How Should A CIO Go About Hiring A Data Scientist?

Yes, you need a data scientist, but what do they really do?
Yes, you need a data scientist, but what do they really do?
Image Credit: CyberHades

I’m pretty sure that all of us CIOs would be more than willing to admit that because of the importance of information technology, we are currently being flooded with data. Most of us would say that we have too much data in our lives. We understand that it is part of what the person with the CIO job has to do to come up with ways to get control over all of the data that is currently flooding into the company. In order to do this correctly, what we need to do is to add to our team people who understand data inside and out. What we need are data scientists. However, who are these people and just exactly what do they do?

What Is A Data Scientist?

As you might initially guess, most data scientists have spent a great deal of time going to college. Although the degrees that they get often vary, more often than not they’ll have a doctoral degree and it can be in operations research, industrial engineering, etc. If you have a chance to talk with a data scientist, what they are going to tell you is that they feel that their most important quality is having a great deal of curiosity.

Just in case you were wondering, data scientists are made not born. Due to the nature of their job, a great deal of math is often involved. Having engineering training of some sort can get them started on the right path. Having a love of math can start to steer them in the right direction. However, to become a data scientist they are going to have to be drawn to applied math – basically the type of math that is used to solve puzzles.

Often times the person in the CIO position wants to know just exactly what hiring a data scientist can do for them. What will this person be working on? A great deal of their time has to do with dealing with the maintenance of things that the company owns and operates – assets. What the company is going to be asking them is how they can go about keeping the asset running for just a bit longer. They’d like to know if they can minimize the number of repairs that they have to do and just exactly what they should be expecting their maintenance costs to be.

What Do Data Scientists Do?

One important thing for all of us to realize is that nobody is right all of the time. Data scientists realize that the recommendation beasts that they create will make wrong recommendations sometimes. In some cases, the cost of making an incorrect recommendation is small (oh, you didn’t want to watch a video on how to strip and polish floors?). However, in other situations such as the world that industrial data scientists live in getting things wrong concerns them greatly because they can be quite expensive.

During a typical day, a data scientist will spend their time building data models, running them, and then studying the output in order to be able to make predictions. Their goal is to be able to use these predictions to get results. Based on the information that they are able to gather, they they then have discussions with their customers and talk about what the results mean. In the end, it’s really all about the predictions that they can make.

In order to be a successful data scientist, one has to be curious. This leads them to asking the right questions at the right times. Their models will be producing a great deal of output. This means that the data scientist is going to have to be good at separating the important information from all of the background noise. This can be done by applying math correctly. Because of the quantity of data that every company is dealing with, data scientists will often work on more than one project at time.

What All Of This Means For You

As CIOs we are responsible for all of the systems that create the flood of data that the company now has to deal with. We are not well positioned to deal with trying to interpret what all of this data means by ourselves – we need help. This is where hiring a data scientist can come in handy. However, first we need to fully understand just exactly what a data scientist does.

Data scientists traditionally have a great deal of schooling behind them. Due to the nature of their job, they have to have an extensive set of math skills. A strong engineering background can also help. Data scientists do a lot of different things, but often a great deal of their time is spent on trying to determine when company assets will require maintenance and how they can be made to operate for longer periods of time. Data scientists spend their time creating and running data models who’s output they study and then use to make predictions. They then discuss these predictions with their customers.

There is no question that every CIO is going to need help in trying to determine what all of the data that his or her company is collecting really means. One way to be able to sort through everything is to hire a data scientist to help create models that will allow predictions to be made. In order to make sure that you pick the right data scientist for your company, make sure that you have a complete understanding of just exactly what they do for a living.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How many data scientists do you think that a CIO should have on their IT team?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The importance of a CIO can be measured in a number of different ways. One such way is how often the CEO seeks out the CIO for consultation. In the not so distant past, this is something that would happen rarely. Generally, this would only happen if something had gone wrong such as a service outage or a security breech. However, this is now starting to change. The people with the CEO job are starting to realize that software has become central to the business and this means that they need to form a much close relationship with their CIO.