On the number trail

Big data. Big opportunities. As this field expands rapidly and lines up with global trends, who can make the cut?

Published - June 21, 2015 08:34 pm IST

Data science is being touted as the hottest career option in the 21st century. McKinsey Global Institute projects that somewhere between 1,40,000 and 1,80,000 data scientist jobs will open up by 2018 in the U.S. alone. Keeping in line with this forecast, the need for data scientists in India has exploded as well.

India’s big data market is expected to hit $1 billion in 2015. This is in line with the global trend of the big data market that is expected to hit a whopping $ 8 billion. So, the need for data scientists is immediate, not just in India but globally. This demand is unlikely to abate in the near future.

As it is with any new field that becomes main stream, the hype factor is high. Every tech professional looking for a job in big data is now suddenly a ‘data scientist’.

Today, a number of academicians, economists, physicists, mathematicians, statisticians, data miners and programmers are exploring career options in data science. During this transition, several qualities differentiate the successful ones from the rest. First and foremost, they are masters of two essential disciplines — programming and statistics — and possess strong domain knowledge. They know early on that to become a successful data scientist, they need to proficient in several disciplines.

Secondly, a passion for data is important to be a successful data scientist — not only to be adept at working with data, but to be appreciative of data itself as a first-class product; and the ability to organise and analyse huge amounts of formless data.

Thirdly, technical shortcomings do not deter budding data scientists in their search for creative ways to solve a problem. They find creative methods to visualise information in order to identify clear and compelling patterns in the data.

A good data scientist = data hacker + programmer+ analyst+ coach+ story teller+ artist.

No doubt, a powerful combination of skills that is rare to come by.

How do you become a great data scientist?

The most important aspect of this position is the science of it all. So we should start with what it means to be a scientist. Being a data scientist means you have to obtain, scrub, explore, model and interpret data.

In reality, there is only a small number of people who possess the skills to be ideal data scientists.

To start off, a data scientist’s most basic, universal skill is the ability to write code. You must be a competent programmer, if not, this job is not for you.

You then have to know where your current gap is, whether it is programming, statistics or domain.

One of the best ways to pick up these missing skills is to find a way to work with people who do have those skills. You have to get creative about this and work on projects with a ‘mentor’, where you can get your hands dirty with all that data.

You also have to get on an accelerated path and explore data beyond your comfort zone, to rapidly learn about new technologies and methods.

Keep the data conversations flowing. In conclusion, whether in India or in the world over, successful data scientists must realise that the value they bring to the table is the ability to keep up a steady and continuous conversation with data. A conversation that keeps executives and product managers within an organisation informed on the implications of data for products, processes and decisions.

And of course, also guide the enterprise on how to monetise this data.


The need for data scientists today is present in almost every industry. The immediate demand is in industries such as mobile, health care and financial services. Whereas, industries that depend solely on data, such as ad tech, are likely to have a continuous hiring demand.

The writer is People Orchestrator at Crayon Data.

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