August 2021 Northeast Student Data Corps Data Science Career Panel

Guest post: Brian Buckley, Boston University; Volunteer Program Assistant, Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub            

On Friday, August 20, 2021, four established data scientists shared insights into the data science career world and provided anecdotes from their own experiences. Haleigh Stewart (Project Coordinator, Columbia University), Florence Hudson (Executive Director, Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub), and other Northeast Student Data Corps (NSDC) community members gathered these four presenters, asking them questions for a younger generation of data scientists.

The presenters come from different backgrounds, but also have similarities in their emphasis on technical skills. When asked about how they got a job in data science, Benjamin Harvey (Director of Data Science, Maxar Technologies and Senior Research Associate, Johns Hopkins University) and Juan Lavista Ferres (Chief Scientist and Lab Director, Microsoft) agreed that a candidate’s skills factor highly into the employment equation, as both presenters referred to ability as a key asset for emerging data scientists. Benjamin emphasized broad knowledge as a key while Juan highlighted the need for the students’ and young professionals’ need for curiosity and ability to learn new skills.

Kuldip Singh Atwal (Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Central Florida) and Marie DesJardins (Dean of the College of Organizational, Computational, and Information Sciences, Simmons University) then explained how to become a successful data science student. Kuldip advised that students formulate data models based on conceptual understanding rather than expected outcome. Marie emphasized the importance of skills pertaining to mathematics and statistics. Both agreed that students need interpersonal communicative skills as well.

Juan and Kuldip envisioned a future with a more diverse network of data science careers. Benjamin discussed a future in which human beings would no longer serve any use in a machine learning loop as new learning algorithms could result in AI that mimics intrinsic human behaviors.

Event moderators Scott Blender and Haleigh Stewart then discussed the Northeast Student Data Corps chapter program and its main objectives, presenting volunteer opportunities for students.

To conclude the webinar, the panelists took questions from the audience. The topics varied greatly and questions were posed by audience members of diverse ages and backgrounds. For example, one participant inquired about college life and one asked about middle school studies.

You can find the full video of the event on our YouTube channel, where a comprehensive recording of this Career Panel is hosted. Subscribe for notifications when videos are added to our channel!

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