How to Become a Data Scientist

May 30, 2019
By

(This article was first published on R programming – Journey of Analytics, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

This question and its variations are the most searched topics on Google. As a practicing datascience professional, and manager to boot, dozens of people ask me this question every week.

This post is my honest and detailed answer.

Step 1 – Coding & ML skills

  • You need to master programming in either R or Python. If you don’t know which to pick, pick R, or toss a coin. [Or listen to me, and pick R – programming as it is used at Top Firms like NASDAQ, JPMorgan, and many more..] Also, when I say master, you need to know more than writing a simple calculator or “Hello World” function. You should be able to perform complex data wrangling, pull data from databases, write custom functions and apply algorithms, even if someone wakes you up at midnight.
  • By ML, I mean the logic behind machine learning algorithms. When presented with a problem, you should be able to identify which algorithm to apply and write the code snippet to do this.
  • Resources – Coursera, Udacity, Udemy. There are countless others, but these 3 are my favorites. Personal recommendation, basic R from Coursera (JHU) and Machine learning fundamentals from Kirill’s course on Udemy.

Step 2 – Build your portfolio.

  • Recruiters and hiring managers don’t know you exist, and having an online portfolio is the best way to attract their attention. Also, once employers do come calling, they will want to evaluate your technical expertise, so a portfolio helps.
  • The best way to showcase your value to potential employers is to establish your brand via projects on Github, LinkedIn and your website.
  • If you do not have your own website, create one for free using wordpress or Wix.
  • Stumped on what to post in your project portfolio?
  • Step1 – Start by looking in the kernels portion on the site www.kaggle.com there are tons of folks who have leveraged free datasets to create interesting visualizations. Also enroll in any active competitions and navigate to the discussion forums. You will find very generous folks who have posted starter scripts and detailed exploratory analysis. Fork the script and try to replicate the solution. My personal recommendation would be to begin with titanic contest or the housing prices set. My professional website journeyofanalytics also houses some interesting project tutorials, if you want to take a look.
  • Step 2 – pick a similar datasets from kaggle or any other open source site, and apply the code to the new datasets. Bingo, a totally new project and ample practice for you.
  • Step3 – Work your way up to image recognition and text processing.

Step 3 – Apply for jobs strategically.

  • Please don’t randomly apply to every single datascience job in the country. Be strategic using LinkedIn to reach out to hiring managers. Remember, its better to hear “NO” directly from the hiring manager than to apply online and wait in eternity.
  • Competition is getting fierce, so be methodical. Books like “Data Science Jobs” will help you pinpoint the best jobs in your target city, and also connect with hiring managers for jobs that are not posted anywhere else.
  • Yes, I wrote the book listed above – this is the book I wished I had when I started in this field! Unlike other books on the market with random generalizations, this book is written specifically for jobseekers in the datascience field. Plus, I’ve successfully helped a dozen folks land lucrative jobs (data analyst/data scientist roles) using the strategies outlined in this book. This book will help you cut your datascience job search time in half!
  • Upwork is a fabulous site to get gigs to tide you until you get hired full-time. It is also a fabulous way of being unique and standing out to potential employers! As a recruiter once told me, “it is easier to hire someone who already has a job, than to evaluate someone who doesn’t!”
  • If your first job is not at your dream job, do not despair. Earn and learn, every company, big or small, will teach you valuable skills that will help you get better and snag your ideal role next year. I do recommend staying at roles for at least 12 months, before switching, otherwise you won’t have anything impactful to discuss in the next interview.

Step 4 – Continuous learning.

  • Even if you’ve landed the “data scientist” job you always wanted, you cannot afford to rest on your laurels. Keep your skills current by attending online classes, conferences and reading up on tech changes.
    Udemy, again is my go to resource to stay abreast of technical skills.
  • Network with others to know how roles are changing, and what skills are valuable.

Finally, being in this filed is a rewarding experience, and also quite lucrative. However, no one can get to the top without putting in sufficient effort and time. So, master the basics and apply your skills, you will definitely meet with success.

If you are looking to establish a career in datascience, then don’t forget to take a look at my book – “Data Science Jobs‘ now available on Amazon.

To leave a comment for the author, please follow the link and comment on their blog: R programming – Journey of Analytics.

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