What’s the Secret to Success as a Data Scientist?

September 16, 2018
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The data science field is growing at a rapid pace, which is creating a huge need for additional data scientists to join the industry. But with so much competition, the question is, how do you stand out and become successful?

Understanding the Role of a Data Scientist

The term gets thrown out a lot, but what exactly is a data scientist? What do they do on a daily basis, and why are they in such high demand?

In essence, data scientists are tasked with making discoveries out of large quantities of data. They’re explorers who interpret the world around them.

“At ease in the digital realm, they are able to bring structure to large quantities of formless data and make analysis possible,” Thomas H. Davenport writes for Harvard Business Review. “They identify rich data sources, join them with other, potentially incomplete data sources, and clean the resulting set. In a competitive landscape where challenges keep changing and data never stop flowing, data scientists help decision makers shift from ad hoc analysis to an ongoing conversation with data.”

By 2020, IBM is predicting that demand for data scientists will increase by 28 percent. More than half of these jobs (59 percent) will be in the finance, insurance, professional services, and IT industries. Within two years, there will be an estimated 2.7 million data professional jobs in the United States alone. The average annual pay for advertised data scientist jobs is currently somewhere around $105,000.

Here’s What Makes Good Data Scientists Successful

The demand is certainly there for data scientists, but don’t confuse an increase in job openings with easy money or success. There’s nothing effortless about this occupation. If you want to be successful, you have to stand out amidst your peers.

Here are a few practical ways you can do this:

1. Focus on a Niche or Role

The term “data science” is actually a very broad one. It’s not enough to be a data scientist – you actually need to find a niche and specialize as much as possible. If you’re unsure of what this looks like, here are some suggestions:

  • Do you have work experience in another field? It may be possible for you to leverage some of these past experiences and make a natural shift towards some niche of data science.
  • Is there a particular field in your market that’s in high demand? Job opportunities and earning potential are very real factors.
  • Talk with other people in the field to get an idea of what their job duties look like on a daily basis. Find something that gets you excited.

You don’t want to specialize so much so that you risk becoming obsolete as the industry evolves, but focusing in on a certain niche will make you more marketable.

2. Work on Practical Application

It’s one thing to have head knowledge. But if you want to be successful in this field, you need to focus on practical applications – not just theories. As you undergo training and education, look for opportunities to practice what you’re learning. Whether it’s inside the classroom or as part of an internship, getting your hands dirty will give you the chance to pick up valuable experience.

3. Implement These Time Management Tips

Because of the important role data scientists play in businesses, they’re often stretched thin. Scheduling can be chaotic and you won’t survive very long if you aren’t capable of properly managing your time. Here are two time management tips from entrepreneur John Rampton:

  • As the old carpentry saying goes, “Measure twice, cut once.” In other words, make sure you’re doing things right the first time around so that you don’t have to loop back around and redo it. This will save you an immense amount of time (and embarrassment).
  • Get rid of commitments that waste your time, energy, and attention. Simplify your daily schedule so that you’re giving everything you have to the most important responsibilities. Delegate or disregard everything else.

4. Master Communication Skills

When most people think about data scientists, communication skills don’t come to the top of their minds. That’s because most data scientists don’t possess noteworthy people skills. If you want to stand out in your field, become proficient with communication. It’ll allow you to propel through the industry at warp speed.

Set Yourself Apart

In a field that’s growing as fast as the data science industry, it’s easy to get an entry-level job and blend in. You can carve out a very safe and stable career here. But if you want to move up the ranks, grow your salary, and do work that’s stimulating and meaningful, you have to make it a point to rise above the noise and set yourself apart. By following some of the suggestions outlined in this article, you can increase your chances of accomplishing your personal and professional goals.