Readers of this blog and my site know that I'm an enormous fan of Breaking Bad. In the episode "Hazard Pay", Mike says to Walt, "Just because you shot Jesse James don't make you Jesse James."
For a quick preview of the episode, click below (SPOILER ALERT):
Books, certificates, and graduate degrees in data science are spreading like mushrooms after the rain.
Unfortunately, many are just a mirage: some old guys taking advantage of the new paradigm to quickly re-package some very old material (statistics, R programming) with the new label: data science.
To add to the confusion, executives, decision makers building a new team of data scientists sometimes don't know exactly what they are looking for, ending up hiring pure tech geeks, computer scientists, or people lacking proper experience. The problem is compounded by HR who do not know better, producing job ads which always contain the same keywords: Java, Python, Map Reduce, R, NoSQL. As if a data scientist was a mix of these skills.
And I couldn't agree more.
To be sure, software vendors, independents, and consulting firms have a strong incentive to overstate their skills whenever a hot new technology or trend erupts. I laughed a few years ago when all of these self-anointed "social media experts" appeared from out of nowhere. What did that position entail, exactly? They knew how to set up a Twitter account or a Facebook fan page? What were the criteria--and how could you prove that someone was an expert?
In his post, Granville pinpoints another crucial reason that many organizations are not hiring true data scientists: their HR departments. Does a hiring manager really know if someone is every bit the NoSQL or Hadoop expert he claims to be? I doubt it. In Too Big to Ignore, I call out HR folks for their general inability to utilize data on a regular basis. If that's the case, how can HR people verify that people possess the skills they say they do?
Personally, I would give applicants real-world scenarios and make them solve the problems--or at least try. A few years ago, I heard of a recruiter who made applicants manually write SQL during the interview. It's a brilliant move. You just can't fake INNER JOINs.
Be wary of snake oil salesman who claim to be data scientists. Because true data scientists are so important in an era of Big Data, they're not cheap. To quote Ronald Reagan, "Trust but verify."
What say you?