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What Does a Data Scientist Actually Do?

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My brother is entering his last year of college and it seems like he is on a great path to success.  Many students have no idea what they want to do when they enter college, and then there are others like my brother who have a plan and see it through to the end.  Needless to say I was one of those unsure students, so it amazes me even more when I see people know exactly what they want in life and they pursue it until they do.  My brother has always been interested in math and science; he excelled in AP physics and calculus even in high school.  When he was accepted into a reputable science college we were all impressed but certainly not surprised.

As he is entering his last year, my brother has explained to the family that he will be pursuing a career in data science.  None of us had a clue what he was talking about but we supported him regardless.  Since that announcement I have tried my best to understand what data scientists do and how they do it, in simpler terms of course.  What I have found is that these types of scientists pool their knowledge of mathematics, statistics, software engineering, civil engineering, and other similar sub-fields into one discipline that mainly consults other companies on what they can and should do with their data.

Over time any one company can collect and compile a lot of data.  And I mean, I don’t think you and I could understand just how much data can build up so quickly.  This is why companies hire data scientists; because they can’t handle all of the data themselves.  As I understand it, some companies can’t even store the data they are collecting so they need someone to help with that.  And for those that have adequate data storage but have no idea what to with it from there, data scientists can also help.

A lot can be learned from large data sets if you know what to look for.  Hypothetically, my brother will some day tackles these large chunks of information and turn them into something organized and something that tells a story about that company.  A good example of this type of data manipulation and learning is Google searches.  When Google started out they had no idea what people would be searching for so they just left it up to the masses.  But over time Google began reviewing and analyzing the data that they collected on searches, and now the searches that we do are customized and we don’t even realize it.  In the beginning, when you searched for “watch repair” on Google you might find some newspaper ads, articles, or eventually businesses with that phrase in their service.  Now, before you even finish typing watch repair in the search bar it is filled in for you.  That is what data science management does.

Data scientists are everywhere, in every sector, so hopefully my baby brother finds his dream job soon!

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