Is data scientist really the sexiest job on earth?

Data scientist has often been called “the sexiest job of the 21st century”. But why has this job earned such a flattering title?

Data scientist has often been called “the sexiest job of the 21st century”. Contrary to what we posted last week, this has nothing to do with the physical traits of the people performing it. So why has this job - or should we call it ‘profession’ - earned such a flattering title? Probably because every company wants a data scientist right now. And probably also because the ideal data scientist is very hard to find. Let’s have a look at why data scientists are so popular and scarce at the same time.
Data scientists are seen as the perfect answer to today’s big data challenge. They can manage the huge amounts of data that are created daily, and - more importantly - they can extract some real value for the business from these data. In order to do so, however, the data scientist needs a very special combination of skills.

Required skills

  • The ability to manage data. Whether the data reside in Excel, Hadoop or other data sources, being able to capture and prepare them for analysis is still an essential part of the data scientist’s job.
  • Knowledge of applied statistics. Predictive analytics and forecasting are not possible without deeper knowledge of statistics. A data scientist needs to go beyond the basics of counts, sums and averages.
  • Programming skills. You don’t have to be a C++ wizard or Java geek to qualify, but it does come in handy if you can dive into the code to understand or alter specific analyses.
  • A thorough understanding of the business (and being able to interact with the business). All data wizardry and statistic excellence are pointless if they are not put to good business use. Being able to understand what drives the organization, to ask the right questions that could lead to that one insight that makes all the difference, that’s what makes the difference between a would-be data scientist and a really good data scientist.

We can guess what you are thinking right now: no one is that sexy! No single person can excel in all those fields, so thé data scientist does not exist. We incline to agree, and that’s why we would add one more characteristic:

  • Being a team player. Since no one can possibly excel in all those skills, the ideal data scientist will rather be a data scientists’ team. A team where a stats buff, a computer wizard and a data magician team up with a business expert. Each of them needs at least a basic understanding of the other team players’ skills. But more importantly they need to be able to function as a tight team, that can stimulate, challenge and drive each other to better analyses, better insights and better business results.

So is data scientist the sexiest job on earth? It will be hard to validate this claim with numbers, but if you like and are good at all (or most) of the above, it is definitely the most exciting job around!