Professionals at companies both large and small engage in business intelligence and analysis. These can be powerful tools when it comes to understanding how well a business is doing — and where it can find a competitive advantage. Drilling into data is nothing new, but now a specialized job is emerging in this arena: the data scientist.
So what is a data scientist?
A data scientist helps companies make sense of the massive streams of digital information they collect every day, everything from internally generated sales reports to customer tweets. The gig, which requires capturing, sorting and figuring out what data are relevant is one part statistician, one part forensic scientist and one part hacker. “A data scientist doesn’t only look at one data set and then stop digging,” said Richard Snee, a vice president of marketing at EMC, the data-storage company. “They need to find nuggets of truth in data and then explain it to the business leaders.”
EMC, the data-storage company, held a data scientist summit in May and Stanford now has a course in data mining with 120 students registered. The McKinsey Global Institute says that by 2018, the U.S. could face a shortage of up to 190,000 workers with analytical skills. We’ll need those people. IDC estimates consumers and businesses will create 1.8 trillion gigabytes of digital information by the end of this year.