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Industry experts offer advice to students at data science career event

“If you want a job that pays well and is in an exciting place to be, data science is it.”

_mg_0116Malcom Postings, chief global technology officer with Quintiles, used these words to address the crowd at the recent event “From Outlier to Insider: A Career Panel with Data Science Experts” at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS) and the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School co-hosted the event.

Four panelists – Dr. Somesh Nigam, vice president of IBM’s Chief Data Office, Gayle Bieler, senior statistician and director of RTI’s Center for Data Science, Postings, and Armistead Sapp, former head of the SAS Research & Development division – spent an hour and a half fielding questions from the moderator, Dr. Sridhar Balasubramanian, and students in the audience. The students turned out ready to hear tips from the experts on landing a job in data science and building a successful data science career.

All four data science professionals emphasized the need for individuals entering the field to present themselves as well-rounded candidates. People who stand out, according to Bieler, not only have the technical expertise that qualifies them for a data science job, but also a strong focus in something they’re interested in, often a major or minor, in an unrelated field. Today’s interconnected world creates a need for multidisciplinary people with good computational skills and excellent soft skills, he said.

Sapp explained this need in numbers saying, “80 percent of time spent on a project is getting data in the right form… 10 percent is analytics… [and]10 percent is presentation.” According to Sapp, the 10 percent presentation is the most important portion because it bridges the gap between a project and common understanding.

After the panel, audience members had the opportunity to briefly approach each speaker for one-on-one conversation.

The next joint NCDS and Kenan Flagler networking event will be hosted at The Frontier in Research Triangle Park on February 7, 2017. To stay in touch and learn more about NCDS career events, join our mailing list.

Carolina Chao, NCDS Student Intern