I am not an engineer
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“Data science”, why even bother?

At first, there was nescience and distrust. Data scientist: yet another prophetic buzzword? Haven’t we been dealing with data on a large scale for some time now? Do we really need to invent a new job (title) for each trend in a profession?

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In my starting career as communications consultant I have seen many nine day wonders every now and then. I never particularly liked them. “Data science” however, somehow gained my attention. Without knowing what it actually meant, it evoked making sense of information, gaining insight by connecting the dots, finding new ways of monitoring change, adducing relevant feedback for improvement and producing evidence for good decision-making. Now how does that sound to you?

I thought of it as a programmer mainly scraping and processing data

Still, I did not know what it really meant and took to be a so-called data scientist (I still cannot get used to the newspeak). If this is all about statistics, why should it be the “sexiest job”? What is sexy about stats in the first place? My selection bias made me chose a different conception of the data scientist. Rather than being a statistician, I thought of it as a programmer mainly scraping and processing data (as opposed to one developing apps or software).

And there it is. Even though I cannot clearly explain why, I have always been attracted to processing large chunks of information to produce human-readable insight. As an adolescent, I tried to track the behaviour of a human player in a game developed in Visual Basic (oh god…) in order to improve the performance of the PC player. With my rather basic programming skills and limited access to code – no Stackoverflow at the time and books were unaffordable for me – I somehow got stuck. A few years later I tried to analyse Twitter messages of a select group of Swiss politicians, but there again, my insufficient knowledge of PHP, let alone any other web language beyond HTML and CSS, did not allow me to do what I wanted.

the prospect of acquainting myself with data science gave me hope

For all these reasons, the prospect of acquainting myself with data science gave me hope that I might learn techniques and acquire tools enabling me to exceed my personal boundaries in data processing. Next time I have to make sense out of 1000-row Excel table I will not need to “pollute” the data file with formulae and checksums, etc. Next time I want to process heavy csv-files packed with tweets, I will be able to make a semantic analysis in the same environment in which I scrape and prepare the data. Well, next time is now.

Why do you feel attracted to data science? Show your reasons below!

 

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