In a recent interview Daniel Tunkelang, the principal data scientist at LinkedIn shared his thoughts on what a data scientist is. Tunkelang said, “I’m a big fan of Hilary Mason, chief scientist at bit.ly, so I’ll cite her definition: a data scientist is someone who can obtain, scrub, explore, model and interpret data, blending hacking, statistics and machine learning. Data scientists not only are adept at working with data, but appreciate data itself as a first-class product. At LinkedIn, products pioneered by data scientists, such as People You May Know, harness the power of data to create value for users.”

Asked about skills a data scientist needs to have, Tunkelang responded, “Strong analytical skills are a given: above all, a data scientist needs to be able to derive robust conclusions from data. But a data scientist also needs to possess creativity and strong communication skills. Creativity drives the process of hypothesis generation, i.e., picking the right problems to solve the will create value for users and drive business decisions. Communication is essential, because data scientists work in horizontal roles and partner with groups across the entire organization. At LinkedIn, data scientists collaborate with every other product group, as well as with sales and finance. Strong communication skills are a must-have.”

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