The Rise of Data Analytics Increases the Need for Critical Thinking Skills

The rise of data analytics or big data is upon us. The proliferation of data science boot camps has sprouted in the last 2-3 years. In 2015, Course Report stated:

The actual number of boot camps now is well into the hundreds. Universities and colleges are creating boot camps for post graduate students as an alternative to a graduate degree.

Who makes a good candidate to be a boot camp student and who will make the best data scientists in the workplace?

First, we need to understand what big data is - the dictionary definition is:

extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.

It used to be that data science boot camp attracted the math oriented student who already knew how to program and had knowledge of math, statistics and databases. Now however, schools and data camps are targeting undecided college students without a declared major to promote data science and start them off early.

I was jolted into remembering why I chose a liberal arts path and why I am a learning analyst and strategist. I heard Susan Etlinger’s Ted talk, What Do We Do With all This Big Data? which reminded me of the value of a big picture perspective in whatever we’re examining.

My interest in data science is its flip side. Having so much data may be helpful, but we need intelligent, thoughtful analysts who can review data and make assumptions and projections of what it means and how to use it. Numbers only tell half the story.

In other words, our data and analysis can only be as good as our ability to understand it. Therefore, there is a huge need to encourage and foster critical thinking skills in data scientists. As we continue to move toward more data we need to remember that people create data and people need to analyze it to ensure its meaning is understood. This takes insight, and the ability to put context around data and confirm if, and how the data really shows what it seems to show.

The individuals with these well rounded skills will become the individuals who are the best in their field. Employers will need to support and develop these mutually dependent skills through continuous professional development programs.

Ruth Kustoff is Principal of Knowledge Advantage, a strategic learning and development consultancy. If you need support in strategic planning and development to align employee learning with organizational goals give us a call @ 860.256.7879.

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