Data Scientist? It’s a mindset, not a name


Good day to you Tabaholics,

kirkdThere I was the other day, merrily minding my own business playing with Tableau maps when I happened to read this tweet by @KirkDBorne. Did a bit of googling and came across this link regarding whether you should call yourself a “data scientist” or not, a subject that seems to be getting a fair bit of chat at the moment.

Now I think it’s a bit strong to refer to someone as a “fool” for calling themselves a data scientist. What companies like Alteryx, DataSift & Tableau have done with their splendid applications, is allow everyone to be a data scientist. Or whatever else you want to call yourself. I call myself a Ninja – believe it or not I’m not a real one, although I do have a black one-piece. What I am is a real scientist. I’ve got an M.Sc. degree in Molecular Pathology (and toxicology) and a B.Sc. in Biomedical Sciences. None of that matters, I don’t get offended when someone next to me calls themselves a data scientist.

For me being a scientist is a mindset, not a qualification. It’s the mental attitude and aptitude to take on and solve problems through a process of hypothesis and experimentation. Your weapon of choice may be a bunsen burner or a Flow Cytometer or Tableau Desktop – it doesn’t matter. What matters is the desire for knowledge and understanding, even better if you’re of the mindset that you want to share it with everyone afterwards.

220px-William_Perkin

The process of scientific experimentation is what has driven invention for hundreds of years. It doesn’t even matter that you don’t get the results you expect – it’s the journey that counts. William Perkin (pictured) was trying to make synthetic quinine and ended up revolutionising dye making (and making a shed load of cash in the process). He also had a pretty impressive beard as well. Wonder if he dyed it… Even some items as seemingly complex as the human pacemaker was invented by accident – Wilson Greatbatch taking that one down. Other examples of accidental discoveries include the microwave oven, Teflon and Coca Cola.

So call yourself whatever you want. Call yourself a Ninja, or a Jedi or a Yeti or a data rockstar. I don’t care. Just keep on pushing the boundaries and discovering. You should be proud of yourself for trying.

Regards, Paul

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2 Responses to Data Scientist? It’s a mindset, not a name

  1. Pingback: The Art(isan) of Data Analysis | Sciolistic Ramblings

  2. Great post! I certainly don’t consider myself a data scientist. When I hear that term, my bias tends to equate it with statisticians or actuaries. Someone with advanced degrees and certifications. But I like how you express it as a mindset….a way of life even. After using Tableau for years, and as new user of Alteryx, I like to think of myself as a data enthusiast. Maybe I’m a just a nerd, but it’s a great feeling to discover insights from untapped data. Thanks for the post.

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