kaplan has often used that line to describe digital transformation and enterprise-cloud enablement.

The contextual point is that cloud and other digital-transformation technologies make it WAY easier for you to do things and meet customer demand -- but it also makes it WAY easier for your competitors.  Cloud- and real-time analytics-driven technologies, therefore, are vital to competitive agility, which is vital to the bottom line.

Boston data-science job shortage
  • 3/27/2017 10:42:32 PM

I still remember, in the wake of that report, the prediction that the greater Boston area would have in the following year a shortage of 180,000 data-science jobs.

That may have been an exaggeration (as with, I suspect, a great many industry forecasts), but the point was well made nonetheless.

Re: data scientist
  • 3/23/2017 1:02:05 PM

LOL @James Ah, yes, something I warn my daughter about when she says she is inclined to major in history.

Dicken's Wisdom Still Rings True
  • 3/23/2017 12:33:33 PM

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." 


Thanks James, this is one of my favorite quotes, seems to always be relevant and timely.

Re: data scientist
  • 3/23/2017 12:30:00 PM

Really looking forward to this Show.  It will be interesting to learn how companies are realistically dealing with the issue of Data Science.

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