How Sexy is Working With Big Data?

I think that academics should share their opinions widely. Some academics may believe that they have no opinions, they just relate what the data says. These scholars are kidding themselves. We must be willing to change with data but our experience helps us make sense of data. Data is never completely objectively observed.

It us with this in mind that I often read managerial advice. It is rarely perfect but often relays interesting opinions. Managerial advice can help one think about a problem despite detailed evidence  rarely being given. Today’s example comes from Davenport and Patil who tell us that Data Scientist is the “sexiest job of the twenty first century”. This may not be literally true, (some jobs seem to have better looking people), or even figuratively true, (some jobs may be more exciting). That said the point is a good one. Those who are able to make sense of the messages contained in large amounts of data have exciting opportunities.

What makes for a good data scientist? “More than anything, what data scientists do is make discoveries while swimming in data”. (Davenport and Patil, 2012, page 73). The skills to do this are rare and so people with these skills tend to have many desirable options in the work force.

An interesting thing about Davenport and Patil’s article is that they argue for the importance of analysing data but rely exclusively on tacit knowledge gained from their personal experience. They didn’t need to use tables and statistics to make their point that those who can use data have some great opportunities.

Read: Thomas Davenport and D.J. Patil (2012) Data scientist the sexiest job of the twenty first century. Harvard Business Review, 63, October.