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What’s it really like to be a data scientist?

Do you have a technical mind and love solving problems? Computer science could offer you an exciting and rewarding future.

As the technology that underpins our world advances in sophistication, computer and data scientists are being snapped up by all industry sectors – from business to government and beyond. Graduates of computer science degrees are in high demand, meaning they’re able to choose where they work and command high salaries.

Find out more about studying a Bachelor of Computer Science with Deakin.

Increasingly, the job involves working on cross-functional projects, from data analytics to robotics to telecommunications. Despite common perceptions, data scientists need to be creative as well as technical, and have strong people skills to complement their computer skills.

Chao Chen completed a Bachelor of Information Technology (Computer Science and Software Development), which is now equivalent to a Bachelor of Computer Science, followed by a Doctor of Philosophy (Information Technology). Here he explains what his work as a Data Scientist at Telstra involves.

What led you to becoming a data scientist?

‘I believe the most important thing that led me to become a data scientist is that I am very curious about data. I really like to dig deep into the data to find valuable insights. Secondly, I enjoy presenting the insights to people – it gives me a sense of fulfilment. I could not become the data scientist I am today without the skills I acquired during my PhD study.’

What does an average day look like for you?

‘My day starts with checking my email inbox, then I create a prioritised list for the day. I also attend meetings with stakeholders to discuss their requirements or present the insights or models created. Then, I get my hands dirty with the real technical stuff, such as creating predictive models. Sometimes I do presentations within the whole team to share the insights I find.’

What do you love most about your job?

‘The thing I love most about my job is the creative work and the communication with business stakeholders. Creative work makes me not to become a dull man! Staying close to the business makes sure that I can not only do technical work, but also stay connected with people. That’s always better than staying connected with machines, in my opinion.’

What are some of the challenges of your job?

‘What I like most about my job is also the biggest challenge: communication with business stakeholders. I have to explain the models by speaking the same language as them, with no technical terms. Otherwise, nobody can really understand me. It is sometimes a challenge to persuade business stakeholders to use my models.’

'The thing I love most about my job is the creative work and the communication with business stakeholders. Creative work makes me not to become a dull man!'

Chao Chen,
Deakin alumnus

What are the necessary skills required in your job?

‘Strong SQL (structured query language) skills, as you have to do the dirty work – data cleaning – by yourself. Strong machine learning and coding, as you need to create the predictive models, and mining values from big data assets. Also strong communication skills, as you have to explain your work to the business.’

What school and university subjects or qualifications fit this job?

‘Actually, my PhD study and degree contributed the most towards me getting this job. The training I received during my PhD study dealt a lot with data analytics and machine learning. Also, the degree I completed proves that I am qualified to do this kind of job.’

Interested in pursuing a career in data and computer science? Find out more about studying computer science with Deakin.

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