Data scientist role shifting to focus on developers

Thor Olavsrud

Think Like a Developer
"The developers are the new kingmakers," he adds. "They are unlocking business value by building apps. The data scientist needs to have a new mindset -- it's not just about solving big problems in isolation anymore. The mindset has to be: How do I enable these developers?"

For his part, Jhingran says he is working to drive that mindset at Apigee. Data scientists there are no longer in data science teams set apart from others. Instead, they've been spread out and now sit with developers in the lines of business.

"We made these data scientists actually sit in the teams that it is their job to enable," he says. "They live and breathe their problems. That has made a big difference in the data scientists' understanding that their job is to enable people to succeed."

The result is that these data scientists are now setting up their data products to be accessed by APIs that developers can leverage to power their apps.

"All that happens because the data scientists have not just done the hard work on difficult problems, but gone the next mile to enable the developers," he says.

However, he notes that developers, like data scientists, have to change their cultural mindset if they're to deliver the best value to end users.

"Developers have typically thought of themselves as programming either the UI or the app or the business logic," Jhingran says. "Whenever they talk about 'data,' they talk about data as persistent as opposed to data as analytics. It's not that they don't get it, it's just that it has always been difficult. We strongly believe that the developer of the future will not be a single-skill developer. Being able to play with data needs to become a very, very important developer skill."

The developer of the future, he says, will have to be multi-faceted, able to build an app in the morning, then build out an API in support of that app. Later that day, that same developer should be able to test the app to determine whether it is creating benefit, then put the insight gleaned back into the app.

"In five years, developers will have to be as comfortable playing with data as they are with business logic and UI logic," he adds.

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