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.


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


Social Data Day @ Google

Hello Tablegions,

I’ve just spent a very enjoyable afternoon at the shiny and brightly coloured offices of Google in the City of London.

20131126_132946The event was part of Social Data Week (#sdday) and was billed as a discussion about social media, data analytics and such like with a product demo of Tableau from Andy Cotgreave (@acotgreave) as well as a couple of panel discussion sessions.

Here’s how the afternoon panned out.

The event was hosted by Rob Easton (@robeaston33), Head of Enterprise Cloud Platform at Google, and he opened up with a brief introduction before handing over to Tim Barker (@timbarker) of DataSift.

tbarkerI wasn’t aware of them prior to this session and Tim laid on an excellent introduction to their services and then a demo. DataSift suck in massive volumes of data from social platforms, filter out the crap and irrelevant content and then feed that to big enterprises who use tools like Tableau to perform their analytics. It was amazing to find out that a single tweet contains about 140 different data points that DataSift can report on. Sounds a really good tool. Tim was also super chatty in the breakout sessions and provided some great insight into their business.  “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure”.

Next it was over to Rishi Kumar of Unilever (@Rishi_NK) to discuss how they’ve used data analytics tools and in particular Tableau to achieve their business objectives. It featured how Rishi’s work has allowed them to gain valuable insight into data on social platforms. Very interesting stuff. “Data trumps opinion” was one memorable quote.

Then a bit of a panel discussion where Rishi was joined by a couple more guys including Nathan Sage of PA Consulting. Unfortunately I can’t recall too much about the Q & A session but there were a good few questions from a very engaged audience.

bradkNext up was Brad Kilshaw (@bradderskilshaw), Google’s head of Social, who gave us a tour of the Google portfolio of social tools. He seemed very confident in Google’s ability to be the best in all areas. I’ve got some opinions on that which I’ll elaborate on in a future blog, and also around the area of Platform as a Service which is a big topic in my area at the moment.


The final presenter was the always entertaining Andy Cotgreave (@acotgreave) of Tableau. He gave a demo of the tool and how easy is to turn data into insight. I’m interested in what people thought that have not had any previous Tableau experience. Let me know.

Then it was the final wrap-up panel discussion and again more cool questions.

All in all a good afternoon. I look forward to future sessions.

Cheers, Paul