Hello. My name is Paul. I do not pretend.

Hello. My name is Paul, I am 41 years old, married with 3 kids, and I want to be a Data Scientist. There, I said it – now I just have to do it, and that is what this blog is for, for me to document my journey, collect my thoughts and some other people’s thoughts, and hope that somehow this may be of interest to others who are going through a similar process, or have been through a similar process and would like to offer some advice.

Actually, I almost wrote “… and I want to be a Data Scientist when I grow up”, which may have been marginally more amusing, but may mislead you into thinking that I don’t feel that I am a grown up. Of course, I accept that I am fully grown – and in fact am trying not to grow further – and have all the usual stresses and strains that being grown up entails: I am currently trying to hold down a full time job, and intend to keep it that way for the forseeable future (more – much more – about that later); I have a mortgage and bills to pay, and mouths to feed (wife plus aforementioned kids, plus 2 cats), and having to earn money places obvious limits on my ‘spare’ time. But anyway, I have decided that I would like to pursue a career in “Data Science”, and on this blog you will be able to follow me as I make my dream come true… or, indeed, otherwise.

Ignoring the dream for now and focusing on reality, I guess I should confess that I am not starting completely from scratch on my quest. During my 41 years on the planet, I have been able to demonstrate some natural competance in the analytical reasoning that I feel is a bare minimum for such a career. I have a PhD in Mathematics – completed back in 2000, and although since then I have replaced every cell in my body at least twice the degree still has my name on it – and I am currently in a ‘quantitative’ job which I may tell you more about later. The reason I feel my goal is an ambitious one is that I feel that Data Science requires a high degree of competence in a very broad range of skills, some of which I already have but others that will be a real stretch for me to obtain anything more than the basics. Then there’s the age thing: I can’t shake the impression that Data Science is a young person’s game, and that wisdom & experience count for less than top-notch coding skills and being plugged into the interwebs from birth. Again, we’ll probably come back to this at some point.

Anyway, since we have vaguely touched on the topic of the competencies required of a Data Scientist, I would like to share with you five documents that have some far been very helpful to me in my first task I have set myself: understanding what Data Science is and what skills I need to be able to call myself a Data Scientist. Here they are, my top 5:

  1. Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century, by Davenport and Patil, published in the Harvard Business Review in October 2012.
  2. What is Data Science? By Mike Loukides, O’Reilly Radar
  3. The Field Guide to Data Science, by the team at Booz Allen Hamilton
  4. Become a Data Scientist in 8 Easy Steps by DataCamp
  5. Modern Data Scientist by Marketing Distillery

There are many, many other sources, but I like these the best and keep going back to them for inspiration and clarification, so thanks to all of the authors for taking the time. I would be very happy to her from anyone who has other references that may help a beginner work out what all the fuss is about.

Finally for today, I wanted to share with you something about the first problem I came to when making this blog: what should I call it? Below are some of the runners up, and brief notes as to why they didn’t make the grade (if it’s not obvious):

  • “Stats the Way Aha Aha I Like It” (a second “Aha Aha” was considered) – quite liked it, but its not going to be just a stats blog (and now I see that someone cleverer than me got there first – grrr)
  • “Mode Life Crisis” – in case it wasn’t already already clear that I’m a little bit worried that I might be past it (and, again, perhaps someone beat me to it, although they advertise themselves as a ukelele teacher and therefore we’re probably not going to be confused for each other)
  • “Seize The Data” – a bit too “Dead Poets’ Society”, too 1989 (and balls, will I never have an original idea in my whole life?)
  • “Up To Our Disks in Data” or “Disk Deep in Data” – sounded a bit rude (and I thought I’d been gazumped again, but it turns out that Dickson is a company that supplies electronic devices)
  • “Flesh Robots” – my friend Clive and I had a deep discussion about the meaning of life one evening after a few rum’n’cokes, and in the end the best way I could come up with summarising my position was to say that basically I think humans are “flesh robots”. He took this quite badly, but I liked the expression, and thought that maybe one day I would name my blog after it. I changed my mind. (And anyway, you know what I found a little later? Someone got there first: http://fleshrobots.tumblr.com/)

And so the best of a bad bunch, but the winner nonetheless, is “non Fingo!”. Obviously it came from the Newton quote (“Hypothesis non fingo” – I pretend no hypothesis), but of course it was the same old story, I noticed that a number of other bloggers had got there first. However, I decided not to give up, because I really like the word ‘fingo’, since it reminds me of two of my top 17 words – Bingo! and Pingu! – and it rolls off the tongue nicely: Fingo! But on its own it just means “pretend”, so – although in keeping the “non” I lost something in succinctness but gained in meaning: “non Fingo!” = “I do not pretend!”. I liked this sentiment, and so there it is. Welcome to non Fingo!

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