Coming in to the University of Michigan as an undeclared major, I dreaded the question “What are you majoring in?”. When I declared my “Informatics: Data Mining” major I thought that I was finally in the clear. Unfortunately, saying that I am going to be a “Data Scientist” is not as clear as saying “I’m pre-med”. Nearly every time I used the term “data scientist” I was bombarded with questions about this mysterious and new field. I found myself avoiding the questions, dodging them with the half-joke, “You know how I was planning on being a theoretical math major? I decided that I wanted a job”. I found it frustrating and difficult to explain to non-math minded people that within raw data exists useful information when examined with the right mind and eye.
My personal discovery of the Data Science field felt like finding the Holy Grail. I saw a Data Scientist as someone that brought life and use to raw numbers, something I had always found both puzzling and fascinating. I have always seen math as an accomplice of science; math acts as an aid to science to further understand and make conclusions about the world. While I found comfort in the ability to model the world, I could not help but to ask how these models were created and why they work. Data Scientists, in my eyes, search for and find these answers by wading through the oceans of data that are available to them.
When I was first introduced to this field, I saw a Data Scientist as someone that looks at the most raw and hidden forms of information and makes them “pretty” and “understandable” for whichever enterprise they work for. I thought the Data Scientist role was restricted to interpreting numbers in a very straightforward manner, leaving the decision, business choices, and creative decisions to the enterprise at hand. However, as I delve deeper into this field and the definition of a Data Scientist, I am quickly learning that a Data Scientist’s role in an enterprise can extend far beyond the scope of pure numbers and is truly the creative one in any enterprise. Therefore, my current and constantly changing definition of a Data Scientist is: a person that has both the skillset and the creative eye to work with raw numbers (data) and make educated, and often unexpected decisions to either predict or create a desired outcome.