Future of Work

Is Data Science your professional North Star?

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Many of us are being forced to address our academic or professional careers amid the coronavirus pandemic in a way that feels unsettling and very scary. However, change can be good: it pushes us to grow and forces us to consider paths that may not have been viable options before.

“As the saying goes, as one door closes, another one opens,” says Andrew Levine, founder of Second Act Stories podcast. “Now is an exceptional time to explore a new path, going back to school, transitioning to a different profession, starting a new business, or pursuing a not-for-profit position. As the world finds a new normal, it’s a good time for individuals to find a new job with both purpose and a paycheck.”

How to find your North Star?

Lean into the change as you decide your next move; this is a good opportunity to recognize your strengths and embrace your weaknesses. Changing course can be exciting but can also feel extremely overwhelming. Here are some things to consider:

  • Tap into your dreams – find a life of meaning and purpose
  • Know your value -Use your passion and experiences to create a compelling skill stack which is unique to you
  • Match skills to new opportunities -Look at your skills and experiences to determine their current relevance. This will highlight new skills you may need to acquire
  • Be patient – Making a change requires flexibility and creativity. Pursue the new path with an open mind and a growth mindset .

A career in data science is an option

With the novel coronavirus bringing societies all over the world to a halt, millions are monitoring the situation in their communities, countries, and continents. We’ve seen companies like IBM creating interactive maps to track local and global cases of COVID-19. These maps have the stats on verified cases, deaths, recovered persons, as well as some predictions on how the crisis will unfold in the near future.

People around the world are using maps such as these to stay updated on the pandemic but they know very little about the fact that data science is behind those data-driven observations on the spread of the virus. The need for smarter business decisions has never been so desperate and deeply dependent on insightful decision making. Data Science as a career after COVID is perhaps the most sought-after skillset in every industry.

Data science, as a skill, has existed for at least half a decade, if not more. It has only consistently evolved to include concepts like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning, and more. Today, data science is not a simple technology, but a comprehensive collection of capabilities and techniques to train machines in assisting humans for better decision making.

It is not hard for any business to understand that they can only do better or innovate when they can predict the demand.

What skills does a data scientist need to be successful?

Data science is cross-disciplinary with a set of skills found at the intersection of statistics, computer programming and domain expertise. It comprises of three distinct and overlapping areas:

  1. Statistics, to model and summarize data sets
  2. Computer science, to design and use algorithms to store, process and visualize data
  3. Domain expertise, necessary to formulate the right questions and to put the answers in context

Other skills often missed are:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Communication

The Data Science Skills Competency Model

In 2018, IBM built the first Data Science Apprenticeship program in the United States. As part of the program, Ana Echeverri, Director and principal leader for AI Skills Learning and Certification at IBM, developed a transparent blueprint defining the skills competencies required for a data scientist. This blueprint can be used for:

  • Recruitment
  • Skills development
  • Job expectations

Read more about the competency model 

How do you learn Data Science?

While the field of Data Science and AI is expansive and requires a broad skill-set, there are ways to get started.

Develop some base skills

IBM has developed a robust portfolio of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence on Coursera to address some key skills identified on the competency model. Depending on varying starting points, there are multiple learning paths available to a learner, many of which also provide an industry recognized credential.

Join a community

Collaborate with like-minded professionals in the IBM Data Science Community Participate in community events, webinars and even get access to a free month of select IBM courses on Coursera when you join the community.

Get some practical experience

Join other Data science enthusiasts on Kaggle to interact and compete in solving real-life problems. The experience you get on Kaggle is invaluable in preparing you to understand what goes into finding feasible solutions for big data.

The opportunity

The pandemic has highlighted that the collection and analysis of data can provide actionable insights which not only have business value but can have invaluable humane impact. Although new job postings POST-COVID in data science and analytics have declined overall, they currently appear to be declining at a slower rate than that of most other occupations. And within the finance and insurance industry, new job postings in the analytics and data science space have actually increased. So, if you have an interest in data science, pursuing a career in this field just could be your professional North Star providing you with long-term employability.

Additional resources to help you through your learning journey


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