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What does a career in data science look like right now?

11 Feb 2022

As we round off Data Science Week, we gleaned a few final insights into what a data science career is like and what potential candidates need to know.

Click here to view the full Data Science Week series.

Throughout the week, SiliconRepublic.com heard from a wide range of professionals working in data science to get an idea of what a career in the industry might look like. In fact, one data scientist deemed it the “sexiest job of 21st century”.

The role has evolved so much over many years and while hearing from those working in the space can give an insight into their specific work, we wanted to get a broader view of what a budding data scientist can expect.

Denis Hannigan is the applied intelligence lead for Accenture in Ireland. He said career tracks in data science can be characterised as fast-paced, fluid and flexible.

“Data scientists are increasingly at the forefront of business decision-making, as opposed to being a back-office team disconnected from the heartbeat of the business. They are in a fast-moving environment so a good appreciation for the business context and challenges is increasingly important for data scientists,” he said.

“The tools and techniques are constantly evolving as bigger datasets, new technologies and more complex business problems are addressed – staying up to speed is essential. The types of algorithms in everyday use today were impossible three years ago, let alone five years ago.”

Hannigan added that data scientists are increasingly working in multi-disciplinary teams without hard job demarcation, which is where the flexibility comes into play.

“Individuals flex across engineering, visualisation and business engagement activities creating a dynamic and flexible team environment.”

Meanwhile, Liberty IT’s Naomi Hanlon said a career in data science looks really exciting right now because data is everywhere.

“Most sectors are collecting data in some form and want to find ways to leverage it. This can be from the music industry to insurance, retail to research,” she said.

“Data science can be used to make an impact in the finance world, help individuals in healthcare research, or direct sustainability efforts for a climate change start-up. There are a lot of opportunities to use data science in a field you are passionate about. A data science career can look very different, and the interesting part is the direction can be chosen by you.”

What data scientists need to know

As part of Data Science Week, we explored some of the skills data scientists need in succeed in their career.

According to Hays, employers will be looking for candidates with an ability to code and may want to see some evidence of this, which means applicants should be prepared to present.

There will also be certain soft skills that prospective data scientists will need, including critical thinking, complex problem-solving, risk analysis and teamwork.

Accenture’s Hannigan added that an ideal data science candidate will be someone who is inquisitive and pragmatic.

They would also need to be a good communicator, able to explain complex models, scenarios or situations in accessible, non-technical terms.

And of course, a good data science candidate should be technically literate with “an appreciation for data and analytics, and conversant in machine learning techniques and multiple programming languages”.

Whether they’re just starting out or in a more experienced position, there are plenty of companies looking to hire for data science roles right now.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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