Skillset Necessary for Data Science

I came across this truly amazing visualization of what it takes to foray into data science by @kzawadz via twitter

data science

Statistics: The Sexiest Job of the Decade

Anyone who’s got a formal education in economics knows who Hal Varian is. He’s most popularly known for his book Intermediate Economics. He’s also the Chief Economist at Google. He is known to have famously stated more or less, that statisticians and data analysts would be the sexiest jobs of the next decade.

That has come true, to a great extent, and we’ll be seeing more.

Great places to learn more about data science and statistical learning:
1] Statistical Learning (Stanford)
2] The Analytics Edge (MIT)

In a paper called ‘Big Data: New Tricks for Econometrics‘, Varian goes on to say that:

In fact, my standard advice to graduate students these days is “go to the computer science department and take a class in machine learning.” There have been very fruitful collaborations between computer scientists and statisticians in the last decade or so, and I expect collaborations between computer scientists and econometricians will also be productive in the future.

See Also: Slides on Machine Learning and Econometrics

Getting Started

I have been searching for good MOOCs to get me started with R and Python programming languages. I’ve already begun the Johns Hopkins University Data Science Specialization on Coursera. It consists of 9 courses (including Data Scientist’s Toolbox, R programming, Getting and Cleaning Data, Exploratory Data Analysis, Reproducible Research, Statistical Inference, Regression Models, Practical Machine Learning and Developing Data Products), ending with a 7-week Capstone Project that I’m MOST excited about. I want to get there fast.

The Capstone would consist of :
  • Building a predictive data model for analyzing large textual data sets
  • Cleaning real-world data and perform complex regressions
  • Creating visualizations to communicate data analyses
  • Building a final data product in collaboration with SwiftKey, award-winning developer of leading keyboard apps for smartphones

I started with the R programming course where I found the programming assignments to be moderately difficult. They were good practice and also time-consuming for me since I haven’t yet gotten used to the R syntax, which is supposedly unintuitive. Anyway, I completed the course with distinction (90+ marks) scoring 95 on 100, losing 5 because I hadn’t familiarized myself with Git / GitHub. I did this course for a verified certificate, which cost me $29, and looks like this:

Coursera rprog 2015

I won’t be paying for any of the remaining courses though, but still will get a certificate of accomplishment for each course I pass. I have alredy begun with Getting and Cleaning Data and Data Scientist’s Toolbox.

I checked today, and it seems Andrew Ng’s Machine Learning course has gone open to all and is self-paced. A lot of people have gone on to participate in Kaggle competitions with what they learnt in his course, so I’d like to experience it — even though it’s taught with Octave / MATLAB. My very short term goal is to start participating in these competitions ASAP.

Kaggle Competitions

I will be learning the basics of Git this week and along with that, about reading from MySQL, HDF5, the web and APIs. I intend to start reading Trevor Hastie’s highly recommended book, Introduction to Statistical Learning.

ISL Cover 2


Meanwhile, I need to get started with Git and GitHub too, and I found a very useful blog by Kevin Markham and his short concise videos are great introductory material.

Incidentally, I was in a dilemma whether to start with Hastie’s material or Andrew Ng’s course first. This is what Kevin had to say

Hastie or Ng

The only reason I have reservations against Andrew Ng’s course is that its instruction isn’t in R or Python. Also, CTO and co-founder of Kaggle, Ben Hamner mentions here how useful R and Python are vis-à-vis Matlab / Octave.

Ben Hamner on Python R Matlab v2