The back-to-school season is upon us. Online or physically, a fresh cadre of rising seniors will very soon start bracing for the real life. If you are thinking about data science as a career choice, I humbly submit some things to think about, based on my experience of being in this field, hiring teams, for about a decade.
1. Understand exactly what do you want to do? “Data Science” is really four different jobs (at least). While generally they are close together, each of them requires slightly different pedigree, skillset and approach to succeed. Each of them has different growth prospects as well. Read more on KDNuggets. The chart below gives indicative growth prospects. You can go to this answer in Quora for more details.
2. Prepare the right resume and start networking/ applying. Be sure to highlight the successes in your career. Highlight the data science projects experience you already have, however small or big. To the extent it’s possible with one page, communicate how organized and problem-focused you are. Some more tips in Data Driven Investor.
3. Ensure that you have the right mindset before you walk into an interview. It’s not just about degrees and courses. They help, of course. It’s also about the right mindset — you must have a technical orientation. You should be good at numbers, esp. probability and how it works. You can pick these skills in no time. The harder ones are to have initiative and maintain the big picture, and be humble enough to ask for help. Read about the most frequent questions again on DDI and reasons data science candidates are rejected (on Medium).
4. Choose the right company to work with. Data science is all about experiences. Once you are done with your interviews and have a few offers in hand, figure out the right kind of company. You don’t want to chase big names or ‘hot’ startups without reason. Choose teams that have a clear idea of the problems they are solving, have enough data to solve those problems, and know enough to tell between a data theorist and a data scientist. This discussion on Quora has some good ideas.
5. Hit it out of the park in your first role. As a beginner, you are likely to be start at the bottom of the totem pole. That does not mean you have little to contribute. Your role will ask for your basic data analyzing skills, and you have to be good at them. However the things that will make you succeed are different (hint: it’s the mindset).
You have at least one year to prepare and make your dreams come true. All the best!