In a discussion last month on RetailWire, Nikki Baird of RSR Research wrote that finding a data scientist was akin to finding unicorns and dragons in retail enterprises. There is no doubt that the explosion of big data has created a real need for numbers gurus who can make sense of key points and communicate insights to the rest of the business organization.
So what skills does it take to become a data scientist and where do companies find the people that have them?
According to a recent article on the Pacific Standard website, companies have gone in search of individuals holding advance degrees in the past. Today, however, becoming a data scientist requires basic math skills and a computer connected to the internet. "Becoming a data scientist," according to the article, "is perhaps the most prominent example of a new industry that breaks from the higher education model and allows people to learn the necessary skills without years of classes."
The Pacific Standard article profiles three data scientists who took statistics in school, but otherwise are largely self-taught. Brian Burke, a former Navy fight pilot and military contractor, founded Advanced NFL Stats. Charles Pensig is a senior data analyst at Jawbone, the wearable tech and audio device company. Carl Bialik, is lead news writer at Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight. None of the three suggested that the higher educational model is the means to becoming a data scientist.
"There is a treasure trove of information available on the Web, most of which is far more gentle, user-friendly, and effective than a grad school course," Mr. Burke told Pacific Standard. "Free courses on Coursera or similar sites can be really great sources."
Do you agree or disagree that data scientists do not require extensive formal education to succeed in their jobs?