In some circles around the Silicon Valley, data science is being called “the next big thing”. This interdisciplinary field of statistics and computer science is taking the job market by storm, with demand for data professionals soaring by the thousands. But what exactly is data science, and what do individuals working in this field do?
What makes the data science field unique is that it combines multiple disciplines: the analytic skills of statistics, the programming skills of computer science, and possibly even the ability to formulate effective business strategies.
Data science is centered around the idea of analyzing raw data, drawing conclusions from it, and using these conclusions to guide decision-making or problem-solving. Companies constantly collect data from millions of customers and “mine” it, breaking it down to find any trends that may exist. Understanding these patterns will allow them to make the best business decisions going forward in terms of profitability. For example, think about the recommendations that Netflix gives you. How does it generate them? The company analyzes your viewing patterns and observes your areas of interest. It does this across their user base to decide which of their original series would be most beneficial to produce.
Data scientists are involved with developing the algorithms needed to process the raw data. For this reason, they need a proper grasp of mathematics in terms of statistical modeling and data analysis, as well proficiency in coding and logical thinking skills from a computational perspective.
One of the most important traits of a data scientist is creative thinking, because without it, creating ways to find patterns among such large sets of data would be difficult. People tend to think that programming is only about logic and writing a set of rules for an algorithm to follow. But when dealing with mass amounts of data, traditional coding skills aren’t enough – creativity is essential as well.
As previously mentioned, the demand for data scientists is booming and job openings are increasing rapidly, an idea that may impact many potential Monta Vista data scientists in the future. According to IBM, in 2015, there were 2,350,000 data science/analytics related job openings. This number is projected to increase by 364,000 by the year 2020. The data scientist profession specifically is projected to have a 28% increase in openings by that same time, to a total of 61,799.
Unlike many other jobs, a data scientist career isn’t tied to a specific sector. All sorts of companies have discovered the power of analytics and want to be able to utilize it: Amazon, Nordstrom, Microsoft, The Hershey Company, and many more have hundreds of job openings for data scientists available as of now.
In response to this demand, many universities are introducing data science programs, giving graduating MV students the opportunity to pursue the field. In 2015, UC Irvine added an undergraduate data science major. This program combines courses from both the Statistics and Computer Science Departments, teaching students how to “utilize their knowledge of statistical and computing principles to analyze and solve real-world data analysis problems”. Students start by learning the foundational concepts of both disciplines, and then continue on to learn about topics such as algorithm design and machine learning.