By Brian Bloom, ComputerWorld Canada | May 3, 2012
At a panel session Tuesday at the SAS Global Forum 2012, executives from the Walt Disney Company and the Orlando Magic Ltd. discussed the role of the data scientist within an organization.
One audience member asked about how to get started with a big data section: Is one person enough?
Probably not, said Cameron Davies, director of management science and integration at Disney. If possible, he said, an organization should have a few big data gurus working in tandem, not only for purposes of "redundancy," but also to avoid a situation in which a single person in a corporation possesses arcane, inaccessible knowledge about the company's operations.
Plus, he said, having several people working on the same models can prevent personal biases from being reflected in the output data. A team of data scientists will provide the necessary "checks and balances" within the organization, Davies said.
"Analytics is still subjective," he said. "I don't care how complex your models are, there are assumptions you have to make."
Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins said the National Basketball Association team started with a single analytics professional, but has since expanded its team to three. This is probably the ideal number for a company getting started, Davies said.
Audience members also asked about how to pave a career path for a big data specialist, a relatively new position with somewhat undefined roles. With data scientists in very high demand in many industries, especially in the financial services sector, employee retention is a constant concern.
Davies said data scientists should be free to move out of IT into other branches of an organization and of course, earn plenty of money--but they probably shouldn't be considered management material down the road. "You have really, really talented people who are brilliant at what they do, [but] you probably don't want them leading people," he said.