Yes, mom. Data scientist. No, dad, I didn’t just make that up. Believe me, it’s a real thing. It’s actually one of the fastest growing fields…no, I don’t think I should just get an ‘nice office job.’
Really, at times it seems an impossible task explaining what a data scientist is to someone whose only experience with the internet is sending newfangled electronic mail from an AOL email account they’ve been using for the better part of a decade. The sheer scale of the information available at this very second to anyone with an internet connection is almost unfathomable even to people who have grown up with the internet. Simply wrapping your head around the idea of petabytes of data exists is hard, let alone understanding that useful information worth potentially billions of dollars can be extracted from all the noise.
And this is where the data scientists come in. People who understand technology at an intimate level and who can grasp the concepts involved with a global network of connected individuals, each living out vast portions of their lives in front of screens and through keyboards. A data scientist can come from almost any academic background, from the obvious fields of computer science and informatics to communications, sociology, and psychology. In fact, it’s this vast broad range of skills that allows data scientists to be so effective.
But really, though, I’ve yet to answer the question of what exactly a data scientist does. Here’s my answer: a data scientist is an individual whose job it is to make sense of, organize, and monetize the massive amount of data created every day in our hyperconnected society. Data scientists are part statistician, part hacker, and part amateur psychologist. The best data scientist can analyze data at a macro scale to gain incredible insights at a micro scale, even down to the level of individual users.
Everyone seems to be saying data science is the future of business and an incredibly marketable skill set for young people entering the job market. And they are probably right. Never before in the history of humanity has so much information been freely available. In fact, not since the invention of the printing press has human communication been this revolutionized so as to be almost unrecognizable.
We live in the most exciting of times. We can talk with someone on all seven continents simultaneously, make our thoughts available to literally billions of people with the click of a button, and connect with people on scale never before imagined. This innovation shows no signs of stopping – and it’s data scientists who will lead us to the next big thing.