Data Scientist - What's In A Name?

"Would not a rose by another name smell just as sweet?"
-- William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet

Lots of cool job titles are thrown around these days with the ostensible purpose of making job opportunities more distinctive and interesting compared to typical boring old job openings.

Some of the best creative job titles I have come across recently include digital marketing ninja, sales Jedi master, python development magician, cloud solutions evangelist, video wrangler, software bug terminator, sandwich artist - and the list goes on.  

Original photo by John Atherton. This image has been modified and is published under the terms of a Creative Commons license.

Original photo by John Atherton. This image has been modified and is published under the terms of a Creative Commons license.

Lets pretend then for a moment that we need to come up with a cool and clever way to advertise a job opening for a data scientist vacancy at a fictional data company -  let's call the company, Pittsburgh Data Gizmo. Because we at Pittsburgh Data Gizmo are an uber, bleeding-edge technology company, we need a different kind of title for our data scientist vacancy, so that the next brilliant data scientist will choose to work with us and not against us. After all, there is stiff competition. 

According to an Oct. 2014 Forbes article, demand for computer systems analysts with big data expertise increased 89.9% in 2014 alone. Another article published that same month on Mashable, stated that the highest demand will be for data engineers who can code, utilize data analytics and manipulate data for marketing purposes.

The most desired role will be for data scientists who can integrate big data into a company's IT department and business functions, the Mashable article stated.

So, what should we pick for a creative, distinctive job title for our data scientist? Data ninja? Data Jedi? Data rock star? Data wrangler? Data artist? Data cast member?  

We should be careful here because this practice can quickly get out of hand. For example, according to one recent article, a company posted a job opening to fill the vacancy of a corporate magician. They were subsequently inundated with resumes from high-powered executives who professed to work magic in the realm of executive leadership and strategy. But, this company literally wanted a magician to entertain clients at events and parties - you know, pull a rabbit out of the hat, card tricks - that kind of stuff. 

Some clever job titles can come off as patronizing too. Can you really be called an artist for slathering mustard on a bologna sandwich? I doubt it.

If I were to come up with a jazzed-up title for a data scientist job opening for our make believe start-up, Pittsburgh Data Gizmo, I believe I would be posting for one position only - a big data archaeologist.

To me, archaeology captures the excitement of the data science field as well as provides a reasonable abstraction of what a data scientist might actually do in such a role. Besides evoking a sense of the thrill of discovery, archaeology also hints at the passionate dedication to dogged work, which such a career requires.

After all, I am talking about real archaeology and not the sort of archaeology portrayed by Harrison Ford in the popular Indiana Jones films. Most archaeologist don't carry whips, pistols and cast iconic silhouettes wearing fedora hats. In fact, as a data scientist, you are far more likely to work on a Fedora (i.e., system) than wear one on your head (i.e., apparel), but if that sense of adventure works for you, who I am to disagree?

Nonetheless, the chance of George Lucas shooting an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Big Data movie about you is not likely. There is a far better chance, however, that you might be one of the many data scientist who will be hired at a salary of $90,000 to $160,000 in the coming years. You can hang your hat on that - fedora or otherwise.  

I can draw several other parallels to archaeology too. 

A data scientists digs. Only they don't dig through layers of sediment - they dig through layers of sentiment. They burrow through massive amounts of data to carefully reveal and discover insight. 

Like an archaeologist with a notebook, brush, pick and shovel, a data scientist has tools to help them do this difficult yet rewarding job too. These tools enable the data scientist to excavate key findings discovered in the data. Cognitive, big data, analytic, statistical visualization applications, and more, are all tools at the disposal of the data scientist, which help make analyzing the massive amounts of data sediment - yes, the dirt of data - possible. Specifically, your toolbox might include Flare, HighCharts, AmCharts, D3.js, Google Visualization API, Tableau, Excel, PowerPoint and Raphael.js, to name a few technologies. 

Although a data archaeologist might hail from many different types of disciplines, our data archaeologist would likely be familiar with machine learning, statistical modeling, experimental design, Bayesian inference, and other math and statistical knowledge domains, to say nothing of specific individual liberal arts and sciences for which their interest in data science may stem. Skills in correlation, multivariate regression, massaging data, including a penchant for conceptualizing predictive and prescriptive models, are other traits we would likely expect our data archaeologist to have.

In terms of personal skills, our data archaeologist would have a proclivity toward engaging senior management, demonstrating a capacity to translate data-driven insights into game-changing decisions and critical actions, visualizing complex concepts with artistic flare. In short, our data scientist will use their analytic skills and tools to clarify, edify and educate our colleagues and clients across a wide spectrum of industries.

Moreover, we expect our data archaeologist to discover insights that enable cities to operate more efficiently, help people and businesses around the world, use energy in smarter ways, detect trends in medical research, which can help save lives. In short, our ideal data archaeologist will be motivated to discover the insights that can change the course of the world. 

Does this sound like the kind of career you want to have? Is this the kind of important work that you aspire to do? Do not hesitate then to send your relevant career data to Pittsburgh Data Gizmos, Temple of Big Data, c/o The Data Guru.

To Learn More About

  • Pittsburgh Dataworks (Pghdataworks.org) - Click Here
  • Becoming a member of Pittsburgh Dataworks (Pighdataworks.org)- Click Here
  • Current technical job opportunities in the Pittsburgh area posted by the Pittsburgh Technology Council (Pghcareerconnector.com) - Click Here
  • How Pittsburgh area high schools are preparing for careers in data science (Pghdataworks.org) - Click Here
  • How careers in Big Data are expected to grow (Mashable.com) - Click Here
  • What a data scientist actually does (Quora.com) - Click Here
  • How much money a data scientist might be expected to make (Forbes.com) - Click Here
  • A list of statistical packages (Wikipedia.org) - Click Here
  • The core skills needed by a data scientist (Datasciencecentral.com) - Click Here