Data Science & Software Development

What it is

These fields are intertwined. In pure software development, data science is at the service of a development process that results in a software product. In pure data science, one often creates software as a tool for the service of data. Tight budgets and the DIY ethos of the academy result in many graduate students and postdocs processing large amounts of data themselves, often writing custom software for that purpose. If you’re doing that, you may be qualified for a career in Data Science and/or Software Development.

Starting points

Look for “Data Scientist” positions in a range of industries or settings. “Big Data” is also a popular buzzword. If your experience is more on the software side, look for “Software Developer” positions. Other positions require less technical skill and more communication skill, such as sales and client relations.

Advancement

Data scientists can move in different directions depending on their interests: they can progress in the software direction, or in the data analytics direction. Both can move up the management ladder given a successful performance, good social skills, and continuing professional development. Freelancing is also an option.

Disciplines

Though Computer Scientists have an obvious advantage, PhDs in all STEM disciplines can enter data science or software development, given enough practical experience during their training.

Personality and outlook

A data scientist needs to be able to explain the meaning and implications of data analysis to managers and other high-level decision makers. Good communication skills are essential. Software developers need similar skills since nearly all software is now developed in small teams, often geographically distributed. Both data scientists and developers will need to be able to work independently for extended periods.

Preparation

Gravitate towards the data analysis, statistics, and software development aspects of your projects. Explore existing and emerging methods of data analysis and the interrelationship between them and software. Take classes in computing languages and build your coding skills anywhere you can: part-time jobs, service work, and volunteering. Join related professional associations, attend meetings and do information interviews with data scientists and software developers.