What Is Data Science? Dissecting One of the Top Gigs For the Next Decade

By BrainStation August 2, 2017

Data Science is giving new meaning to the common phrase “crunching the numbers.”

This relatively new job title is being hailed as the “sexiest job of the 21st century” by the likes of the Harvard Business Review, and is one of the tech industry’s favorite new professions.

But what is Data Science? This somewhat mysterious profession is new — it’s only come onto the scene in the last few years as the comparatively ancient discipline of statistics was paired with Computer Science, according to Forbes.

So, why is this burgeoning position getting so much buzz? And why should you care? Let’s take some time to dig into what Data Science is, how its best practices are applied, and why it’s worth considering a career in this field, regardless of your industry.

The Benefits of Big Data: What is Data Science?

We’re relying more than ever on smartphones, millions of apps are available for download, and all our personal and professional data is stored in cloud-based networks. The rise of evolution of new technologies has created a powerful byproduct: Big Data.

You’ve probably heard all the buzz around Big Data — as more businesses transition to digital enterprises, they have access to mounds of data that could affect their bottom line. Companies can access valuable insights on their customers from all the aforementioned sources, as well as their own systems and processes (web traffic, support tickets, etc.).

Because there’s so much data now available, Data Science is the the convergence of multiple skill-sets and disciplines. This Venn diagram visualizes this overlap well:

what is data science?

Image: Forbes

And while automation is a wonderful thing, we still need humans to sort through these mountains of information and analyze it. It’s here that companies can gain insights and make more data-driven decisions — whether it’s improving the customer experience, increasing sales conversions, or closely monitoring the productivity of your employees, data can reveal a variety of actionable takeaways that can directly help or hurt a business.

And that’s where Data Scientists come in.

Why Data Scientists Impact More Than the Tech Industry

From website traffic, conversion reports, sales numbers, and the results of marketing campaigns, businesses across the board are collecting servers full of information. But handling all this data is overwhelming and unwieldy. It’s tough to make sense of all this information and figure out how to leverage it to help a business succeed.

While many technology firms have long recognized the value of data scientists, the demand for these analytics pros has increased across all industries and niches:

What is Data Science?

What is Data Science?

Image: KDNuggets

For example, McKinsey reported that big data initiatives in the U.S. healthcare system accounts for $300 billion to $450 billion in reduced health-care spending, or 12-17% of the $2.6 trillion baseline in U.S. health-care costs. Conversely, they believe that bad data is estimated to cost the U.S. roughly $3.1 trillion a year.

But how exactly do Data Scientists help businesses across the board? What are some tangible actions they execute daily?

  • Serving as an advisor: Managers in every industry to Data Scientists to help them make more data-driven decisions. They counsel management in every type of business to move forward with campaigns or options based on analytics and performance metrics.
  • Surfacing trends: Because they live in a company’s data, they can identify trends in your information — both good and bad. Are customers refusing to return for second purchases? Was there an unexpected spike in sales? Data Scientists can help find the source of trends to replicate successes and curb mistakes.
  • Refocus company priorities: The numbers don’t lie. Because Data Scientists help a business focus on hard data, these pros can help colleagues and managers to focus on issues that have high impact on the success of the organization.
  • Targeting audiences: Data Scientists can help out with customer surveys, and use data from Google Analytics and other sources to create highly targeted audiences for marketing or sales campaigns.

Early Adopters: Businesses Doing Data Science Well

While Data Science has a variety of applications within business contexts, there are some clear examples of companies that were early adopters of Data Science and have used it to their advantage. Here are a handful, for further reading:

  • LinkedIn: Using data to create the “People You May Know” ads that achieved a 30% higher click-through rate than other features.
  • Airbnb: This accommodations search platform uses Data Science to improve their customer service and hiring practices to be more inclusive.
  • Twitter: An insider’s point of view on how Data Science is used at one of the world’s largest social media platforms.
  • Netflix: How Netflix uses data visualization to adjust algorithms, generate new insights, and solve business issues.
  • Amazon: How Amazon leverages Big Data to improve customer service.

Moving Forward With Data Science

Convinced about the value of Data Science in today’s job market? Now that you have a better grasp on what is Data Science, it’s time to get started. Check out our Data Science course, to get a strong foundation from industry pros so you can take advantage of one of these in-demand jobs yourself.