Congratulations on choosing data science as your future career! It’s a great decision.
Data science is a thriving field with a remarkable number of job openings around the globe. The demand is outstripping the supply! That means there are more vacancies than qualified data science professionals.
So this journey you have taken to become a hands-on data science professional? You can already visualize why it’s the path to future success. There are a variety of problems you can solve, a whole host of tools you can master, and a broad range of techniques you can learn and then play around with.
The canvas is in front of you – now it’s your turn to pick up the data science brush and start painting your way to a successful data science transition.
What can you expect in a machine learning consultant role?
Data science may be the sexiest job of the 21st century but like all jobs, even this one requires hard work. A day-to-day consultant role in data science requires working on the same problem for long hours performing continuous in-depth research. This role requires you to be well-versed with probability and statistics, programming, machine learning.
A data science role requires you to be in continuous communication with the stakeholders as well as other teams. On the soft skills side, you’d want to keep up on your communication skills, storytelling skills, and structured thinking ability. We’ll talk about these skills in a moment.
A typical data science project lifecycle looks like this:
- Converting the business problem into a data problem
- Hypothesis generation
- Data collection or extraction
- Data exploration and validating hypotheses
- Data modeling
- Model deployment
- Presenting your work to the final user/client/stakeholder
Depending on your role, your project, and your organization, you’ll be working on different stages. Some projects require a data scientist to do the end-to-end work. Most projects will expect you to be involved from the start but will leave the data collection and model deployment stages to data engineers. It all comes down to specific use cases.
The role of a data scientist is really crucial to the whole organization and the economy as a whole. But the problem is – there is a shortage of “Skilled” data scientists globally. The AI and ML Blackbelt plus program aims to make you an industry-ready certified data science professional with 14+ courses, 39+ real-life projects, and 1:1 mentorship sessions so that you are never off-track.
What are the key skills required to excel in a machine learning consultant role?
Data science is a multi-faceted role. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning data science. Having said that, there are a few core skills you will need to pick up to make a successful career transition to data science.
Here are the key skills you would need:
- Structured Thinking and Problem Formulation Skills
- Mapping Problem to Machine Learning Techniques
- Communication and Presentation Skill
- Storytelling Skills
- Ability to work with Databases and Data Engineering
Apart from these core skills, there are other skills you should be aware of, such as:
- Deep Learning concepts
- Big Data
- Software Engineering
- Model Deployment
How can you excel in each of these required skills?
Ah, the key question! Now that you know what you need to learn, the attention turns to how you can learn those skills. Let’s look at a few options and suggestions on how to pick up and hone the key skills we mentioned above.
Structured Thinking and Problem Formulation Skills
Structured thinking is a process of putting a framework to an unstructured problem. Having a structure not only helps an analyst understand the problem at a macro level, but it also helps by identifying areas that require deeper understanding.
Without structure, an analyst is like a tourist without a map. He might understand where he wants to go (or what he wants to solve), but he doesn’t know how to get there. He would not be able to judge which tools and vehicles he would need to reach the desired place.
How many times have you come across a situation when the entire work had to be re-done because a particular segment was not excluded from data? Or a segment was not included? Or just when you were about to finish the analysis, you come across a factor you did not think of before? All these are results of poorly structured thinking.
Machine Learning and Mapping Problem to Machine Learning Techniques
The main job of a data science consultant is to formulate data-based problems and find ways to solve them using machine learning. So it’s vital to learn machine learning but even more important to understand how to utilize them in order to solve business problems.
For a data scientist, machine learning is the core skill to have. Machine learning is used to build predictive models. For example, you want to predict the number of customers you will have in the next month by looking at the past month’s data, you will need to use machine learning algorithms.
You can start with a simple linear and logistic regression model and then move ahead to advanced ensemble models like Random Forest, XGBoost, CatBoost, and so on. It’s a good thing to know the code for these algorithms (which just takes 2-3 lines) but what’s most important is to know how they work. This will help you in hyperparameter tuning and ultimately a model that gives a low error rate.
If you are looking for specialization, Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Computer Vision are two fields that are absolutely thriving right now. Each requires you to dive deep into those specific fields so make sure you’re aware of what you’re getting into.
Communication and Presentation Skill
Data Science projects are more of a treasure hunting job, the treasure being the insights you fetch from the data. The question is what is the price of the treasure? Well, that is decided by your stakeholders. The only way to get a good price is to be able to communicate how insightful the results and how can this treasure help them in improving the profits and organization.
Furthermore, the quality of a great data scientist is to formulate the problem statement. At the start of the project, the stakeholders tell their requirements to the data scientist, and then the latter formulate a problem statement. For example, the stakeholder needs to improve the content recommendation of their OTT platform so that the retention time increases. This is a very vague description, it’s the job of the data scientist to communicate the right problem statement.
Imagine watching a cricket match stats, you are shown with the runs scored on each bowl in the form of a table. Do you think you will get any important information from this? What if you are you are shown a bar chart of runs scored in each over? Seems better. Right? It is not in human nature to understand in blocks unless you make it interactive.
Storytelling is the utmost important acquired skill by a data scientist.
Knowledge of Database and Data Engineering will also help you to look at the product at End-to-End
A data science project is a culmination of many different factors, one of them is data engineering. A data engineer is responsible for building and maintaining the data architecture of a data science project. These engineers have to ensure that there is an uninterrupted flow of data between servers and applications.
As a consultant data scientist, you will be able to make a higher impact on the projects with data engineering knowledge in hand. Some of the important topics that will add great shine to your resume –
- Database Systems
- Building data pipelines
- Data scalability
- Cloud computing
- Moving applications to production
Machine Learning has seen a great jump only because of the boost in computing power. Programming provides us a way to communicate with machines. Do you need to become the best in programming? Not at all. But you will definitely need to be comfortable with it.
First of all, choose the programming language of your choice. Python, R, or Julia are to name a few and each has its own set of Pros and Cons. Python is a general-purpose programming language having multiple data science libraries along with rapid prototyping whereas R is a language for statistical analysis and visualization. Julia offers the best of both worlds and is faster. If you are confused about which language to choose, we have compiled a resourceful article for you:
Python is the market leader right now and continues to be widely used in the industry. It’s a lot easier to perform machine learning tasks using Python, due to the availability of libraries and high support for deep learning.
The AI and ML Blackbelt plus program not only covers all the hard skills like Python, machine learning, statistics but also other essential soft skills like structured thinking and storytelling skills. Not just that you also get a resume and interview assistance!
Build Your Data Science Consultant Portfolio
Whatever we have covered so far has a lot to do with understanding different data engineering concepts. We’ve covered both the technical side (programming, data engineering, etc.) and the soft skills aspect (structured thinking).
So, what’s the next step for you in your transition journey?
It’s time to apply your knowledge in a practical scenario! Yes, you need to marry your theoretical knowledge with hands-on practical experience to truly stand out as a data science transitioner. Given your background, there are broadly three ways you can do this.
Look for a Role to manage end-to-end Data projects within your organization – The first and most accessible way to build upon your knowledge is by getting a hand on a data science project within your own organization. You’ll get an idea about the tools and techniques employed there. It’ll be a thrilling experience to solve problems within your data science teams and achieve great results.
If you are not getting role internally, apply for an internship in a product role around data projects – This is the most popular path to breaking into the data science industry. Even for experienced people – internships are a very effective way to break into data science. We have now seen so many successful transitions enabled by internships. Not only do you gain experience in data science, but you also get to learn how the industry works and how a typical data science project functions. It’s an invaluable experience!
Write Articles – If you have a knack for data science and a passion for writing then what is a better way to express yourself than writing articles? Article writing helps you learn all the hard technical concepts and turn them into easy-to-grasp topics. Article writing is another great way to help you catch the eyes of potential recruiters.
Data Science projects are a must if you want to make a mark in your career. The AI and ML Blackbelt plus program offers massive 39+ projects that will make sure you get exposure to a variety of projects. Are you ready for all types of tasks that will come ahead in your journey?
Stay up to date with current developments in the domain
This is another essential aspect of working in data science. We’ve seen the majority of transitioners skip this step and focus exclusively on picking up machine learning concepts – don’t do that!
Data science is still a very nascent field. We see major breakthroughs happening on a regular basis (sometimes a weekly basis!) and it can become difficult to keep up with all that’s happening. But if you can find time to catch up on the latest developments, you’ll already have an edge on your competition.
Let us give you an example. The Natural Language Processing (NLP) field has come a long way in the last 3 years (since 2017). We see a new language model seemingly every week that builds on the last major breakthrough. If you can keep up with this pace, if you can spend a bit of time understanding what’s going on, you’ll gain invaluable knowledge that your peers won’t have.
So what are the different ways in which you can stay up to date in the vast space of data science? Here are three suggestions based on our experience:
- Follow Newsletters and blogs: This is the easiest way to stay abreast of developments. There are plenty of good newsletters out there (just do a quick Google search) that will send you weekly updates. You can also subscribe to blogs like Analytics Vidhya to check out the latest tools and techniques in data science.
- Follow People: Another no-brainer! The data science community is a great place to connect with fellow transitioners, experts, and industry veterans. You’ll be surprised how approachable these experts are and they’re always willing to share their knowledge and advice. Find these people on platforms like LinkedIn and keep following them regularly.
- Attend MeetUps: This one requires a bit of effort but the eventual payout can be HUGE. Meetups offer you an unparalleled opportunity to meet your fellow transitioners and connect with them, learn from them, and build a rapport that might benefit both parties. Over time, once you are comfortable with core machine learning concepts, you can even try and speak at these meetups to build your profile
The big salary question – what can you expect from this transition?
Making a career switch to data science for getting a salary bump is entirely justified. However, it isn’t as straightforward as you might think. There are certain things, such as work experience and your current domain, that will play a MASSIVE role in deciding your salary post-transition.
Taking figures from the popular and relatively accurate website called Glassdoor, this is what the salary situation looks like for a data scientist:
As you can see, the average salary in 2020 is approximately INR 10,00,000 per year.
If you bring a bit more experience to the table and you have relevant domain experience, you might look at a more senior role (though this is a bit rare if you have no prior data science experience):
As we said, it comes down to how relevant your previous experience is. More often than not, as a person transitioning from a non-data role to data science, you’ll be looking at the first graph.
What are the challenges to get the “Sexiest Job of the 21st Century”?
There has never been a better time to become a data scientist. Data Science is a booming industry but it also comes with its own set of challenges. Keeping in mind that you come from a consultant background, it should help you overcome the majority of challenges, however, we’ll list a few that need your special attention. If you have reached here, we know you can work out through obstacles. Let’s take them up one by one –
- Hard to find the job – At the mid-management level, it becomes crucial not just to find the company offering great compensation but which has a supportive environment where data science is embraced and data-based decisions are at the core. To get all the requirements in one organization, you will need to work hard in job-hunting.
- Finding projects within your organization – As discussed above, a supportive organization will help you grow and magnify your perspective along with providing a new experience. Finding a data science project within your own organization will help you gain much-needed learning without job-hunting.
- Knowledge of Data Engineering projects is also important – Data science is relatively a new and emerging field but data engineering is still in its nascent stage and organizations are in constant effort in formalizing this job role. Both are equally important. Therefore you might find it a little hard to find the right resources to study data engineering. However, you can get past this by studying data engineering from analyticsvidhya.com/blog.
- Working on Quant Skills – The basis of data science is derived through its quantitative nature. An absence of a quantitative degree may create a challenge in understanding the basics of this field. Therefore, you may need to spend a chunk of your time working on your quant skills at the beginning of your journey to create a strong foundation.
- Structured Thinking – Ah, the most crucial skill yet the most overlooked one. Structured Thinking as discussed above is the art of breaking down the large unstructured problems into smaller and manageable problems. A data science project is valid as long as the problem statement is correct, otherwise, the whole project goes down the drain. Being a data science professional, you must ensure that you are working on the right problem statement.
Afraid of all the challenges that are supposed to come in your way? Well not anymore, how about an expert mentor that will provide you with a personalized learning path that is in sync with your goals and keeps track of your progress? It is possible with the AI and ML Blackbelt plus program which comes along with 75+ mentorship sessions.
Now that you are aware of the various components you’ll need to put together to make this career transition, are you prepared to buckle up and take this thrilling journey? The payoff is immense but as you might have gathered, you’ll face plenty of obstacles along the way. Your eventual success will come down to how well you can get past these hurdles.