Becoming a data scientist

July 2011

I love data. Even more, I love listening to people's requirements and turning data into visualisations, that we can use to make a difference to the world around us.

At college, my highest marks were in quantitative mathematics and at university I was fascinated by statistical analysis. Working in local government for 3 years, has made me aware of the mountains of untapped open data we have to offer. For example, In 2010 I worked on Birmingham city council's "customer first" project, to "channel shift" customers to phone > email > web. As part of this, I collected and organised incoming telephone call information from the rent department. In my opinion, this was a minor data manipulation exercise, but it turned into useful information. The rent arrears heat map followed this, showing where high levels of council tenant debt were in Birmingham.

All year I've been looking for a new career direction. Social media? Programming? Open data? My mind has just been made up by the following tweet: -

Hadley Beeman @hadleybeeman - Looks like the data economy is growing. "Jobs for data scientists explode across the market" #data #ecosystem

I messaged Hadley, asking for the 3 skills I would need to become a data scientist and I swiftly received the following pointers: -

Wow, that sounds like I should write a blog post. :)

Off the top of my head:

1. stats/quant analysis

2. context (what does this mean to people on the ground? Why do they care? What words will they use?)

3. Visualis'ns.

There's a lot that hangs off each one of those, but they seem to be the topic headlines.

We can arrange a phone call if it'd help more?

You gotta love Hadley :-) I've been fortunate to hear her speak many times, especially about her work with LinkedGov. Its fascinating, to say the least.

So, that's my career aspirations sorted. Can't wait to have a 1-2-1 chat with her about how to get there. Watch this space!