October TechTalk: What is Data Science?

What does it mean to work in data science today? Over 50 people came together at C2FO’s new location to hear our panelists at our October TechTalk ‘What is Data Science?’ Our panelists discussed what it was like to work in the field, how they started their careers, and they gave advice for others looking to break in. Data science was named the top job of 2016 by GlassDoor and Rutgers projected that the data science field will grow faster than any other job in the next 6 years. Our panelists encouraged attendees to learn more about the field and gave insightful wisdom and resources.

October TechTalk: What is Data Science?

What Do Data Scientists Actually Do?

Data scientists may have a variety of roles in their positions. Panelist Earlyn Reinhardt, data scientist at SelectQuote, does a mix of modeling, coding and working with the business users to make sure her models work. Sometimes she develops the product that her users need. Meanwhile, Janae Nicholson at H&R Block in downtown Kansas City works with financial information, cleaning data and making sure her analyses are very exact for the accountants she works with. One example she gave was creating a model that predicted the likelihood of customers returning to the business. She then had to test it and prove to her users that it works.

“I’ve learned that every day starts with a new question,” panelist and lead data architect at ATI Nursing Education Sweta Sinha said. “That [question] needs to be answered not only by the data science team but also among the business users. So we always have some question that comes up ‘Can we do that?’ ‘Can we use that data piece as part of our analysis?”

Adrienne Anderson from Cerner said she spends most of her day at the computer, but another part of her day is talking with other teams, discussing their processes and learning more about how they will use the products she develops. The other panelists nodded and echoed this part of the job.

How the Panelists Got into the Field

Our panelists had diverse backgrounds and most did not start their careers in data science. Adrienne studied physics at first and was a physics teacher, but wanted to learn new skills. She started a degree in electrical engineering but then switched to studying machine learning. One early project she worked on was at iVerify, studying image data that is used to verify identity. Earlyn previously worked in e-commerce and kept wanting to use data in her business. She completed a data science bootcamp in Austin “and never looked back.” 

“If you are willing to work hard, you’re going to do great,” Earlyn said. “PhDs and statisticians don’t know everything and you don’t know everything, so you can all learn together. Don’t worry about your background, we can help you. The data science community is great and we’ll help you.”

How People Can Get Started in the Field

Our panelists encouraged attendees who are interested in the field to get started now. If you wanted to learn data science or keep up with new changes to the field, panelists recommended several resources to learn data analysis and coding

  • Courses in data at Coursera.org or other MOOCs
  • YouTube tutorials
  • White papers from notable data scientists
  • SQL, Python, or R tutorials or courses
  • The machine learning subreddit
  • Data science boot camps or programs
  • Getting your hands dirty by digging in to past data competitions at Kaggle.com
  • Meet-ups with other data scientists!

If you liked learning about data science, maybe you’ll be interested in…

Our data scientist panelists emphasized that their work was on the more technical side, and there is a whole entire world on the business side. In case you missed it, September’s TechTalk ‘What is a BA?’ was all about working as a business analyst. 

Join us at our next TechTalk, our second annual TechWalk fashion show on Wednesday November 14, 6PM. Tickets available here.

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