Does The One-Person Data Scientist Exist?

Last years press readings about ‘Data scientists’, revealed that this soon to be fashionable role is very much in demand and that there will be a shortage of these professionals any time soon to capitalize on big data. The title “data scientist” has been around for only a few years. It was coined in 2008 by D.J. Patil, and Jeff Hammerbacher, then the respective leads of data and analytics efforts at LinkedIn and Facebook. So what exactly is a data scientist?

Defining the data-scientist.

First of all, let’s have a look at some definitions of a data scientist.

In a Harvard Business Review article the data scientist was described as “a high-ranking professional with the training and curiosity to make discoveries in the world of big data.”

IBM described a data scientist as representing an evolution from the business or data analyst role, what sets the data scientist apart is strong business acumen, coupled with the ability to communicate findings to both business and IT leaders in a way that can influence how an organization approaches a business challenge.

The Guardian describes the data scientist as “someone who can bridge the raw data and the analysis – and make it accessible. It’s a democratising role; by bringing the data to the people, you make the world just a little bit better.”

The key characteristics that I extract from these three descriptions -and others- are:

  • Analytical
  • Business savvyness
  • Communication
  • Engagement
  • Creativity

To me this rises the next question, does a real one-person data scientist exist?.

I don’t want to offend anyone, the thing is, the abovementioned five characteristics is quite holistic and it’s hard to be good or excel at everything. Most people tend to be more left or right brain. Are we trying to create a “mythical” role?

Data Scientist IntelligentHQ

The answer lies in Team.

Based on my own –humble- experience with big marketing data, having worked with a team of diverse people, I think the data-scientist isn’t a one-man show. I think it’s a unique and newly combined team of people with the abovementioned elements.

Look for instance at the fragmentation of marketing roles, the online marketeer, offline marketeer, SEO-specialist, SEA-specialist, Affiliate marketeer, the campaign strategist and so forth. Having a person that is a specialist in all of these roles is hard to find. The same goes for the data scientist.

Collaboration, engagement and people are key in any kind of organization and exactly in this more complex environment, I don’t think unification of the characteristics in one person is the answer and the search for such people could be a lengthy one. Connect a couple of people that together can tackle big data challenges, through creativity comes up with new ideas and so forth.

What do you think, does the one-person data scientist exist?.

How to position yourself as a Data Scientist.