Tools & Tips

Bid Data – What data scientists do

“On an average day, I manage a series of dashboards that tell our company about our business — Big Datawhat the users are doing,” says Jon Greenberg, a data scientist at Playstudios, a gaming firm. Greenberg is a manager now, so he’s programming less than he used to, but he still does his fair share. Usually, he pulls data out of Apache Hadoop storage and runs it through Revolution R, an analytics platform and comes up with some kind of visualization. “It may be how one segment of the population is interacting with a new feature,” he explains.

Greenberg got a Master’s degree in statistics six years ago. He expected to go into government work, but was surprised to see that data scientists were so in demand in the private sector. “It was definitely not as hot a field then,” he says. Now, he says he gets about one call or email a day from a headhunter. “It’s not me,” he says. “They probably bother everyone else [with this expertise].”

For Greenberg, employability is a plus, but he loves the work itself. “I think it starts with, you have to have an analytical mind. You have to be curious,” he says. “You have to be flexible and creative and think of a different way to solve problems.” The only downside of the job, Greenberg says, is the time spent “cleaning” data — pruning it to remove irrelevant findings. “That part’s not that exciting and you spend a lot of time doing it,” he says.

Rajpurohit says he spends a lot of his energy cleaning data, but also researching. “A significant part of my time is spent on research, because I often come across absolutely new problems and thus, have to study the latest literature on research in that particular field or reach out to experts on those topics for advice,” he says.

“Despite its name, data science requires a good mix of both art and science. The science part is obvious –- mathematics, programming, etc. The art part is equally important –- creativity, deep contextual understanding, etc. Both the parts put together make one a great problem solver.”

That said, Rajpurohit acknowledges that ‘working in Data Science is not even remotely as sexy or glamorous as it is being perceived these days. This field is definitely gaining significance (and seeing high pay offers) across organization, but there is a lot of not-so-exciting tasks that a data scientist needs to work on almost daily basis.”

Is this the career for you?

If the idea of spending much of your day programming and analyzing dashboards for relevant information appeals to you, then you might have the makings of a computer scientist. If you’re merely motivated by the salaries, though, you may have a tougher time. Consider: People who fall into this line of work often spend their spare time writing programs and analyzing data just to amuse themselves.

Adam Flugel, data science recruiter for Burtch Works, recalls a recent candidate, a PhD holder, who he placed at Electronic Arts this fall. “What really stood out was the work that he was doing for fun in his free time,” Flugel says. “He was involved in the online multiplayer game World of Tanks and led a “clan”, basically a team of players. He created a utility to scrape data from the game server and then ran analytics on that data to evaluate his clan’s performance. He used this info to figure out how to adjust their strategy, what types of players he should recruit to improve the team, etc.”

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at  So you wanna be a data scientist? A guide to 2015’s hottest profession.

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