Data science is no longer a niche area. When I first told my friends that I worked with Data Scientists two years ago, their reaction was ‘who?’
Today it is a widely understood and accepted term. In fact, HBR described it as the ‘sexiest job in the world’ as far back as 2012.
So what has caused this rapid rise in not only the number of Data Scientists, but also the appreciation and acceptance of them amongst the wider public?
Big Companies Use Them
The success behind companies like Google and Facebook have largely been down to the way they have utilized their data, something that many in society are aware of. The questions around ‘how do they know that?’ are largely answered ‘because of Big Data’.
Although certainly not as famous as a CEO or MD, the Data scientist position is becoming increasingly well known thanks to their roles within the places that people visit every day.
They have even received negativity from the press for some of the work they have done in these companies. Take the criticism that Facebook received after manipulating their user’s feeds to see how it affected their moods and behaviors. This kind of work has Data Science at its core.
People See Their Work
Previously the world of the data scientist revolved around business intelligence, seeing which emails to send to people or how to make more money for the company. This would consist of which products are performing better, which websites are seeing the most traffic or other relatively basic tasks.
Today this has changed, on the most part due to government legislation.
When members of the public see the explanation of why they need to agree to allow a website to track their cookies and use that data, it is made implicitly clear that their information is being gathered. This in turn means that they are aware of Big Data being used by a company, and that there are people behind the scenes who are working with it.
In addition to this is the targeted advertising that many people see on almost every major website.
My father often asks about how Google knows what he has been looking at, or why Amazon keep trying to sell him something that he looked at once over a month ago. Although this is a relatively simple task in terms of how it works, it is also obvious to the general public that their data is being used and that Data Scientists are at the heart of this.
From the NSA scandal temporarily giving people the impression that Hadoop is some kind of spying tool, to the implications of data hacks, Big Data has become big news.
Alongside this comes the obvious stories about the Data Scientists who have been working at the NSA and the data analysis that Edward Snowden was asked to do, before handing it over to the press.
These have all added to the picture of data scientists that was forming in the minds of the public and the interest in this has not dwindled.
Although most of the major successes within Data Science have happened behind closed doors, the truth is that there is an increasing amount of success that is happening in the public eye.
A prime example of this is Warren Buffet, who famously bought stock in only staple businesses. Prior to 2011 he had never bought a significant amount of any tech stock, but this is all changed when he invested $10 billion in IBM, who are one of the major players in Big Data.
There have also been some high profile IPOs of companies like Hortonworks, which have created a buzz around the area of Big Data and by proxy, the Data Scientists at its core.
The public is now not only aware, but also in awe of some of the things that Data Scientists are doing. Having their work shown to them more frequently in their day-to-day lives, in the media or even through the financial success they are having, is giving Data Science a presence well beyond what many would have imagined.
About the Author: Deanna Notice is Vice President, Marketing at Innovation Enterprise, a provider of business-to-business events, webinars and content focused on the needs of senior Big Data & Analytics executives. For more content and discussion around the role of the Data Scientist, join Deanna at the Data Science Innovation Summit, this February 12 & 13 in San Diego or connect with her on Twitter at IEDeanna.