Definitions of The Data Scientist

I find the hardest part about being a Recruitment Consultant who specialises in Big Data & Data Science is keeping on top of this accelerating, contemporary market. I truly have to consult and educate companies about what Big Data and Data Science is, how it will improve their business and what this type of person (or team) will look like.

Recently, NewVantage published a survey which revealed 70% of organizations surveyed plan to hire Data Scientists, and 100% of them said it’s “somewhat challenging” to hire a competent one (don’t worry, you can find my contact details at the bottom of this article).

We can hit the challenge at its source, with first defining what we’re looking for. If you type into Google, ‘data scientist definition’ you will get the IBM explanation at the top.

What sets the data scientist apart is strong business acumen, coupled with the ability to communicate findings to both business and IT leaders in a way that can influence how an organization approaches a business challenge. Good data scientists will not just address business problems, they will pick the right problems that have the most value to the organization

However, I feel that this description is problematic (sorry IBM). In this instance, what does the Data Scientist bring to the table that an Insight Analyst can’t? Insight Analysts are those who find insight within data sets; insight which will bring value to the organisation. They are usually highly educated and use various data analysis methods.

(Another confusing definition is one I posted on Twitter last night…)


Jeanne Harris (MD of Information Technology Research at Accenture), writing for The Guardian, is getting it right.

“The first thing to understand is that data scientists are more than just re-branded business analysts…They are the highly educated experts who operate at the frontier of analytics, where data sets are so large and the data so messy that less-skilled analysts using traditional tools cannot make sense of them…Like any other scientist, they test theories by exploring and running experiments with data. They also design the intricate models, algorithms and visualizations that can help companies distill insights from huge volumes of chaotic data. And they educate and guide general managers, helping them understand and tap into the potential of big data-era analytics”

What do I look for in a Data Scientist? I look for these key aspects:

  • Education: highly educated (PhD/Masters)
  • Sophisticated Tools & Techniques: Machine Learning, Statistical Modelling, Predictive Analysis, Data Mining, Hadoop, R, Python, SQL, Java, C++, MatLab, SAS, SPSS etc…
  • The size of their Data Projects: this is why Data Scientists are closely linked with Big Data, because making sense of data that has multiple sources and is unfathomably huge, is a Science
  • Attitude: a passion for data with real business acumen. A firm belief/understanding of data driven business strategy and how Data Scientists are integral for this

If you want to get in touch and talk data, feel free to drop me a line on +44 (0) 2079 282 525 or an email on

A Crazy Week Of Shameless Self Promotion

It’s been one of those times when great things all collide at once. Here’s a snippet from what has happened in the last 7 days’ (or so)…


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Motherly Mother’s Day Advice from My Mother

As a Recruitment Consultant I’m always on the lookout for snippets of career advice, anecdotes about success and wisdom…so I can then post it on LinkedIn with a semi-related picture.

But seriously, I always ask my candidates, clients, colleagues, friends and even complete strangers how they have got to where they are now in their careers not just because it’s of genuine interest to me, but to try and impart that wisdom on those I consult for.

With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday in the UK, who better to ask for some advice than my beloved Mumsy. She is a Head Teacher in South West England (so naturally she can be quite scary when you don’t send her a Mother’s Day card) and as such is used to advising others on their paths to take in life. Below is something my mum wrote back to me when I asked for career advice. Enjoy!

Education is the key. It gives you a passport for wider options. It doesn’t mean you’ll be given things on a plate but it opens up opportunities, more doorways to pass through, so don’t waste your talents. Work hard but make time for your interests. People skills are just as important to advance your career despite not being able to achieve a certificate in it. Be assertive but always treat people with respect. There will always be people in your career who can make life difficult for you. From experience I have learned you can’t change the people around or above you but you can change your reaction to them. Be bold, aim high and always be open minded to change because the world is an ever changing place”

Job Hunting? Hiring?

Russel Honore – “When you form a team, why do you try to form a team? Because teamwork builds trust and trust builds speed”

Russel Honore is not wrong! Look at this happy-go-lucky terrier taking a joy ride on a horse. Whether you’re job hunting or hiring, collaborating effectively with your Recruitment Consultant will amount to a better experience.

WHEN JOB HUNTING, once the word is out that you’re looking for a move often it seems that a small army of recruiters come out of the wood work and want to talk to you about fantastic opportunities. Although it may seem that working with lots of recruiters will improve your chances of interview, it can turn out to be the opposite.

If you’re still in a job what you don’t want is countless calls to your mobile at work, having to book off mornings/afternoons repeatedly for unsuitable interviews and become stressed because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to recall which recruiter is representing each opportunity. This can lead to your boss becoming suspicious, you becoming less productive at work and failing interviews due to lack of confidence and preparation.

WHEN HIRING, it’s a similar situation. You put the advert out on the company page and you keep getting calls when irritating recruiters who more often than not, are not a specialist in your market. Also, you will notice that your advert responses are largely unsuitable. Your productivity at work is falling due to spending most of your time turning away incompetent recruiters and sifting through incongruous CV’s.

Whether you’re a job hunter or hiring manager, you could be losing time, money and productivity.


Choose 1 or 2 Specialist Recruitment Consultants for the types of positions you’re looking for. Provide them with an exclusive trial period of 2 weeks’. In this time, you will not post adverts or put your CV on the job boards. This will motivate your Consultant to go the extra mile for you. Make sure to provide clear and honest feedback about what you’re looking for. Don’t be afraid to be blunt but do be open to suggestions as they should be a specialist in the given market and should know much more current hiring trends than you do.

For the hiring manager, throughout the process keep your Consultant informed of other candidates in the process, changes in business process, what you don’t like about applicants etc. For the job hunter, inform your Consultant about where else you’re applying, what other interviews you have, any changes to personal situations and if you receive any offers.

Big Data’s Big Debate: Does Intuition Have a Place in Data?

Nate Silver – “Data-driven predictions can succeed — and they can fail. It is when we deny our role in the process that the odds of failure rise. Before we demand more of our data, we need to demand more of ourselves”

No doubt you’ve heard ‘the hype’ about Big Data and that we need it…RIGHT NOW! The claim that you need Big Data is not the case, what you need is the tools and brain power to analyse Data (whether it’s Big or not). So why are businesses taking their time, hesitating and dawdling around when it comes to hiring in the Data Specialists and implementing the tools?

Winterberry Group produced a study that surveyed over 150 senior figures throughout the digital world. 77% claimed that in the long-term, data management tools and platforms will play a critical role in their business. This figure is surprisingly low don’t you think? How could the analysis of consumer data not play a business critical role in any organisation; no matter how big or small the organisation, or the size of their data. Why does senior management avoid involvement with data?

It can’t be because Data Analytics is a new, scary and intimidating thing that only super geniuses can understand. Using algorithms, statistical techniques and coding to make sense of multi-channelled data in enterprise data warehouses with millions lines of data within various data sets, has been done for years’. Almost 6 years’ ago, back in 2008, Chris Anderson from Wired made the point that “this is a world where massive amounts of data and applied mathematics replace every other tool that might be brought to bear”. With regards to the consumers, “with enough data, the numbers speak for themselves”.

With enough data, you can present facts about how your consumers behave. You can start to predict how successful your marketing, sales and financial strategies will be. Nonetheless, there have been many successful businesses that have thrived under the influence of intuition, where ‘naturals’ have lead the way creating products and services that supersede competition, but they weren’t really sure how they did it.

Guy Cuthbert, Managing Director at visual analytics firm Atheon Analytics, has tried to help many companies become data driven. He has seen “a huge number of opinion-operated businesses that don’t get why decisions could be made on data. I’ve listened to executives spout all sorts of opinions with no fabric or no substance behind them at all”.

So is intuition bad? Should we blindly follow data? NO! When intuition is used in conjunction with Data, invaluable insight is born.

Samuel Arbesman makes the point that “Big Data might be deep…but it’s not wide”. We can pull together snippets of information about an individual from their smart phone, PC, online behaviour and social media but, on the whole, this information doesn’t reflect how this person thinks.

Mille Findlay from Sense Worldwide agrees that “it might be possible to track how someone shops, or how they interact with their peers on Facebook, but it would be a mistake to imagine that this represents how they are all the time, in every situation. We also need to be aware of assuming that this data even represents all people – 76% of people globally still don’t use smartphones, and while it may seem that Facebook is everywhere, only 14% of the world’s population are active users”.

Do not take away the human element of instinct and intuition away from data, as after all, this is data about humans. In your business, when you’re looking to build an Analytics, Data Science or Insight function, look for those people who can perform the technical graft but can use their own intuition to pull out innovative discoveries

Can Data Cure Cancer?


Last month I received a tweet from Amanda Haddock asking for my opinion on her database idea. She dropped me an email describing her project. Please read through her below email as not only do I think it could be one of the most innovative data projects I’ve heard of, but it’s a chance to prove how data can help human kind.

If you’re interested in pursuing this opportunity, email on

“Hi Joe,

We are still in London, but I finally slowed down enough to grab my computer for a few minutes. We have a website for the foundation ( and you can find our mission statement and some basic info there. I thought I would tell you some of the back story in this email to help you understand why we are doing this and what kind of help we need.

In October 2012, my husband and I were at the National Brain Tumor Conference in Boston. We heard a prominent cancer researcher, Dr. Anna Barker, say that there was a great need for more data storage to compare genomes.

It was a very inspirational moment for us, and we have also decided to form DMF (Dragon Master Foundation) to further support research efforts, especially as it relates to “Big Data”. We enlisted the help of my son’s Neuro-Oncologist from Children’s National Hospital, Dr. Eugene Hwang, who has agreed to serve on our Board of Directors. We have spoken with several other doctors and researchers about the project and they are all very excited about the possibilities.

My husband has been in the computer industry for over 30 years, and I have a background in non-profits. We are passionate about brain cancer because my son lost his battle with GBM at age 18 in 2012. Since the moment he was diagnosed we searched for better treatments and cures, and we became vocal advocates in every forum we could find. Hearing Dr. Barker speak was an “ah ha” moment for us because we saw a way to combine our knowledge and networks to truly make a difference in this fight.

As we understand the problem, there are a lot of consortiums that exist in the medical world. Those small groups work well together and share info as best they can. However, they are limited, both in the size of their groups and on their ability to share data. The data that they share is either housed in multiple different databases or in one that will only hold a subset of data. You can look at genome data or patient clinical data, but rarely at the same time.

We believe that if we build a giant database that can house all of these different data subsets, then researchers will be able to compare large groups of people and patterns will start to emerge. We will need thousands of patients’ data to do this, and we know the technology exists to build a massive, scalable database. If we can build it properly, we have no doubt that researchers the world over will want to use it. We want to fund it completely on a non-profit basis and let similar non-profits use the database for free. That will mean some substantial fundraising, but we believe we have the contacts to get it funded, if we have a solid plan.

I am in great need of some talented individuals to guide us on the data management side of the puzzle. We have a board member who has knowledge of data storage, but his knowledge is limited when it comes to the actual structure of the data. If you could help, or lead us to some people who can help, I would be much obliged. We are all working as volunteers at this time, but we have plans to add staff as soon as a plan and funding are in place.

I probably won’t be on my computer much more until we return to the states, but I’ll be checking Twitter and Facebook periodically. I’d love to hear your thoughts.”

Data Analytics Event: London – 27th March – SAS Institute

I’m co-hosting a Data Analytics Networking event with Sayara Beg, Chair of the Operational Research Society. SAS UK has very generously offered event space and food at The Innovation Hub on 199 Bishopsgate, London. See below a link to the MeetUp page and a description of the event. There are very limited spaces so if you miss out, I’m sure I will be uploading plenty of pictures and a blog…naturally.

Calling all Data Scientists and Analytics Specialists.

The Analytics Network, a special interest group of The Operational Research Society professional body, is hosting a networking event with Joe Burridge from Salt and his contacts from SAS UK.

Come on down and hear about hot topics in Analytics as well as a chance to meet like-minded Data specialists. There are limited spaces so make sure to register ASAP. Also, SAS UK are putting on a generous spread of drinks and nibbles.


  • 17:00 -17:30      Registration
  • 17:30 – 18:00    Networking
  • 18:00 – 18:15     Welcome
  • 18:15 – 19:15      Speakers
  • 19:15 – 20:00     Networking and canapés


Laurie Miles: Head of Analytics at SAS

ANSWERS from SAS: a briefing on the service with customer examples

Chris von Csefalvay: Global Director of Operations at Oxford Consilium

Sentiment Mapping for Social Media

Valentines Day Analytics Infographic

Using data from Google Analytics, Nielsen, and Experian, Phoenix and NYC-based digital marketing firm iAcquire examined 2012 web traffic and behavioral data across several leading online dating sites. The study’s goal was to determine patterns in online dating around Valentine’s Day, and to see who was doing what with whom online.


The Analytics of Valentines Day and Online Dating Sites (Infographic) image iAcquire VDAY Analytics7

Big Data Does Not Make You Money

Arthur Conan Doyle – “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data”

That’s right, Big Data does not make you money. Hopefully after this article you will be like this impressive guy above, pulling money out of a Data Analytics application on his computer…

As my avid followers will recall, in a previous blog post I explained why I specialise in Data Analytics. The key reason for me is due to the fact that data is mounting at an unfathomable rate and there is currently, and certainly in the future, a great demand for professionals who can make sense of it all. Anyway, back to this later.

The part that doesn’t make you money, that doesn’t provide you with the much valued insight your company needs is simply gathering it. You can stream your multi-channelled data to your Enterprise Data Warehouse, but what are you doing with it when you’ve created millions lines of data within various data sets?


What you need is actionable data and a Big Data strategy. You need to start turning oceans of data into puddles of insight. This is what makes you money. This is how to create a contemporary business plan.

This strategy needs to start with understanding that you need to build a Data Analytics function including such people as Data Warehouse Developers, Data Scientists, BI Analysts and Insight Analysts. These will be the superheroes of the modern age!

Gather your data and sift through it to get ahead of the game. You can either see it as a daunting task, or the biggest game changer to your business.