How To Figure Out The Gaps In Your Data Science Skill Set


How To Figure Out The Gaps In Your Data Science Skill Set

What gaps in my current background/skill set should I be working on so that I can get a data science job?

Your background and desired career path are slightly different than other people's. Yes, you want to be a data scientist like other people you find on Kaggle and other data science forums. However, with your unique mixture of academic and non-academic projects, you will feel like there are gaps in your current background. You've searched around the web to see if you can find some insight into your situation, but so far no recommendations on what to do and what to learn have been personal enough for you. Although you feel like you meet the qualifications for a number of data science jobs, you worry that others are more qualified and they'll get the job instead of you.

Source the right knowledge - find people with your background who are already data scientists

Due to the very high demand for data scientists, organizations are hiring data scientists from all types of academic and industry backgrounds. Which means that there is a high probability that someone with very close or even identical academic and non-academic background to you will already be employed or have experience as a data scientist. The only issue, which you've already found, is that many of these people are not writing articles or blogs describing what they did, what knowledge they found helpful to have, what skills are necessary, or even how they got their first data science job. So your job is to go right to the source to ask them what gaps in your background/skill set you should be working on.

Find the source of the right knowledge

In order to find the source of the right knowledge, you should do a search on Google for your background and the key words "data scientist" and "LinkedIn". You can use Google's powerful search engine to find all of the people that currently have public profiles on LinkedIn that have your (or very similar) background. Not only that, all of the people that you find will have the key word "data scientist" in their career description. Lastly and most importantly, you can then look to see how has a data science job. When you find these people, you have now found someone who can very credibly and reliably tell you the answer to your question about what are the gaps in your data science skill set that you should be working on.

An example of find the source of the right knowledge - Psych PhD student

Recently, we were talking to a Psych PhD student looking to transition into a data science career. Though they enjoyed being an academic, they had realized they were interested in moving into a data science position that allowed them to continue to work in the areas of computational linguistics and natural language procession. The advice we gave them was to Google this exactly phrase -> "phd psychology data scientist linkedin". This search resulted in 6 out of the top 10 results being actual real life people who a) were currently employed as data scientists, b) had a PhD in Psychology, and c) were on the LinkedIn platform. Two of the other links were data scientists who had PhDs but not in psychology, but did list psychology in their profile. Which means that just by doing this search, we have now found 8 people for the Psych PhD student to talk to about what gaps you need to fill in your skill set. Not to mention potential mentors and possible colleagues.

Find the source of the right knowledge - ask if they are open to helping you

Once you have found a few people whom you would like feedback and help from, ask if they are open to helping you. The key here is to do it in such a way that they'll be happy to help and if they are not to refer you to someone who can. In this email for help, you want to communicate three things: 1) who you are and what background you share, 2) why you are reaching out to them, and 3) your question.

So for the Psych PhD student we suggested they write something like the following:


Hi [name of person],

My name is [you first name] and I am reaching out to you because you have a data science job and a PhD in Psychology [get correct field name from LinkedIn]. I am currently getting a PhD in Psych and am interested in pursuing data science as a career. As such, would you be open to answering a few questions about your success as PhD in Psychology at getting a data scientist job?

All the best,
[your name & contact details]

Find the source of the right knowledge - ask for the right help

After writing a few of the people you find on Google and getting their responses, you should have a few people who will be open to helping you. The second email you send them should have 2 or 3 questions that are relatively straightforward to answer. The goal here is to start a conversation, not to do a super-in-depth interview.

So for the Psych PhD student we suggested they write something like the following:


Hi [name of person],

Thank you so much for being open to helping me - you're very kind. My two questions are as follows:

Q1 - As someone with a PhD in Psychology, what did you most helpful to your data science job search?

Q2 - My background is [2 sentences of your background]. What gaps in my current background/skill set should I be working on so that I can successfully get a data science job?

All the best,
[your name & contact details]

The goal is to get three responses

Your goal is to get at least three responses from people that you write. This will give you a good sense and mix of the types of things you should be working on. Remember - be very kind and thankful of the time that people are donating to you and treat the interaction as the start of a life long friendship.

Fill in the gaps in your current background/skill set and you shall get a data science job before you know it!

Your background and desired career path are slightly different than other people's. You will feel like there are gaps in your current background and though you've searched around the web to see if you can find some insight into your situation, so far no recommendations on what to do and what to learn have been personal enough for you.

Source the right knowledge - find people with your background who are already data scientists. So your job is to go right to the source (through doing a Google search) to ask people with a similar background to you what gaps in your background/skill set you should be working on in order to get a data science job.

The next time you start worrying about what class you should take, what MOOC you should watch, what books you should read, or what data science project to start, remember to reach out the source and ask for their opinion and advice. You will make a connection to someone in the industry, you'll also get the best advice that is applicable to your situation. Good luck!


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