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Data Scientists are Crucial to Business Growth and Innovation

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While data science is not a new term, and was growing in importance in the last several decades, it has gained currency more recently as enterprises have now become awash in a sea of data – both small data sets as well as the big data generated by mass-scale applications. The global pandemic further proved the importance of managing data and extracting insights from the large volume of data generated daily to drive business decisions. Despite the collapse in the job market brought about by the pandemic, the demand for data scientists globally as well as in India continues to remain high.

In a recent interaction with CXOToday, Satish Pala, SVP of Digital Solutions at Indium Software, explains why data scientists are crucial to business growth and innovation. He also sheds light on the impact of the COVID pandemic on the Data Science job market, current skill shortage in Data Science and the way forward to reduce the skills gap.

Why do you think the role of data scientists is becoming more relevant than ever today?

Due to digital adoption over the last 5 years by enterprises, we have large volumes of data being generated and processed. In addition, user-generated data through social media and mobile apps has increased exponentially. With such data sets being available, we can derive actionable insights and predictions for almost any business, from content/product recommendation to automated self-driving cars to personal assistants, etc.

While data growth is exponential, the recent developments in advanced analytics have increased the potential to generate unimaginable insights by data scientists. Some of these technologies include Google powered TensorFlow, OpenCV, Fast text by Facebook and BERT based models by Hugging Face which powers document classification and translation. Along with the software capabilities, the hardware availability like GPUs and on-demand cloud services have made solving AI & Data Science problems easy, efficient, and quick. As a result, companies are in desperate need of data scientists, to be one step ahead of the competition.

 How important is the Indian market for data scientists in terms of education, hiring? 

India is among the top 5 data analytics markets in the world in terms of data generation, consumption, and services. This sector is expected to be around $15 billion by 2025. Specialized courses in Statistics and Mathematics are available in India, which are the foundations to become a data scientist. Universities also offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in data science covering the foundations and programming in R, Python, and other languages.

India provides a good number of data scientists when compared to other countries, only next to the US, however, there is a lack of data scientists in general. There were close to 90,000 unfilled data science job opportunities in India in 2020. As a result, India Inc. is trying to build data science capability from within as well as partner with learning institutes. Some of the top IT cities that create the maximum number of jobs include Bengaluru at around 25% and Delhi and Mumbai at around 20% respectively.

What was the impact of the COVID pandemic on the Data Science job market?

COVID-19 pandemic has completely shaken and disrupted businesses across the globe. Most of the businesses that have traditionally been run from a local and on-premise data center set up have been forced to move their businesses to the cloud to scale rapidly. Also, there is an increase in digitalization like e-commerce portals and mobile apps. As a result, we have a lot of data being generated, stored, and accessed. Once any business has these data sets, there is a huge potential to leverage these data sets and generate actionable insights for their business. Hence, there are many opportunities for data scientists. The Data Science job market is pretty hot and has actually spiked a lot in the last year.

 What are the current challenges faced by Data scientists?

First of all, there are no clear set of expectations from a data scientist as the realm is vast. For example, Data scientists could vary from basic python developers to statisticians to advanced mathematicians. For example, a data scientist could be a Python developer who works with data (with SQL/Spark) or Statistical analysis or Machine Learning or Deep Learning or Computer Vision (OpenCV) or Data Analytics or Data Visualization.

Secondly, there’s a lack of clarity on where to start. With the wide set of Data Science skills, it’s quite difficult for aspiring or even experienced ones aspiring to be data scientists to choose one or more skills to work and stick with.

Finally, I would say, experienced Data scientists are still limited in number when compared to traditional computer engineers. So, the Data Science communities and forums may not offer the same support and content for data scientists to refer to.

Do you see a solution to the current skill shortage in Data Science? How can industry-academia partnership help?

Yes. These days, there are a lot of online courses as well as university programs that are already teaching Data Science not only as a course but also as a special graduate program. Industry-Academia partnerships will help speed up. Some of the Industry players are partnering with universities to design courses, case studies and projects.

How can governments encourage more students to Data Science?

Governments can encourage more students to Data Science in three ways:

1) Demonstrate AI, ML and Data Science based outcomes in government initiatives like Digital India, UPI, etc.

2) Create Job opportunities in Data Science either for the Government or facilitate through private players.

3) Focused Learning – Many jobs are going to get automated in the future because of AI, so the government can take measures in upskilling people with mundane jobs through National Skill Development Centres and conducting short terms courses.

 How can data scientists’ upskill themselves in times of pandemic?

Data scientists are crucial to business growth and innovation and need constant upskilling especially in the current data landscape. Data Scientists can register in online tech learning platforms which have a lot of real-time and video recorded courses related to Data Science. Data Scientists require a lot of practice to apply theoretical knowledge on algorithms and programming. One way to achieve this is by solving problems in online Data Science competitive platforms. They provide data sets as well. Another way is to look out for Data Science hackathons to solve problems.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com