Intense curiosity: the single most important trait for a successful data scientist
“I believe that anyone can do this job, if you have one trait: intense curiosity. OK, you need strong mathematical and computational skills, but the most successful data people are the ones that have a desire to keep looking. If I were hiring someone, my question wouldn’t be about his or her mathematical background, I would ask them what the most interesting thing was that they learned last week. If there response is great, and it’s obvious their inquisitive by nature, that’s the data person you want at your company.” Matt Pasienski
How do you show curiosity? Where does it come from? Are you born with it?
Well, yes: we are all born with it. As babies and infants we are naturally curious about the world. Then something happens to us as we become “wise” and experienced: we learn the way the world works, or we think we do, and then our curiosity becomes dimmed. We don’t pay attention to our rising thoughts of curiosity, or give them the time they deserve, because we think we know which way is up, and following our curious instincts seems like time-wasting.
As a practicing or prospective data scientist you need to re-kindle an intense curiosity: data, any data, should raise many questions in your mind. But even before that, prior to any data, your life circumstances should be leading you to ask: “What’s going on here?”
If you just pause to reflect for a moment, there are always things about the world that you don’t know but you wish you did. We’ve heard that diabetes is a modern day epidemic, for example. Is that really true? How can a person “catch” diabetes? Is there any data that would shed light on this? What are the characteristics of people who get into Ivy League schools? Do they come from particular socioeconomic backgrounds, or geographic regions? You’ve heard that as less people are able to afford to buy a house there will be problems down the track for older people who still have to rent. Is that true? Is there any evidence? And so on.
Your curiosity is key to professional success in data science. Even as a beginner let your curiosity flow freely and take steps to answer the questions it raises. Let your curiosity guide you in designing an impactful data science project that showcases your talents.
You’re a data scientist, or hope to be: learn something interesting this week!